Nick Morgan and crew
Review by Nick and Dave
BORDELLO by Dave and Nick, head to head!
else do you get that, where? Imagine Whiskyfun's
most distinguished concert reviewers just went to
see the very same band, but not the same gig, and
each of them decided to write his very own report.
Interesting isn't it? Me, I'm amazed... How lucky
we are! Okay, please take a deep breath... Drum
roll... Here we go!
Bordello, Concorde 2, Brighton, March
By DAVE BROOM
OK Serge. Imagine that you have fallen hopelessly
in love with a mysterious, sophisticated,
Ukrainian woman. It is a whirlwind romance:
hearts leaping out of the body, eyes turning
into hearts, tongues lolling (my template
for life was formulated through over-exposure
to Looney Tunes). You decide to wed. The first
time that you will meet the parents, however,
will be at the wedding. Wishing to impress,
you decide to surprise them by booking a Ukrainian
folk band for the event. That night, mysteriously,
coincidentally, a mangled flier is pushed
through your letterbox: “Gypsy Music!
8 piece! Band!! Weddings!! Parties!! Anything!
No gig too small!! Have own transport!’
You book them.
forward to the day of the wedding. All is
going well until a battered, bus arrives with
GOGOL BORDELLO painted in straggling red and
black letters on the side. Into the hall stagger
nine misfits dressed in ripped clothes, strange
hats and weird jewellery. There’s a
lot of exposed flesh. All have a manic glint
in their eyes. There’s a bass player
with locks, a worryingly straight guitarist,
a desiccated long-haired violinist, a portly
bald accordionist with a penchant for shell
suits, a huge, silent drummer and two hopelessly
exotic girls. The singer pushes his way to
the front. He’s whipcord thin with pale
translucent skin, crazed eyes, pomaded hair
and a luxuriant moustache. For a moment, Serge,
I think it is you. “My name is Eugene
HUTZ!” he shouts at me with a crazed
grin. “We are band! Let’s party!”
start. My in-laws’ jaws drop. My new
wife glares. I shrug and start to pogo. How
can’t I? This music is driven by that
compelling gypsy folk mix of violin and accordion,
but electrified and slashed through with Clash-like
reggae lines (GB are one of the few bands
to master this). There’s a hint of dub,
off-tune punk-folk. The violinist leers at
us and shreds his first bow, the flying horsehair
matching his ragged long grey frizz. Eugene,
who has lost his shirt, starts shouting ‘Start
Wearing Purple!” We all bounce along,
chanting it back at him. On come the girls
with washboards. One is called Pamela the
other is Elizabeth. I’m unsure whether
the names refer to the women, or the instruments.
venue is now mass of sweaty, grinning people.
The music is relentless, frenetic, played
without a break and with a defiant, crazed
attitude. It does for gypsy music what the
did for Irish folk, what the Boggs
tried to do for bluegrass. GB have the art-punk
look of New York (their base) married to the
dangerous air and magpie approach of the Alabama
Three. In their clattering take on the
world Mussolini takes Stalin on a fishing
trip; we can all go: ‘through the roof!
girls are back on.. screaming, while Eugene
hits a battered fire bucket with a drumstick.
Elizabeth then begins to crash her cymbals
together. I look round. My new mother in law
is heading my way. She grabs me and starts
to dance. No-one can resist. The music gets
faster. That violinist is in league with the
devil, forcing us to dance ever faster. Half
of the audience has invaded the stage. Pamela
is being carried aloft through the crowd while
standing on top of a bass drum and beating
the shit out of it. Eugene is playing the
drumkit with his soaked shirt. Now he‘s
replaced Pamela on the drum and has started
howling. I haven’t seen a climax to
a gig like this since Lux Interior of the
cut his trousers off with a broken wine bottle.
My father in law embraces me, weeping with
thanks. Best live band around? They can’t
be far off. Serge. embrace the gypsy punk
in you ... you’re half way there already!
- Dave Broom
Bordello, The Astoria,
London, March 10th 2006
Prepared to be shocked. He reels, lurches
and stumbles around like a man caught in a
shockwave, yells in a barely comprehensible
English like a singer with advanced Tourette’s
syndrome, leers at girls, mothers and even
grannies, and throws himself, without restraint,
into the nearest crowd of unsuspecting rock
fans. Yep, that’s Jozzer, who in the
absence of The Photographer is my chaperone
for the night. We dined at one of our Chinatown
haunts: after quail, scallops, mustard greens,
eel and aubergine our chirpy waiter looked
pretty glum when we announced our intention
to leave. “You go down pub?” he
asked, warily eyeing Jozzer’s collection
of empty glasses. So I tried to explain Gogol
Bordello to him, eventually showing him the
tickets to assuage his incredulity. “You
pay money for that? Sounds like big rubbish”.
We’re at the Pickle Factory, packed
like gherkins (or cornichons to you Serge)
in a jar, to see Gogol Bordello, purveyors
of ‘Gypsy Punk’, and the darlings
of New York’s easily impressed arty
club scene, fronted by singer and sometime
actor Eugene Hutz “a larger-than-life,
New York-based Ukrainian émigré.
If you want to picture him then think of Liverpool
FC’s beanpole striker Peter Crouch with
a Charlie MacLean tash. And I know, I’m
uncomfortable about the ‘G’ word
too, hardly PC here these days, so let’s
call them purveyors of ‘Traveller Punk’
. Yes Serge, this is a country where we now
have crappy Italian restaurants that have
‘travelling violinists’ who come
and persecute you at your table with hopelessly
played romantic melodies.
Punk’? Well it’s hardly new is
it, but New York has a very short memory.
A little piece of my heart is forever the
Mustaphas Three, musically the same sort
of idea, and far more sophisticated. And it’s
territory too, and, for that matter, Th’
Legendary Shack Shakers whose lead singer,
J D Wilkes could truly be said to be shocking.
And then Serge there are your own Les
Négresses Vertes, who I recall
seeing playing on Glasgow Green way back in
the 1980s, truly the embodiment of ‘Gypsy
mind. In the cause of brevity I will summarise:
high in energy, huge in entertainment, low
in spontaneity, poor in music, medium in originality.
But it’s great fun, and the Astoria
is rocking like I have never seen it rock
before. Hutz and his fellow band members,
a wonderfully roguish assembly of expat Eastern
Europeans and Americans, and the ‘dance
troupe’ (I know they’re called
Elizabeth and Pamela, because their names
were written on their washboards) work the
audience with a studied professionalism beyond
compare, and the result is frenzy. Set list?
How the hell should I know? But they did the
purple song, and the one about being an immigrant,
and the fast one that sounded like the purple
one, and a slow one, and then an even faster
sort of purple one. And I did notice a few
throw away but deeply profound lyrics –
something about Bill Clinton’s saxophone,
and the end of western civilisation, but to
be frank no more than a delicate non-conformist
veneer on a wonderfully well thought out and
brilliantly executed performance concept.
trick pony” said Jozzer, who by this
time was working the audience, cider in hand,
trying to sell them “Unlucky white heather,
get your unlucky white heather here”.
I disagreed. At least two tricks, for the
adroit use of the carefully choreographed
‘dance troupe’, with their feisty
attitude, washboards, cymbals and bass drums
stopped the rather repetitive content from
dragging – and without this street theatre
showmanship the gig could so easily have been
another Hayseed Dixie. I’m glad it wasn’t.
Not shocking, but thoroughly entertaining.
Buy their music? Not sure. But you must go
and see them. And I know Jozzer would like
to go too – I can give you his number…
- Nick Morgan (all concert photographs
by Nick's Nokia - other by Hilary Hulteen)
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