Tag Archives: Gogol Bordello

Concertpalooza 2015: Mariachi El Bronx, Gogol Bordello & Flogging Molly at Meadowbrook

15 Jun

MEL GB FMWhoever came up with this bill was a genius.

The three groups have a lot of similarities:

  • a sizable line up of musicians
  • a violin/fiddle player
  • a good chance of having an accordion player
  • a female musician who plays more than just a tambourine
  • ethnic roots
  • punk approach
  • a good beat you can drink to
  • rabid followings
  • music that just won’t allow you to stand still

Months ago, I got tickets for my whole family to see this show, with Gogol Bordello as the main draw. Since my son and partner have not ranged the rock-and-roll show circuit as much as my daughter and I, I prepped them by taking them through as many contingencies as I could think of. “Bring a jacket. Use bug spray. Get some earplugs. Charge your phones. Be ready to wait in traffic longer than you spent watching the show. Watch out for knuckleheads who want to crowd surf.” It was like I sending them to Rock Band Day Camp. I did everything but write their names in their t-shirts.

At present, my partner is recovering from a total hip replacement. While we had pavilion seating at the Meadowbrook Music Theater, it’s a good half mile from the parking lot to the amphitheater, and it was supposed to rain (because it always rains at outdoor rock music events). Thankfully she was able to score a handicap parking permit. We were whisked to a small lot next to the bathrooms (!), the beer distributor (!!) and the seats (!!!). With all the time saved in getting onto the property, we even had enough time to hobble up the hill to the merchandise shed before the first note was played.

(While I hope you never have to obtain a handicap sticker, if you do, I highly recommend buying concert tickets shortly thereafter.)

Mariachi El Bronx

Mariachi El Bronx

I saw Mariachi El Bronx four years ago as an opening act for the Foo Fighters at the Palace in Auburn Hills and was blown away by how they embrace the traditional style completely. It was a surprise because these Angelinos (many of them non-Latinos) also perform as The Bronx, a hardcore punk act. Yet they play brilliantly and respect the form – the galloping waltz time, the tempos that can go from languid to rapid-fire, the glorious trumpets.

Their brief set wasn’t all it could be, sadly. Before they got on stage, a bizarre pulse filled the venue like a strobe light made of sound waves. It was a cool effect for about 30 seconds, but it went on and on until it was way too annoying and disorienting. Then, once the sound stunt stopped and the band began, the bass and percussion levels were set way too high so they overwhelmed the rest of the musicians. It was too bad that my family had a poor first impression; I still bought their t-shirt.

Eugne Hutz and Gogol Bordello

Eugene Hutz and Gogol Bordello

Then on to the band we were waiting for: the gypsy punk troubadours, Gogol Bordello. After seeing them last year in an indoor venue, I hoped an open-air environment wouldn’t diffuse their magic. Not to fear: Eugene Hutz and the rest of the international gang were in fine form. My daughter and I had a bet that Eugene wouldn’t be wearing a shirt: while I lost the bet when he entered, I won it about 15 minutes later when he’d worked up enough of a lather to toss it into the wings. They’re the kind of band that will get you singing along, even if you don’t know the words – since they could be singing in any number of languages, it doesn’t matter what comes out of your mouth as long as it’s in tempo.

Given how many green t-shirts – and men in kilts – there were in the audience, it was clear the bulk of the crowd was there for Flogging Molly. I had never heard any of their music. I assumed they were direct competitors with the Boston-based Dropkick Murphys, but their brand of Celtic punk is less screamy and and more folky, with fiddle/flute/banjo instrumentation and songs that could be heard closing down a pub at 2 a.m. This was a bit of a hometown gig for the LA-based band, as the fiddle/flute player Bridget Regan is from Michigan. (Her Irish husband, lead singer and guitarist Dave King, made a point of extolling the beauty of his mother-in-law from the stage.)

