"We're Your Fucking Friends, Yo!""

Gogol Bordello Live @ The Catalyst in Santa Cruz, April 26, 9:00 pm

I would follow this band everywhere.

If I didn’t have a job… if I didn’t have goals… if I didn’t have plans… if I didn’t have responsibilities… if I didn’t have concerns for the well-being of others close to me… if I didn’t have some semblance of a life, however degraded it may seem to others, I would follow Gogol Bordello to the ends of the earth.

It’s not often that someone will use the immediate aftermath of a concert to sum up how they felt about the entire performance, but when Gogol Bordello ringmaster/bandleader Eugene Hütz strode back onto the stage after closing the show with a massive 23-minute encore version of their defiant (and imaginatively stated) anthem Undestructable, his words echoed precisely what I was feeling inside. Grabbing the mike to say goodnight, Hütz asserted, “We’re your fucking friends, yo!”

My brother and I already felt like his friends. And in a far more personal way than one normally feels when watching an amazing band absolutely enthrall an audience. This seems a strange statement to make, especially from someone who never got the chance to meet the band, and in fact, stood at the rear of the balcony area, back and away from the show for the entire length of the concert. And, sure, any fan of any band wishes to believe that they are as one with their influences. But despite the distance, and despite the building noise and aggression of the music throughout the show, and despite the vast array of racial, economic and class distinctions dispersed amongst the audience members, there was still the sense that for just a couple of too brief hours, everyone in the place had come together as one people.

Yeah, it sounds cheesy and it sounds trite. It’s a hippy thing to say, too, but hell, the show was in Santa Cruz, so what can one expect? This mood, though, was definitely in place there, and it certainly existed in a way where its ultimate influence must have pleased Hütz. It almost certainly reflects part of the message at the core of his music: a universal brotherhood that blows past all of the systematic bullshit that ties people down or keeps them from opening their eyes and hearts to those around them.

Our traveling companions at the show, Raw Meat and Roar-achel, did get to meet Eugene and the band post-show, but I’ll speak no more of their adventures through the use of my voice. How and why is up to them to tell from here on out. (I also won’t discuss the anonymous bra that may or may not have been involved in the deal…) No, my presumed friendship with the band is forged solely through how thoroughly moving and entertaining Gogol Bordello were on stage, and in a way where you could not mistake Hütz’ mission to cause every single person in that crowd to leave the show feeling the same sort of elation and mental evolution which he himself has endured. My friendship is forged through finding a band with a distinct voice that just happened to speak to my secret heart, even if it may seem that outwardly there is little the same between us except for, perhaps, distant European genealogical connections.

Assuredly, I am not of the Romani distinction, nor am I from the Ukraine. I am not even close to being a gypsy, though perhaps my Irish blood may bespeak a bit of the traveler somewhere in my family history. I doubt it, though. And before this band came along, my exposure to the roots music at its core has been minimal at best, and mainly through Hollywood bastardized examples of gypsy music in Frankenstein and werewolf movies. Certainly there is a similarity in emotion and instrumentation to some of the klezmer and polka music to which I have exposed myself in varying quantities, but I am still a relative novice to Old World folk music, particularly this style.

And there I am, clapping hands and stomping feet along with the raucous tunes, feeling more from the immediacy of the experience than I have at concerts where I had gone into the shows fully immersed in the band and their music. I was too far along already with Gogol to be considered a convert (after all, we did drive several hundred miles specifically to see this band), but this was the shining moment where I realized just how in love I was with Gogol Bordello and their maniacal circus.

And were circumstances a little broader for experimentation economically for me, this band would become my version of the Dead, getting followed from show to show, all so I might feel that vibe just once more. To feel that reassurance that somewhere, on a tiny stage in a decrepit club miles from my home, there is someone that I don't even personally know who is bold enough to announce, even in a collective sense, that they are my friend, fucking or otherwise.

You should all be so lucky to have such friends. See this band for your own well-being, and at all costs...

[P.S. Yo, fucking friend, here is some fellow fan-shot footage from the show I found on YouTube courtesy of OpenFire...]


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