Marking the 5th anniversary of its opening, White Eagle Hall invited Eugene Hütz and Gogol Bordello to celebrate and it was almost the last decision the venue ever made. The gypsy punks and their followers swarmed the city and packed the 800-capacity (standing room only) venue almost as soon as the door opened. The opener Amigo The Devil whet the audience’s appetites as the bartenders struggled to keep up with the demand from the thirsty vagrants of the night.
The historic theater was built by Polish immigrants after they were driven out of their native homeland by Russian occupiers. Over 100 years later, the Ukrainian born singer and multi-instrumentalist, Eugene Hütz, appropriately brought his Solidaritine Tour to White Eagle Hall to spread the message of freedom for Ukraine. The son of a Russian butcher and Ukrainian mother is “dedicating every show of the upcoming Solidaritine tour to the brave Ukrainian defenders, and a significant portion of proceeds will go to Ukraine’s battle for democracy. We will also partner with human rights organizations providing relief in Ukraine throughout the tour. Come stand in solidarity with us.”
The incredible amount of energy given off by the spirited front man was reciprocated by the audience as the floors strained to hold the weight of nearly 1,000 jumping and moshing audience members. Between kicking over monitors and knocking over mic stands, incessantly jumping back and forth from one side of the stage to the next, and spraying a half dozen bottles of red wine into the air throughout the night gave the middle-aged punk rocker a youthful exuberance of a man half his age. He was pure lightning contained in flesh and blood, dancing along the fine line between deranged insanity and creative brilliance.
The seven-piece band consisted of singer and multi-instrumentalist Eugene Hütz, Boris Pelekh on lead guitar, Pedro Erazo on percussions, Ashley Tobias with vocals and percussion, Thomas Gobena on bass, Sergey Ryabtsev on violin, Korey Kingston on drums. Like a true band of gypsy musicians, everyone on stage sang to create contrasting feelings of harmonic bedlam.
The band opened with the double-time tempo “I Would Never Wanna Be Young Again” before jumping into “Passport”. By the time the band worked into the next song, “Not a Crime”, pure anarchy ensued. Unfazed, the band continued through the classics in their repertoire with “Immigrant Punk”, “Wonderlust King”, “My Companjera”, “Alcohol”, all raising hell and threatening to crash the frenzied audience into the basement cocktail bar underneath the strained floorboards.
As the band worked through a successful campaign of originals, the singer shed a layer of clothing with every other song and occasionally doused himself with red wine to cool off in between sips from the bottle. “Through the Roof ‘n’ Underground” switched gears midway for a verse of “Tribal Connection” before returning to chisel out a moshpit masterpiece. “Suddenly…(I Miss Carpaty)” wound the audience for a wild ride down “Start Wearing Purple”.
By this time, the singer was shirtless and borrowed a Ukrainian flag to drape around his gaunt frame. More wine was thrown around the stage and the mosh pit stomped on, red and blue mohawks aglow in the moving stage lights. Eugene introduced a new original before improvising lyrics to the melody of “Mishto” with a mélange of languages worked into the harmonies.
The band thanked the audience and walked offstage. Eventually, Eugene sauntered back onstage alone to inform the audience that if they didn’t know the next song then they need to go home and do their research.
After some time doing this aforementioned research, I discovered that the first encore performed by Eugene was a solo rendition of New York City hardcore band Agnostic Front’s “Victim of Pain”. Fitting the rhyme scheme and theme, Eugene included “’Cause I was born in Ukraine” to the end of “Why am I going insane? Why Am I the one to blame?”
The rest of the band emerged from the shadows as Eugene dedicated the next song to the defenders of freedom in Ukraine with an exultant performance of “Forces of Victory”. Gogol Bordello performed “Voi-la Intruder” followed by a riotous “Sally” before closing out the wild night of gypsy punk-rock polka inspired tunes with “Undestructable”.
To see the full tour schedule of this merry band of wanderers, click here. I could not recommend it enough for anybody in the States to check these guys out before they go overseas to Europe. Absolutely electric performance and unlike anything that I’ve ever seen.
Gogol Bordello – “Start Wearing Purple”