Floggin Molly - 1

Bridget Regan and Dave King

King is a charming showman: bearded, goofy, bounding around the stage barely time for a breath and a swig before starting the next number. My daughter described him as looking like a great dad. The guys in the audience who had been amping up their anticipation with the help of a few tall beers sang along to every song at the top of their lungs. We, the uninitiated, had our fill after an hour and left before the encore, slipping out of the handicap parking lot without having to hit the brakes once.

I talk about tribalism a lot when it comes to rock music. You go to a show to be with those like you, fellow fans who love a bunch of musicians enough to pay the ridiculous Ticketmaster fees and put up with the knuckleheads just so you can breathe the same air, sing the same lyrics and throb to the same beat. Putting these three tribes together was not only brilliant cross-promotion. It opened our ears and widened our circle to include even more like minds and hearts.

See you on the flip side at the next Concertpalooza gigs: the Violent Femmes on June 20, and the Heartless Bastards on June 21

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Bonanzatronic madness: Gogol Bordello at the Royal Oak Theater

6 Aug

Gogol Bordello sign

A band that can cause a real panic at the disco …

Raise your hand if you’ve never heard of Gogol Bordello … or if you have heard of them, raise your beer so you don’t spill it as you crowd-surf.

The eight-member gypsy punk outfit is led by Eugene Hutz, a Ukrainian by birth with Romani heritage on his German mother’s side whose family moved after Chernobyl  and eventually relocated to Vermont; he now lives in Brazil. Hutz is skinny and beaky, with a silver canine tooth, wild hair and a pirate’s mustache. He sings with a pronounced accent that serves his material well and plays a rugged acoustic guitar with rambunctious grace.

Photo by my concert buddy Davis Kurepa-Peers

Photo by my concert buddy Davis Kurepa-Peers

The rest of the line-up is just as internationally far-flung, with musicians from Belarus, Scotland by way of China, Russia, Ethiopia, Ecuador and Los Angeles. The name is an homage to Ukrainian writer Nikolai Gogol … and, well, a brothel. The lyrics are a mix of English, Romani, Spanish and for all I know, Esperanto. Their songs jump from pogo-worthy punk to ska to straight-up rock, along with several ballads that sound like what you’d hear at the end of a Russian wedding reception right before the last of the drunken guests are kicked out of the hall.

My partner is quite the fan of Gogol Bordello, starting with their 2010 album Trans-Continental Hustle. (I just found out that was produced by Rick Rubin, whose exquisite taste knows no musical boundaries.) She took our older daughter to see them at the Fillmore a couple of years ago and sat in the balcony as our daughter joined the crush of fans standing near the stage. After more than 90 minutes of mosh pit churn with the “gypsters” she was dehydrated and half-deaf: in other words, she’d had a great time.

Gogol Bordello blue

Photo by Davis Kurepa-Peers

When she learned my partner had gotten tickets for me and our younger daughter to see the band in Royal Oak, she had just one piece of advice: “Wear shoes you don’t care about.”

We arrived early enough to stake a claim standing one level above the main floor behind a railing so we could see everything without getting trampled. Our neighbors to the left were a pony-tailed guy and his girlfriend with an ice-blue pixie cut and flawless red lipstick (who, upon learning my daughter was 12, told her, “You’re gonna go far, honey”). On the right was Bald Tattooed Handlebar Mustache Guy, who brought half his family with him since he’d had so much fun at the Fillmore show. Who needs an opening act when you’ve got an audience like this?

(There was an opening act: Man Man, which brought funk and surrealism together in a way that might have made Frank Zappa proud … although someone will have to explain to me what was up with the guy in the neon green boiler suit and melted piggy face mask who wandered on stage during a couple of their numbers.)

