First up was the multi-instrumental indie band, Man Man. Think multilayered, danceable, catchy melodies with drums, keyboards and xylophone leading the way. Now add a smorgasbord of other instruments including horns, and some Zappa-esque sounding vocals. Mix it all together with the high energy front and center performance of frontman/keyboardist, Honus Honus, and drummer, Pow Pow, which included synchronized stool leaps from a seated position. Throughout their set, the crowd danced and sang along, proving Man Man to be the perfect opener for what was about to follow.
A little after nine, Gogol Bordello, took the stage and didn’t leave it until around eleven. They played sixteen songs in addition to a four song encore. Their set list, which pretty much covered everything spanning their career, also included several from their newest album, Pura Vida Conspiracy.
Now when I first heard that they were a “gypsy punk” band I wasn’t sure how to wrap my head around it. So logically, I watched some YouTube videos. Intrigued, I also streamed the 2008 documentary, Gogol Bordello: Non - Stop, which I highly recommend.
But nothing could prepare me for the night I was about to have, as what I saw and heard online didn’t even begin to touch what I got, in person.
Is it punk? Yes. Gypsy? Definitely. But the melding of the two becomes a chicken/egg situation. It’s the urgency and intensity of punk perfectly intertwined with the passion and soulfulness of gypsy. It’s a powerful mix that can make you want to go start a revolution while dancing your ass off. Oh, and it’s friggin sexy. Not the Barry White, slow jam, lovemaking kind — the other kind. The loud, sweaty, primal, waking the neighbors, stuffs going to break, kind.
The obvious ringleader of the whole thing is founding member and frontman, Eugene Hütz, with his constant dancing, twisting, monitor leaping, wine slinging and intense crowd interaction. That said, every member of this outfit puts out just as much energy. There was no kicking back and letting the frontman “do his thing.” They all brought it equally, working the audience in such a way that when eye contact was made, and it often was, it felt like they were looking straight into your soul while whispering in your ear, “You’re going to feel this like there’s no tomorrow.”
And we did.
The entire time they were on, the crowd — the WHOLE crowd — was totally entranced. There was a lot of dancing, jumping, screaming and arm waving, which made an already hot situation at the Norva that much steamier on a humid July night.
It was about midway through the set when the frantic crowd started flinging various items toward the stage, including what looked to be a few undergarments, but don’t quote me on that. At another point, someone even hurled a flip flop in violinist Sergey Ryabtsev’s direction, which he skillfully, and with a smile, caught between a monitor and his violin bow. I guess when you're freaking out and don’t know what else to do, chuck a shoe.
My point is, Gogol Bordello had us from the first song of the night to the last song of their four song encore. By the end of it, the energy in the room was so high, I bet that if Eugene had yelled, “Okay everyone, let’s goooo…” and ran out the doors of the Norva, many would’ve followed not knowing or caring where they were going, myself included.
Yeah, it was that intense.
To see all things Gogol Bordello, check out their website- gogolbordello.com
To keep up with Man Man, check them out here- manmanbandband.com