Before sound-check at a show in California, gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello frontman Eugene Hutz spoke with The Daily Gazette about the band’s extensive touring schedule, his experience as an immigrant and how the band thrives on fresh blood.
When: 8 p.m. Friday
where: Upstate Concert Hall, 1208 Rte. 146, Clifton Park
how much: $28-$25
more info: 371-0012, upstateconcerthall.com
Famous for songs like “Immigraniada” and “Start Wearing Purple,” Gogol Bordello will be rolling through Clifton Park with accordions in tow Friday for a show at the Upstate Concert Hall.
The band is well known for their riotous shows and tireless tour schedule. The thing that keeps the band together is a common love of performance.
“The core of loving the tour is in the actual live performance,” Hutz said. “There’s nothing in the world [like] performing a cathartic concert and taking thousands of people along with you on to the catharsis.”
The band, which formed in 1999, expects to release new music in the fall.
The band is made up of a group of firebrand musicians from across the globe who just happened to cross paths in New York City.
Sounds of their lives
While band members come and go, and come back again, the current lineup includes musicians from Ecuador, Ethiopia, Ukraine, the United States and Scotland. The vastly different sounds each of their lives are rooted in come together to keep Gogol Bordello interesting nearly 20 years after the band’s founding.
Hutz, originally from Ukraine, immigrated to the states in the 1990s and lived in Burlington, Vermont, for six years before making the move to New York City.
He remembers Burlington as “a great place to land,” learn English and experiment with his music. He made friends with bands traveling between New York City and Montreal and would visit friends in New York from time to time. Once he felt ready, he booked a one-way ticket to the city.
“The open-mindedness of New York never let me down,” Hutz said. What he hoped for most was a chance to break into the art scene and pursue creative opportunities. “That was my plan, especially in New York City — to be a part of the art world, essentially,” he said. “That’s exactly what happened.”
Initially, Hutz said, Gogol Bordello was “like a performance art group.” The new band lacked some vital elements — like a bassist for the first five years. Still, Hutz said, “the art world opened up its arms.”
While the core of the band remains the same, musicians have come and gone over the past 17 years. One of the band’s original performers, Pamela Racine, has rejoined the band for this tour, playing drums, washboard, singing, choreographing and dancing.
Hutz thinks the ever-evolving nature of the band has aided its long-term success: “Everyone who became a part of the band forever or for a bit of time brought in a balance that was very much what we needed at the time,” he said.
Hutz didn’t want to discuss politics, but there’s no denying Gogol Bordello’s music has rarely been more politically poignant in the states than it is now. The band’s ability to represent some of the immigrant experience seems increasingly important.
In perhaps one of the band’s most well-known songs, “Immigraniada (We comin’ rougher)” released in 2010, Hutz sings, “But if you give me the invitation/to hear the bells of freedom chime/to hell with your double standards/we’re coming rougher every time.”
In another song released in 2013, “We Rise Again,” Hutz sings “Borders are scars on the face of the planet.”
Thinking back on his musical roots in Ukraine, Hutz said, “I was very lucky to inherit a very vast musical record collection [from my dad] when it was officially banned back in Ukraine, but you know my love for music persevered and I built upon that collection.”
Part of that building was adding punk rock records. “Amazingly enough, my dad liked some of it,” he said. Among the bands the two agreed upon were The Clash and Iggy Pop, although Hutz’s father had no patience for Joy Division, The Sex Pistols or the Cure.
When asked whether there are any particular Ukrainian folk songs he holds close to heart, Hutz replied, “I don’t have to hold them close to heart because they are inside of my heart. It’s just in my DNA. Do I have a shrine where I hold sacred all Ukrainian folklore? No, but if a bunch of Ukrainians get together to have a great time and I’m there, will I sing until the cows come home? Yes.”
Reach Gazette reporter Cady Kuzmich at 269-7239, [email protected].