Gogol Bordello is back, with a bang

The gypsy punk band’s music is loud and energized, with concerts that are a feast for the eyes.

gogol Bordello 248.88 (photo credit: )
gogol Bordello 248.88
(photo credit: )
Next week the wildest party in town is back in the form of a three-date berth (February 28-March 2) at Tel Aviv’s Barby club of New York-based gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello.
The wild bunch from the Big Apple’s Lower East Side last performed here in 2009, and the band’s Israeli guitarist Oren Kaplan says he can’t wait to hit the bandstand here again. “We had an amazing gig there last time. There was this really special energy about the place, and the audience was fantastic. For the last year and a half all the guys in the band have been saying, ‘Let’s go back to Israel. When are we going back?’ Now we’re coming back.”
Gogol Bordello started life in the late 1990s and released its first album, Voi-La Intruder, in 1999, which was produced by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds drummer Jim Sclavunos. The frontman and sole songwriter of the band is the irrepressible Ukraine-born Eugene Hütz and, besides Kaplan, the gang includes an Ethiopian-born bassist, a Latin American percussionist and a Scottish-born dancer of Chinese descent, as well as some Americans.
Kaplan says that the rich cultural baggage adds much to the band’s output. “Sure, we all bring different things to the music, all our colors, even though Eugene writes all the music and the lyrics. But we all help with the arrangements, and we all express our personalities and everything else we have in the shows. Anyway, living in New York is like being in a great big kibbutz or cultural melting pot. You don’t see many American-born people there, except maybe in Manhattan,” he laughs.
The guitarist has been a resident of New York since 1996 and says he and the other members of the band feel at home there. “We love other cultures, learning about them and learning about their music, and you get so much of that in New York.”
The Gogol Bordello gang also get plenty of opportunities to pick up other musical offerings on their travels around the world. Their on the road work has included gigs at such prestigious venues as The Whitney Museum in New York, The Tate Modern in London and the Venice Biennale in Italy.
Kaplan has been with Gogol Bordello for 10 years, following a stint with indie rock band Firewater.
He met Hütz when Gogol Bordello performed at the Lower East Side club where Kaplan worked as the sound man. “They were the best thing I’d ever heard at the club,” he recalls. Hütz and Kaplan both lived in the neighborhood and soon became fast friends. One day Hütz asked Kaplan to join the band, and that was that.
The guitarist says the band has evolved a lot since the early days. “I think we’re all better musicians now.
I certainly am, and I am self-taught.”
Mind you, Kaplan says that if he could go back, he might have taken the time to study music formally. “I have learned a lot playing with Eugene and the others. Maybe I’d have better technique if I’d gone to music school, I don’t know. When new wave came along, it gave you freedom. It was, like, anyone can play music, you only need to know a couple of notes. But I have been studying flamenco music for the last three years. That’s really hard, but it’s so rich. Elizabeth [the dancer] is also studying flamenco dance, so that sort of fits in nicely.”
Gogol Bordello is one of those acts for which “seeing is believing” is an apt epithet. Their music is loud and volcanically energized, and their concerts are a feast for the eyes.
Even so, Kaplan says the shows have also developed over the years. “In the early days it was more about the fun and theatrical side, but the music is more important now. But it’s still a lot of fun.”
So if you’re in the mood to shake a leg or two, and probably everything else, get yourself down to Barby next week and let it all hang out.
For tickets: Tel. *8965 or www.barby.co.il