Gogol Bordello brings the gypsy punk hustle

Raucous live band gets some polish in new album, ‘Trans-Continental Hustle’

April 30, 2010|By Sam Sessa, The Baltimore Sun

When Gogol Bordello hits the stage, chaos is the only certainty.

Led by the spindly, mustachioed Eugene Hutz, the ragtag eight-member troupe churns through a maniacal mixture of punk and Gypsy music, romping around the room and whipping audiences into a fervor.

"What we do on stage is so fun, it radiates," Hutz said. "It's the best thing I could possibly think of doing. When we all get on the same page — all eight of us — and give it, there isn't much choice."

After more than 10 years, Gogol Bordello has live performances down pat, Hutz said. It'll have no problem dispatching two back-to-back gigs at Rams Head Live April 29 and 30 (Thursday and Friday) — the latter of which is sold out.

Most of Gogol Bordello's fans know the band more for its blaring live shows than its records. But with the release of the new album, "Trans-Continental Hustle," Gogol Bordello hopes to shine a little light on its songwriting, too.

"The time has come to kick everybody with the songwriting," Hutz said. "It's time for people to realize the ultimate glue that holds it together is songwriting."

Hutz teamed up with renowned producer Rick Rubin for "Trans-Continental Hustle," which came out Tuesday, opening up his songwriting process and working on tracks piece by piece, he said. Rubin didn't hesitate to give Hutz feedback — no matter how positive or brutal, Hutz said.

"Sometimes it would be just, ‘Man, this is done, the melody is pumping, and the whole thing is sizzling,' " Hutz said. "Sometimes it would be like ‘Why don't we write two or three more choruses,' and, ‘I can see some writing issues.' "

Rubin made Hutz sit down and perform all the songs on acoustic guitar. If Rubin gave it the OK, Hutz would bring it to the band and add other instruments, such as accordion, violin, bass and drums.

"Trans-Continental Hustle" benefited from Rubin's tough love, Hutz said. He thinks it's the band's most complete album yet. "Trans-Continental Hustle" has more acoustic flourishes than its predecessors, but the band's blend of oom-pah protests and punk energy is as biting as ever.

Since forming the band in New York's Lower East Side in 1999, Hutz's own trans-continental shuffle seems to have never stopped. Born in Kiev, he moved to New York in the 1990s and has pursued the Gypsy culture around the world, from Eastern European countries to Brazil, where he has lived for the past few years. Soaking in Brazil's music scene has reshuffled Hutz's sense of beat and melody, he said.

"My writing is not intuitive," he said. "It's not like, ‘Oh my God, Brazil! Bossa nova and samba! Everybody knows that. It's more like, ‘I'm in the most dangerous part of Brazil and guess what? That's where they have the best music.' I probably should not have come here by myself, but I'm already here."

Last year, when Gogol Bordello played Rams Head Live, Sarah Sample, the venue's marketing director, pushed her way up front for a closer look and lost her BlackBerry in the mayhem. The band impressed her and the rest of the Rams Head Live crew so much, they booked the band for two dates this time.

"It was outrageous," Sample said. "You want to be on stage with them so bad because they're having a party. They're the Ukrainian punk version of George Clinton."

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

twitter.com/midnightsunblog

If you go
Gogol Bordello performs April 29 and 30 (Thursday and Friday) at Rams Head Live, 20 Market Place in Power Plant Live. DeVotchka, Jesse Malin and St Mark's Social also perform. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets for the April 29 show are $29. The April 30 show is sold out. Call 410-244-1131 or go to ramsheadlive.com.

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