A small congregation of people waited outside of Upstate Concert Hall on Tuesday, July 22nd. Much smaller than one might suspect, on a night helmed by Gogol Bordello. But, more people did show for the performance as the night went on, possibly in part for the ‘Upstate Common Sense’ on tap behind the bar, instilling in the 500 plus crowd a feeling of liquid camaraderie. Gogol Bordello has a reputation for bringing a combo platter of life together for an all-inclusive party atmosphere, and by the end of the night, this was exactly the case. The gypsy punk band, with members from all over the world, brought quite the spectacle to Clifton Park once again.
The show opened with the raucous energy of Man Man from Philadelphia. Experimental rockers at their core, they descended onto the stage with a wall of sound and main singer/keyboardist Honus Honus presiding over the crowd in a sparkling hooded cape and his trademark mustache. With a hurried explosion of notes, Man Man started their set with what sounded like the middle of it. Cheering along at full intensity immediately, the crowd fell right in step. The four-piece switched instruments constantly, and between horns, strings and percussion, they welcomed the masses into their chaos. Pow Pow the drummer acted as de-facto conductor for the band and the audience, keeping the White Stripes meets Frank Zappa vibe at peak energy the entire set. By the end, the crowd was hungry for more.
The crowd exemplified the feeling of the night — the idea that no matter who you are, you would belong, here, at this show. People shirtless with multicolored LED gloves, or fedoras over dreadlocks, or metal shirts and ripped jeans, all were welcomed and more. The lights dimmed and the crowd coalesced into one singular being, eager and willing as Eugene Hutz, the leader of Gogol Bordello, took the stage. He vocalized the feeling of the night and asked the audience, “Where did we leave off last time? Let’s pick it up right there.” He started the show alone, with a single spotlight for the aptly titled “Illumination”, with the entire band joining him by the end. They played their dirty, infectious gypsy grooves in expert fashion, from a band honed by constant touring.
The sound was great, allowing the crowd to pick out all the intricacies of the band, from the extra percussion, to the accordion and violin solos, to the subtle, but powerful, five-part vocal harmonies. The presence of Pedro Erazo and Elizabeth Sun, the band’s MCs, extra percussionists, and hype man and woman, add to the deliberate crowd control that Gogol emits. At one point, Hutz anointed the congregation with a bottle of wine as he sang “Immigraniada” and brought the audience to a fever pitch. They left the stage, and not a soul moved, waiting for instruction to proceed. The show had stripped the audience down to it’s innocence, and the band came back to emulate this, starting their three song encore with “Lost Innocent World”.
One thing can always be certain of a Gogol Bordello performance: it will be an experience to remember. One of the hardest working bands in the business, and it shows, they continue to enthrall audiences and provide tasty morsels of world-class rock, punk and folk to keep the audience eating right out of their hands.