Saturday, September 15, 2007

Gypsy-punk circus

New article about Gogol Bordello was published bu Times Argus Online

Gypsy-punk circus
Super-hot Gogol Bordello adds Montpelier to globe-trotting itinerary
September 14, 2007

By Tom Huntington Arts correspondent

One of the hottest underground rock groups in the world will be making tracks for the capital city, thanks to the efforts of a local concert promoter.

"I'd say it's probably the biggest show to happen in Montpelier in at least 20 years," says Montpelier impresario Ed DuFresne, 40, co-founder of the five-year-old Northeast Kingdom Music Festival and talent buyer for the Langdon Street Café.

"I've heard that the Neville Brothers played here in the early '80s at City Hall," he adds. "But, beyond that, I can't think of anything that comes close to the scope of this."

"This" is the widely-lauded, New York City-based, Gypsy-punk group Gogol Bordello, which will be performing an all-ages show Friday, Oct. 12 at the Vermont College Gymnasium.

A major highlight of last year's Northeast Kingdom Music Festival, the nine-piece traveling party is known for its high-octane, sweat and dance-inducing, carnival-like live shows – the Christian Science Monitor says the band "takes pride in stirring up some of the craziest live shows on earth."

The genre-blurring band mashes up Pogues and Iggy Pop-like punk and traditional Eastern European gypsy music with everything from speed metal and ska to dub reggae and tarantella, "a ritual music from Italy," according to Hutz.

Gogol Bordello's latest CD, "Super Taranta!" has garnered numerous glowing reviews. PopMatters calls it "an insanely enjoyable, breathless affair" and "a brilliant party album from one of the world's greatest dance bands." The Orange County Register calls it "an album so wildly inventive, so provocative, so fun and funny, it … establishes the band as a profound musical force to be reckoned with." Robert Christgau of National Public Radio simply dubs it "the best rock album of the decade."

The boisterous band is led by charismatic front man Eugene Hutz, a Ukrainian immigrant who fled Kiev with his family following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 and eventually resettled in Burlington in 1992. Then known as Eugene Nikolaev (he later changed his surname to Hutz), the lanky singer and guitarist was a standout on the thriving Queen City music scene before moving to New York City in 1998.

While in New York, Hutz assembled a multiethnic cast of musicians, singers and dancers – band members are Russian, Israeli, Ethiopian, American, Taiwanese and Chinese – forming Gogol Bordello in 1999. Initially deemed by critics to be somewhat of a novelty act, Gogol gradually began to make a name for itself on the strength of its legendary live shows, relentless worldwide touring schedule and solid CDs (the excellent 2005 CD, "Gypsy Punks," was a breakthrough album for the band).

The group has exploded in recent years, thanks in part to Hutz's star turn as an actor alongside Elijah Wood in the film "Everything is Illuminated," and his recent appearance with Madonna at the London Live Earth concert in July.

"This is literally one of the hottest underground rock acts in the world right now," says DuFresne. "That we could get them here is pretty remarkable."

Besides the Northeast Kingdom Music Festival, Gogol Bordello's only Vermont shows have been at Higher Ground in South Burlington. DeFresne says he made the band an offer in July to present them in concert. "They hemmed and hawed on it for a while, and wanted me to do the show in Burlington," he says (the potential date was already booked at Higher Ground, according to DuFresne).

DuFresne says that he had wanted to present a concert at the Vermont College Gymnasium, which in the past couple of years has been equipped with an updated power system and enhanced stage. When he "couldn't find anything in Burlington that was available and feasible," he asked the band if they would consider the gym, which he describes as "a reasonably-priced room here in Montpelier that's beautiful and really nice."

"Nobody's taken advantage of it," he says of the gym, "so I just decided that this room should be used, and that this is the perfect test for it."

Persuading the band to play there was not so easy, he says.

"It took a lot of convincing on my part," says DuFresne. "But, finally, when it was clear that nothing was going to materialize in Burlington, I guess they decided to take it."

Whatever the reason, it's clearly a major coup for DuFresne and, more importantly, for Montpelier.

"People are pretty excited about it," he says. "I feel like Montpelier is kind of starting to get known as a music destination, so what better way to help further kick start that and put it on the map?"

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