My suspicion probably stems from watching Borat too many times, but I have trouble believing that Eugene Hütz really exists. The lead singer of Gogol Bordello claims to be from the Ukraine with a Gypsy lineage. His band brands itself as gypsy punks merging an accordion and violin with the rock staples of a drum, guitar, and bass.
I know there's a documentary about the band, Gogol Bordello Non-Stop, that backs up Hütz's story of growing up in the shadow of Chernobyl. And when I interviewed him, his accent seemed fairly consistent, but the way Hütz took the stage Wednesday night -- stumbling along as if he were drunk, brandishing a mustache as vast as the Caspian Sea -- I still couldn't help but think he's nothing but a persona.
But whether Hütz is who he says he is or some New York hipster doing performance art, the packed house at the Culture Room was smitten.
See also: Photos from Gogol Bordello
At 9:30, he walked on stage alone strumming his acoustic guitar like this was the old country, performing the song "Illumination." Moments later, four members rushed the stage with bass, guitar, drum set, and bongos. Soon after, they were joined by a violinist and accordionist.
No other band in the world inspires a mosh pit to completely engulf the floor and then seconds later, it's gone. Gogol Bordello slowed things down enough at times to make the moshing completely disappear, leaving you wondering if it ever existed.
For the ninety minute set, the 8 member band left it all on the floor. Beyond the violin and accordion, they dragged out instruments you would never think could have you jumping up and down, from the cymbals to a ukulele. Along with Hütz leading the vocals Elizabeth Sun, a petite woman in short shorts hyped up the crowd while the Ecuadorian Pedro Erazo hollered bilingually to get people even more riled up. But much of the attention stayed on Hütz.
When he took off his shirt during "Last One Goes the Hope" to show off his Iggy Popesque physique, catcalls commenced. When he held on to a wine bottle, the entire front row begged for a swig. When during "Start Wearing Purple" he egged on the violinist to fiddle by asking, "What is the motherfucking frequency of fucking purple? Give it to them!" the crowd went ballistic.
When you watch a man in a studded leather vest playing his accordion while crowdsurfing, you might think this is something you only catch once in a lifetime, that is until you remember the band'll be playing the same venue tonight. Gogol Bordello exerted so much sweat and effort, you also think it is impossible it can replicate the same necessary energy in 24 hours.
If they have the will to accomplish that, then maybe pretending you have an Eastern European accent for going on 15 years might be easy as pie.
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