It's not until you've heard Gogol Bordello that you realize your life was lacking loud punk rock with festive Gypsy roots.
Formed in New York City at the turn of the century, Gogol Bordello combines violins and accordions with lead singer Eugene Hütz's Eastern European lilt. It gives listeners the simultaneous urge to drink, dance, and frolic.
"I don't go onstage for some deep internal monologue or pent-up anger from teenaged angst," Hütz told New Times in a Ukrainian accent that ranged from strong to mild. "It's about having a blast."
Music has been a daily presence for Hütz since he was a fetus in the former Soviet Union. "My mom and dad had a romance straight out of high school. When my dad went to the army, my mom listened to his records. Lots of Jimi Hendrix, the Doors -- that's what I heard all the time from behind the wall called her womb."
His family managed to emigrate to America, where music continued to play a vital role in his life. "Music helped me survive in the Ukraine. Then when I came to America, I was driven by sharing music. The absence of any English knowledge didn't prevent me from having conversations with my peers. I could have conversations just using the names of bands. I knew what a door was."
It is that Door, Jim Morrison, whose Dionysian spirit is personified when Gogol Bordello takes the stage. It reminds listeners, like Jim did, that tonight might be all we have. Playing a two-night run at Culture Room on March 11 and 12, Hütz promised both nights will have entirely different sets. "We decide seven minutes before we go onstage what the songs will be. Every morning when you wake up, you're in a slightly different mood than any other time you've opened your eyes. Same with a band. Every day, we open our eyes and let the awesomeness ensue."
On its website, the band has its mission statement handwritten on loose-leaf paper. It says: "With acts of music, theatre, chaos, and sorcery Gogol Bordello confronts the jaded." The two-page treatise was written for the band's performance at the Whitney Biennial and disappeared behind a couch in the band's storage space for years. Hütz recently uncrumpled it and posted it online as a reminder of the band's goals.
For a long time, those goals included serving as an ambassador for Gypsy culture, a period of his life Hütz says has ended. "I felt like an ambassador for five years, meeting activists. When that cup got full with benefits shown getting more jobs for Roma musicians and getting backlash from Italy and France, I moved on, creatively speaking. I'm a student of worldwide folklore, not just Gypsy. I've spent time in Brazil and Argentina, so Latin themes became predominant. Country music is always a big influence. I write a song on my guitar like a country song; then I take it to the band, and they get it to the next level."
Though Gogol Bordello last put out an album in 2013, every member has a side project going, including Hütz, who has written more songs than he says he can possibly perform. Some of those will come out on an album of duets about which he was not comfortable divulging details just yet.
Every Gogol Bordello performance has gobs of theatricality attached, so it's not surprising that Hütz once acted in a feature film, Everything Is Illuminated. He was Alex, the native Ukrainian who guided Elijah Wood around his ancestor's homeland. It was a performance that was both touching and funny and a decade old, which leaves you wondering why he hasn't acted again.
"Once in a while, I get the urge. I'm open to it. But I'm only now open to watching movies. When I was younger, you couldn't get me to sit down and watch a movie for an hour and half. I'd rather do anything else."
Good thing, as we have enough moviegoers and not enough rock stars.
Gogol Bordello. With special guests. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 11, and Thursday, March 12, at Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $28.50 plus fees. Call 954-564-1074, or visit cultureroom.net.
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