“Gypsy punk cabaret” performer Eugene Hutz is not a real gypsy, but he is a nomadic Ukrainian spawned from the death of the Cold War in the late 80s; sinewy and full of the sex beat like an expert Can Can dancer; resilient as a feral alley cat; and charming even when the amber spittle of liquor sprays from beneath his wax-tipped mustache, while singing to the hypnotic throttle of his band, Gogol Bordello.
Gogol Bordello: Non-Stop is the recent documentary based on Roma-based Roman Candle lifestyle choices and the road rogue stories of his Israeli, Greek, and American tribe. Playing at the Northwest Film Forum next week (Jan 18 - Jan 21), Gogol Bordello: Non-Stop shows how a young urban exiled man who loved American culture (but rejected any nation’s politics) took advantage of the Communist diaspora to reject consumerism in the New World (save for maybe some cheap guitars and stolen pornography).
Rom or Roma is the root word for the itinerant clan called Gypsies, in which “all races and sexes mix,” as Hutz puts it. Often used as a pejorative term, and abused by society in horrific ways, they are people in a culture that began in Northern India almost a thousand years ago, and kneaded into the poverty-stricken flanks of Europe, bringing a sense of mystery to the art, music, and various hedonistic undergrounds of any culture they engaged with.
After bringing twenty albums as a few of his only possessions when he emigrated to the West, Hutz began his career in music as a club DJ in New York. He formed the band officially in 2000, combining the name of a Russian existential author with a carnal den of vice, collaborating on sublime musical feasts like “Immigrant Punk” heavily spiced with klezmer flourishes. Non-Stop follows Hutz and his musicians and dancers over five years of touring and recording for records and film, their firecracker shows inspiring audience to go mad with praise and passion. The older Yuri (accordion) and Sergey (violin) obviously fuel the music of GB, giving the sound authenticity and proving that real punk is ageless, while young female dancers bring in a bit of performance art, and the tireless American drummer/manager drives everything along in more ways than beats.
But it is the usually half-naked and chop-haired Hutz, the kind of guy you have washed dishes with in anarchist kitchens while discussing soul music and Beat poetry, shared a moist joint with after doing manual labor, sat next to at the grottiest pub as you both sent back shot after shot of sugary alcohol as he charmed every lady that came near, who makes the film such compelling viewing.
I have been interested in klezmer-based indie since hearing Southern California band Giant Ant Farm in the mid-90s. They received an amazing local review and brought their album Fortune along with them as they astonished audiences at the Tractor Tavern -- and then disappeared. (But I still play the album a couple of times every month.) Since then, the arrival of Gogol Bordello, Devotchka, Beirut, Luminescent Orchestrii, and others have furthered the sound into post-hardcore, alternative pop, and even ambient experimentalism, while regionally in the Pacific NW collectives like Circus Contraption played regularly at Sandpoint hangers, highly visible venues (and Drew K. from GFB still plays every Thursday night for the regulars at Roosevelt’s wonderful Cafe Racer).
Seattle has a lot of punks who love Gogol Bordello, and is a very avant-music-party kind of town, supporting the classy, crazed work of Degenerate Art Ensemble and even more traditional jazz/classical-torqued bands like the Dead Science, who all regularly draw large and loving crowds. So get your tickets early to see Gogol Bordello: Non-Stop as it plays here.
If you’d like a chance to win a pair of tickets, head over to the KEXP Facebook Fan Page.
Gogol Bordello: Non-Stop
Distributor: Lorber Films
Director: Margarita Jimeno
Producers: Darya Zhuk and Margarita Jimeno