It took me nearly a week to sit down & finally write out some kind of show review, but alas it is finally done. I took in the triple bill of the Get-Up Johns, Mike Gunther
& the Restless Souls, and Gogol Bordello
last monday nite (5/3) @ the 7th Street Entry
, an unusual line-up which made for a diverse & highly enjoyable evening.
The Get-Up Johns (see the 1st pic) were a straightforward bluegrass duo, featuring two (local, I think) suit-wearin'-dudes on guitar & mandolin (w/a fiddle substituted @ times) sharing a microphone. The place was pretty empty when their set began except for Gunther & his Souls, about 5 people presumably there to see the Johns, and me, though a few more people did manage to filter in during the set. The Johns were pleasantly surprising, harmonizing nicely on their pretty much traditional numbers, which were performed w/what I can best describe as hopeful zest. They were a nice soothing, yet quite enjoyable appetizer for the following two bands, who likewise would bring a different flavor to the rock club.
Let me say that Mike Gunther is the older brother of Tom Gunther, my senior class president @ Robbinsdale Armstrong
High School ('97). Mike & guitarist Aaron Larson are featured on page 23 of my freshman yearbook. The caption is my favorite part - weren't we funny in high school?!?
Gunther did plenty of howling during his Entry performance, which was the first time I had heard or seen him perform (before which, when I saw his cd @ the Fetus, I would remark how his brother Tom still owed people their senior t-shirt). It's difficult for me to describe Gunther without mentioning that how much he wants to be Tom Waits
. IMO, he really
wants to be Tom Waits - which is not a bad thing. In fact, I'm not sure if I can think of a better role model for a musician to emulate. But here's the thing - Gunther does a pretty darn good job channeling that inner-Waits into his own brand of blues/rock that demands both your attention & your respect. There are plenty of other influences brewing around within Gunter & the Souls, don't get me wrong. But w/drummer Suzanne Scholtzen blasting out on the trumpet on one song, then smashing a steel barrel with a big metal chain on the next, all the while Mike is belting out the oddball vocals - well, Waits is the only artist that seems to fit. Gunther's set was mighty impressive - I'd certainly check them out again.
At the end of Gunther's set, the Entry got mighty smoking, though not in the good way. A curtain in the doorway to the venue somehow caught fire, creating an unexpected cloud of smoke in the venue. It was put out in a hurry, & they brought over a big fan from 1st Ave to blow out the smoke, but I have to admit it was a bit unnerving. Perhaps the Ween DVD
release party next door got out of control - I don't know. Perhaps it was merely a sign of things to come.
I was pretty excited for Gogol Bordello to come on, and after downloading more music from their website & watching the short documentary
there, I was expecting a lot. By the time the band came out, the Entry had assembled a respectable crowd, at least enough to fill up the main floor space & into the bar area. The band started into their first song without frontman Eugene Hutz (that's "hootz" folks), who came onstage fashionably late a couple minutes later, flanked by the "Gogol Dance troupe" (Andra Ursuta & Pam Racine). It was at this point that things got a bit nuts...
Do a lot of Gogol Bordello's songs sound alike? Sure. Do most Gogol Bordello songs have potential to break out into a drunken eastern-european dance party? You betcha. It didn't take long for things to get going, with Hutz's Iggy Pop-like (post-Stooges) stage personal galvinizing support quickly, helped nicely by punk-rock violinist Sergey Ryabtsev catchy riffs & bold Russian stare. A few people (including yours truly) hit the dance floor immediately, but by halfway through the 3rd song, "When the Trickster Starts A-Pokin (Bordello Kind of Guy)" the floor was nearly full with good-hearted folks having a good time. There were punkish chicks gettin' down, average-lookin' fellas stomping around & letting their limbs fly where they may, even some hotties strutting their stuff. Sure, there were jaded hipsters in the back just taking it all in, but I even saw Mike Gunther grooving our w/a ladyfriend over by the bar. This was an all-out party for those who chose to get involved.
It didn't take long for Hutz to literally lose his shirt, as he was strutting his stuff pretty intensely for most of the night. The Dance Troupe was in & out of the show, returning to the stage w/new costumes & props (including an awfully big drum) every couple songs. Whether sling-shotting crumpled GB posters into the crowd, pretend-knitting a "think locally, f**k globally" sign, or providing washboard support, these gals seemed to earn their keep (they also were in charge of merch after the show) while helping create the sense of chaotic burlesque in the stage show. They have to make the accordion player (Yuri Lemeshev, who somehow looks like any generic eastern-european guy you might have seen in the movies) look cool somehow.
The band did a good job keeping the audience in a frenzy through to the end of the show. The set closer, "My Sacred Darling" had its share of false endings, each time drawing in the audience before setting them off again with another run-through of the chorus. After a stripped down version of "Through the Roof 'n' Underground", this same pattern continued on in the final encore tune, the nine minute centerpiece of GB's 2002 album Multi Kontra Kulti Vs. Irony
, "Baro Foro". The tune was extended even further, as Ryabtsev would always jump in with the song's signature riff just when you thought the song was over. By the end, the audience was exhausted - it was after 12:30am, and some people had begun to leave the floor. The die-hards, of which there were plenty by the time the band finished, stayed until the end, giving the band a well-deserved screaming hand.
I am now convinced that Gogol Bordello needs to be experienced in person, otherwise I can't see how you can possibly grasp the madness that this band channels. Of course, that's just my opinion - I could be wrong.