Gypsy-punk pioneers Gogol Bordello are touring now with an album that’s an athem to and call to action for gypsy punks worldwide. If you’re unfamiliar with the band, the simplest way to describe them is that they thrive on total chaos. And Gogol Bordello will invade the Boulder Theater on April 29.
Its eight members are known to parade on stage like a carnival troop, shredding accordion, electric fiddle and acoustic guitar, attacking the percussion instruments and electric bass and stomping out Soviet-bloc punk anthems with energy as infectious as ebola.
In short: a Gogol Bordello show promises a hectic celebration of weirdness and craziness.
“The shaking power of Gogol Bordello is one of the most reliable things out there,” explains Eugene Hütz, leader and vocalist of the Manhattan-based band. Hütz, who sports a handle-bar moustache and a thick Ukrainian accent, is a Slavic rocker who formed the “gypsy punk” band in New York City in 1999.
They are tough enough for punk fans, but their musical capabilities stretch far beyond three chords and a growl. The band lists inspirations and influences from The Clash to Manu Chao to Parliament Funkadelic. The eccentric combination is hard to imagine until seen in action.
“We’ve always been shaking people up,” Hütz tells BW, “Since the first concert and on into the future.”
The group is a melting pot of culture, with members hailing from Russia, China, Ethiopia, Ecuador, the U.S. and Belarus, all of whom bring elements from their roots to the band’s sound.
The wild and unpredictable live performances are carried by music rich with themes of immigrant life and culture around the world. Frontman Hütz is a political refugee from Ukraine who lived in Italy, Austria, Poland and Hungary before landing in the U.S. in the ’90s, and is currently living in Brazil. The music of Gogol Bordello talks about embracing the nomad lifestyle, often touching on notions of being an outsider. They have called this lifestyle the “Transcontinental Hustle,” also the name of their 2010 album.
Gogol Bordello’s latest record, Pura Vida Conspiracy, is a mashup of latin and slavic music, reggae, folk, punk and gypsy jazz that features classic Gogol style while digging deeper into new lyrical themes.
“‘Pura vida’ in Spanish means ‘pure life,’” Hütz explains. “Miraculously, people can’t seem to locate the life. People live the life, while not really living it. That’s where ‘conspiracy’ plays in. Rock and roll has a great quality of shaking people up … and somewhere in the cracks, throwing some of these self-exploring ideas into people’s souls. Pura Vida Conspiracy is more of a focused effort to do that.”
Human potential is a running theme on Pura Vida Conspiracy. The album’s opening track, “We Rise Again,” will make you want to put your fist up in the air and rebel against something, anything, whatever you got.
In track five “It Is The Way You Name Your Ship,” Hütz sings, “The way you name your ship is the way it’s going to row.”
“It’s still rock-and-roll,” Hütz says. “it’s still joyous, rebellious, crazy fucking music, but it has a dimension to it — to turn you towards self-discovery.”
Pura Vida Conspiracy is loaded with dreamy accordion melodies that quickly transition into hardcore head-banging mayhem to accompany these motifs.
Where does his inspiration come from?
“I don’t know, outer space? Under the earth?” says Hütz. “I have no idea. I feel it, it makes me do what I do in every level of life. We display our inspiration in vigor which is undying.”
In “Pura Vida Conspiracy,” a short documentary about the new album directed by Nate Pommer, Hütz explains: “Music is the only art where human beings feel for two hours, like they are a fish in the water. Because for two hours everybody forgets who they are, and they associate the experience with freedom.”
So if you decide to point your ship toward the Boulder Theater on April 29, prepare to sweat (or at least get sweat on), get shaken up and feel the freedom with the passionate punks of Gogol Bordello. Make sure to wear something purple. Those of you that know the band will know what that means already. The rest of you will just have to find out why at the show.