Preparing for a performance on stage is to Gogol Bordello as breaking bricks is to martial arts. It’s natural.
“I don’t do anything in particular” to prepare, said Gogol Bordello Frontman Eugene Hutz, adding, “other than maybe have a drink and stretch a little.” He compares the band’s relentless dance and movement on stage to that of basic training in martial arts. It’s an essential element to their performance.
“I don’t get on stage to prove something…it’s who we are…fun, loving triumph, splashing around in energies,” Hutz said. That’s part of Gogol Bordello’s art, and effort to resonate with their audience.
Poetry was a significant theme in my conversation with Hutz, as his tone in Gogol Bordello songs conveys a need to get something off his chest.
In the song, “Through the Roof n’ Underground,” Hutz tells a story of belonging – or lack thereof – with lyrics such as, “When there is a trap set up for you in every part of this town, the only way to go is underground.” However, according to Hutz, belonging, or what could be understood as culture is nothing more than a mask, worn universally.
In fact, Hutz believes that poetry gains its significance in its ambiguity, and in our universal questions of life and death. Because everyone wonders what the meaning is of existing, each individual paints the answers in his or her own art.
But in music and performance, poetry is nothing without instrumentation. Hutz plays the guitar, as well as the fire bucket, which I remember playing an important role at Gogol Bordello’s 2008 Lollapalooza appearance. “It’s not my fault that a simple bucket sounds better than expensive drums,” he laughed.
Accompanying the fire bucket are the guitar, accordion, violin and sometimes even the saxophone. Hutz likes to use such instrumentation as they all allude to his “neck of the woods.” That’s a reference to Ukrainian folkloric music, which he says he has always been in love with.
That’s what also gives Gogol Bordello’s performance the leisurely sound of neighbors from a Ukrainian village, bonding over their musical talents. Although Gogol Bordello boasts a monumental sound built from its eight pieces, the band displays itself as a group of people you’ve seen numerous times down the street, just having fun together.
Hutz called his band mates’ cultural differences a “gold mine for comedy.”
“Eventually, he asked me, ‘so, wait a second – who’s Jimi Hendrix?’” Hutz said of Violinist Sergey Ryabtsev. That was after the band played the very Monterey stage on which Hendrix burned his guitar. Ryabtsev was raised and studied in Russia.
Hutz said one of his favorite cities to play in has been New Orleans, for its celebratory nature “despite all odds.” Help Gogol Bordello celebrate its 10 years of gypsy punk at the Metro Chicago, March 22nd and 23rd.