The opener for the Gogol Bordello/Frank Turner concert Friday night was one dude with an acoustic guitar. That’s it. His name was Walter Schreifels, a hardcore rock veteran and lead singer of Dead Heavens. His low-key, one-man act of college rock based around quirky topics such as ADD (“Adderall Highway”) was part of a grand plan. It was the quiet before the completely bananas, folk-punk storm brewing backstage.
Early on, the crowd at Revolution Live lazily milled about the venue; some stood, chatting, only half-listening to Schreifels' banter. In a very short time, these same people, calmly perusing the merch table and ordering tallboys, would
The alarm to let the animals out of their cages was sounded by Frank Turner and his intro music: the theme song to Jurassic Park. Indeed, Turner and his band, the Sleeping Souls, rumbled into the spotlight with Turner nearly jumping off the stage in excitement. The motif of the evening was established from the chords of his very first number, “I Still Believe,” an homage to the beauty and the power of rock music. It name-checks Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash, but most important, it contains the lines, “Now who'd have thought that after all/Something as simple as rock 'n' roll would save us all?” — a notion that summarizes the reason why people attend shows such as this, even when it’s held in a cramped, hot, sweatbox of a venue.
He followed that with a barrage of high-energy tracks before taking a quick breath, addressing the crowd (“This is show 1906”) before reminding us what we came for. “This song is about fucking jumping up and down,” he said before launching into his upbeat ode to the pain of heartbreak, “Recovery.” Speaking of which, his last visit to Fort Lauderdale was in 2013, and at the time, his back was wrecked. We’re happy to report it’s much better. Turner is back to his maniac ways, dancing and hopping nonstop, like a marionette overjoyed to be freed from its strings. Everything was done at breakneck pace, and it was exhilarating and exhausting all at once. At one point, considering all the work he was putting in, the Englishman was not pleased when he saw a lack of reciprocation. “Everyone here is a little high school disco about dancing; girls on one side, boys on the other.” It didn’t take too much prodding after that to get the room moving. He even coordinated some jazz hands group participation for “Glorious You,” one of the singles from last year’s Positive Songs for Negative People.
Some of the highlights included Turner playing the main riff from Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades" the moment he got his hands on an electric guitar; a rare appearance by his song “Heartless Bastard Motherfucker,” that he played thanks to an email from a Florida fan; and the look on his face when he brought up an attractive and very confident female fan to play harmonica and she cooed into the mic, “You just blow and suck, right?”
Before he left us for the night, Turner urged everyone to not vote for “that fucking prick,” a certain orange-faced
And then — yet another amazing show followed.
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Gogol Bordello brought out an interesting group of fans. Wizards, a luchador, men in matching pajama tops and bottoms, and those in open rebellion of showering were all in attendance.
None of that mattered the moment the gypsy punks arrived. The audience became one slippery, amorphous blob of clapping, dancing, hugging, and shouting. By the first third of their set, right around “Immigraniada (We Comin' Rougher),” frontman, founder, and lead singer Eugene Hütz lost his shirt and soon thereafter a few sticky gentlemen in the crowd followed suit.
Currently, Gogol Bordello has about eight members, but at times it seemed like there were at least 100 people onstage and half of them were singing and absolutely all of them were prancing, twirling, or swaying.
Considering this is South Florida, home to a huge, global EDM fest, one of the biggest takeaways from this display was that there’s dance music and then there’s music to dance to. Gogol Bordello is the latter. Watching people party to the band’s mix of calypso, eastern European music, folk-punk, Spanish rhythms, and cabaret showmanship, it’s apparent the grip their songs instantly have on the part of our souls that wants to let loose. The dancing was instinctual, almost primal.
The accordion, the violin, the giant marching band bass drums, they all allowed fans to express their connection in any number of ways. They could slam dance in the swirling mosh pit downstage or they could boogie and salsa their way through the show, from the bar to the bathroom and back again. People even formed their own little circles, arms on shoulders, laughing and jumping in unison, like a rock and roll bar mitzvah where the ceremony wasn’t for just one 13-year-old, but for everyone in attendance.
While Hütz isn’t a phenomenal singer, his uninhibited personality and his pure, raw charisma
Make no mistake: This was not one concert. This was two separate shows for one ridiculous price. Frank Turner may have been in the position of “opener” for Gogol Bordello, but he put on a headlining show. That being said, there was a unifying spirit of brotherhood and the abandonment of all our cares at the entrance. It’s the sort of wild, happy-go-lucky concert and event we could use more of in an increasingly ugly world.