Saturday night presented local music fans with an excruciating range of tempting options. Camera Obscura were at the Cedar, A Night in the Box and Lucy Michelle shared a bill at Lee’s, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were at First Ave (with glitter cannons, no less), and Speeds the Name were at the Hex. For me, though, the choice was a no-brainer: Gogol Bordello outdoors at the Cabooze.
With pristine weather that suggested God has a soft spot even for bands whose t-shirts read think locally, fuck globally, the evening was a riot. Philadelphia noisemakers Man Man, who opened the show, had a crowd who must have been largely unfamiliar with their music dancing and cheering as if they were local heroes. After a brief intermission, Gogol Bordello’s lean, hirsute frontman Eugene Hütz took the stage alone with a guitar, initiating a frenzy of jumping that didn’t subside until the band cleared the stage.
Gogol Bordello proudly describe themselves as “gypsy punks,” which is probably the most succinct way to put it. Hütz and his band do for traditional Eastern European Gypsy music what the Pogues do for traditional Irish music: speed it up, add a rock band, and play it really loud. It’s irresistibly danceable, especially when performed live by the hyperanimated band. With adolescents, baby boomers, and kids with cute primary-color earplugs all moshing together, it was perhaps the least awkward all-ages show I’ve ever attended—perhaps in part because Gogol Bordello are an all-ages band. 51-year-old Sergey Ryabtsev performed electric violin at the front of the stage, looking much older with his long white hair flying in the wind; while Ecuadorian bongo player Pedro Erazo, who’s actually 30, hopped around the stage like a giddy teenager. Choreographed backup singers Elizabeth Chi-Wei Sun and Pamela Jintana Racine begged welcome comparison to Talking Heads’ “Brides of Funkenstein” (as seen in Stop Making Sense).
The set climaxed with “Start Wearing Purple,” the band’s first hit (many audience members flaunted the hue in tribute), the entire audience—at least, those who weren’t stuck in the long lines for porta-potties—waving their fists and singing along. The song ended, the band acknowledged the cheers, and kept right on playing.
Jay Gabler (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Daily Planet’s arts editor.
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