Red Corner: Gogol Bordello Sings Gypsy Punk

Discovering local music while abroad is as much of a joy as discovering local foods. What’s really great about both of these pleasures, however, is that they can also be enjoyed back home.

Friday night I did just that. I went to see a group named Gogol Bordello who bills themselves as the world’s first gypsy punk band. Gypsy punk you ask?!?! Yes indeed.

Well, actually their web page describes them as a “fusion of Gypsy punk and Slavic stomp,” so that should make it clear, I guess. Imagine a fast-paced punk band whose power-chords and manic energy are driven by a frenetic violin and a bouncy accordion. Throw in a supporting cast of Eastern European musicians and a lead vocalist who looks like Frank Zappa with a handlebar moustache and you get a musical hodgepodge unlike anything that has ever existed before. The natural comparison would be a combination of the Gypsy Kings and the Clash but even this comes up horribly short. The musical hybrid is a synergistic explosion far greater than the sum of its parts.

The driving force behind this amazing band is lead vocalist Eugene Hutz. Originally from Ukraine, Hutz has a voice like he has just stuffed a couple of deviled eggs into his mouth after smoking cheap Bulgarian cigars all day. He sings mostly in thickly accented English that often makes it difficult to tell when he switches over to his native Ukrainian. But it is exactly this thick, guttural Slavic-ness that makes the music so powerful-oh, and the fact that Hutz is the most maniacal performer I’ve ever seen. He is a nonstop whirling dervish of limitless energy who prances, kicks, bends and contorts for three hours of nonstop mayhem. Unbelievable!

It’s not every day that Ukrainian gypsy punk rock lands on your doorstep. Since the band is currently touring, check out their website to see if they are invading a town near you. At the very least, download their Start Wearing Purple video from their label’s website. It may not inspire you to visit Ukraine, but it will prompt you to draw the blinds and lock up your children for the night; the crazy Slavs are coming and the musical world will never be the same.