Gogol Bordello puts on an amazing concert, even if you’re like me and don’t know the words to their songs (and have no desire to slam dance). Grinning the entire time, we were swept away by their energy and showmanship – although they aren’t as zany as in their earlier days:

Yet this show was not shtick or the “bonanzatronic madness” Hutz described in Mother Jones a few years back. It’s a combination of tribal tradition and new music, partying and protest: the world seen through immigrants’ eyes. As they sing in “Immigraniada,”

It’s a book of true stories
True stories that can’t be denied
It’s more than true, it actually happened
We comin’ rougher every time

 

See you on the flip side at the show I’ve been waiting for all summer: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at DTE Energy Music Theater August 23!

P.S. Looking for a rock and roll romance?  Love and Other B-Sides is available in paperback and e-book editions now on Amazon.

Love is not a choice: Panic! At The Disco at Meadow Brook Music Festival

30 Jul

Panic at the Disco - picture 2

Photo credit: my concert buddy Davis Kurepa-Peers

I’ve spilled some virtual ink in the past about how underwhelmed I am by the music of Panic! At The Disco – and how my daughters adore them. Having taken the elder one to two of their shows, the younger one was clamoring to go when it was announced they were playing at Meadow Brook this summer. In her words, “You owe me.”

Here’s why:

As she never tires of reminding me, the girls could have seen them for only $3 each two summers ago at the Arts, Beats & Eats festival in Royal Oak. I said no for many good reasons. The band was scheduled to play late in the evening; there were rumors that a concealed weapon contingent was going to show up just to prove they could; I didn’t want my 16-year old responsible for protecting her 10-year old sister amid unanticipated chaos … and I really, really, REALLY didn’t want to chaperone because I couldn’t justify seeing a band I could care less about for a third time when I’d only seen Tom Petty once.

As punishment for my maternal protectiveness – and mature musical taste – I was now stuck paying 12 times more per ticket to see Panic! in an outdoor venue swamped by freakish thunderstorms and mosquito repellent.

In keeping with their management company Fueled By Ramen’s penchant for punctuality, the show started promptly at 7:30 p.m. with opening acts Magic Man and Walking the Moon; both were fun and energetic and worked their skinny jean-clad asses off. Then when lead singer Brendon Urie took the stage, the place went nuts, with Beatles-level shrieking from the 7,700 soggy fans that became downright deafening when he took his shirt off ten minutes later …

Panic at the Disco - picture 1

Photo credit: Davis Kurepa-Peers

I appreciate Urie for how well he treated my older daughter and other fans the last time he came through town, staying late to sign autographs and pose for photos. I also have a new-found respect for him in light of the Westboro Baptist Church’s recent homophobic protests, likely sparked by the band’s ode to bisexuality, “Girls/Girls/Boys.” He also stated in an interview last year that while he’s happily married to a woman and identifies as straight, he’s “experimented in other realms of homosexuality and bisexuality”  in the past, hence the pinheads with hateful posters outside of his Kansas City show. Urie turned it into a fundraiser for the Human Rights Campaign, offering to contribute $20 per protester; when only 13 showed up, he rounded it up to an even $1000 and added in a percentage of the merchandise. Nicely done!

As a veteran of their live performances (sigh), I have to admit Panic! At The Disco puts on a good show. Brendon Urie is an engaging  pop singer with a scorching high vocal range that served him well during their cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” (Here I was, singing along to that song just two weeks after hearing Queen and Adam Lambert perform it at the Palace … déjà vu all over again.) What’s more, their fans enjoy each moment with every fiber of their beings. My daughter was vibrating in anticipation before the show. She sang every lyric and danced at every opportunity. She bought a tour t-shirt with her own money, and if you knew how tight she is with a buck, you’d know how significant that is. She had a completely great time.

That’s something I don’t see at many of the concerts I go to: utter delight. That’s worth the price of admission right there.

See you on the flipside … or at the next stop on my Concertpalooza tour: Gogol Bordello at the Royal Oak Theater on July 30

P.S. When you take Love and Other B-Sides to the beach, you don’t have to worry about getting sand in your Kindle! My novel is available in paperback, as well as in e-book format, on Amazon.com. Read and share!

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