Eugene’s Gogol Bordello: Ecstatic Trance

We’ve been listening a lot to Gogol Bordello. A Netflix movie, “Gogol Bordello: Non Stop,” offers a great glimpse into the band and its spirit.

We first heard GB on Kimmel. Either you immediately take to them, or not. I can’t understand not. A mixture of innocence and artworld jadedness, ecstatic trance energy and pagan formlessness, the band is an original. Eugene Hütz, in finding form in all this, is some kind of genius.

Gogol Bordello’s smart, manic energy, mixes many influences into something genuinely new – you sort of give up looking for individual threads and just smile. They are called a Gypsy band, but there are many folk, traditional and punk influences. One member of the band came from the Klezmatics. Oren Kaplan, no longer with the band, looks like he is related to Mel Brooks and plays the accordion and guitar.

In the documentary, Kaplan called up band leader Eugene and said, “Hello you M@#$F@#$ bastard, Jew wannabe…” Another older man who plays violin is from the island currently under dispute between Japan and Russia, and has a classical background (Oren Kaplan plays classical guitar as well); the mix of musicians has the unifying intelligence of Eugene Hütz, turning it into one joyous matzo ball of Romany energy.

One good decision was made after another in the formation of the band. After Hütz’s birthday party on the lower east side the canny bar owner asked Hütz if he wanted a once a week gig. A smash. Eugene realized that the kids who came to his concerts saw it as a chance to be part of the show. He gives those kids credit, saying that they set the precedent for the fun-bordering-mania that signifies this transformational, influential band. But it was Hütz who had the brains to see what worked and encourage it.

Hütz calls himself a cultural refugee. The overflowing joy he feels in his freedom in America, to perform and rejoice on stage, reminds me of Chaim Soutine’s overwhelming rapturous swirls as he broke the stricture against image making in his orthodox household. Freedom releases energy.

Toward the end of the documentary Hütz says that people ask him if he is going to make it. He said the media swallows the connection popular artists have to the public and turns them into celebrities, separated from their mother lode: the energy of pop culture. He said that he had made it; he is doing something he loves.

“Hello America, love you like somebody’s wife…”, says Eugene Hütz.