Gogol Bordello, VIZA @ In the Venue 08.05

Posted August 7, 2013 in

Gogol Bordello made In The Venue go absolutely wild last Monday! Photo: James Marcus Haney

I was in a hurry to get down to In the Venue—my friend had told me on the phone that they had already started letting people in and I wanted to get there in time to see the opening band. I hastily parked my car a block away from the venue and started walking toward the end of the line where my friend was holding a spot in line for me. He had been waiting for a while and told me that he heard nothing but good things coming from the fans in regards to Gogol’s shows and that he was even more pumped to see them. There were so many people in line, and also, considering how many people were already inside the venue, I knew that it was going to get crazy tonight. We had just about reached the door when I heard guitar making an upbeat rhythmic pattern then I heard the singer’s words: “Please tell me the way to the next whiskey bar. Oh, don’t ask why … Oh, don’t ask why.” I thought it was sweet and nostalgic for a band to be opening their set with a cover of The Doors’ “Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)”—I hadn’t heard a Doors cover from any band I’ve seen live, and I loved the gypsy-sounding twist they had put into the classic tune.

I had no idea who the opening band was, because it was advertised nowhere who was touring with Gogol, and I hadn’t a clue of what to expect, except for a band that kicked ass. The band was called VIZA—and kicked ass they did! There were six men onstage—it looked like a typical rock band with a lead singer, two guitarists, a bassist, a drummer and a man on the oud? That was something I had never seen before—a man playing a lute along to some heavier music, and I thought I had seen it all. VIZA sounded a lot like Gogol Bordello as far as vocals and lyrical themes went, but what set them apart was how much heavier they sounded. At first it sounded like punk rock was in the mix with this gypsy music, but during their song “Trans-Siberian Standoff,” it was incredible because of a shredding, face-melting, guitar solo from guitarist Orbel Babayan that I decided that they sounded a lot more metal than punk. There were so many guitar solos radiating from Babayan’s fingers, even from the other guitarist Shant Bismejian, and it kept reminding me of some of the most dynamic metal guitar duos from bands like Slayer, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, and mixing that with old school gypsy music proved them to be one hell of a band.
After they finished their set, my friend and I went back to their merch table to talk with the members. I met Babayan and the lead singer, K’noup, and bought their album Made In Chernobyl. It had the two songs, “My Mona Lisa” and “Fork in the Road,” which were the two songs that really stuck out to me during their live set, but I was sure that the whole album was good, and with it came a free poster and the John Hancock of K’noup.
After bombarding them with compliments and posing for pictures, we went back into the crowd and waited impatiently for Gogol to come on. Then the lights went out and the stage was flooded with blue light. Then, I saw the silhouetted figure of Eugene Hütz, followed by the rest of Gogol Bordello, walk out on the stage and take their places. Hütz started singing into the mic and with compliance from the audience and the rest of the band, Gogol lit up the stage with “Wanderlust King.” From then on, the madness continued throughout songs like “My Companjara,” “It Is the Way You Name Your Ship,” where Hütz used his guitar as a boat paddle sailing on an imaginary ship, and “Break the Spell,” where Hütz gave tribute to all the gypsies and refugees in prison who had sent him a flag that was hanging off his belt. The rest of the band showed high levels of energy as well, including Sergey Ryabtsev’s shredding violin solos, Elizabeth Sun banging on a classic bass drum with their slingshot logo on it, and Pedro Erazo switching from the percussion instruments in the back of the stage to becoming the frontman alongside Hütz. The audience was incredibly enthusiastic—the crowd was in motion with mosh pits, dance circles, circle pits and lots of jumping occurred in unison. The people in the crowd were so diverse—the Gogol audience ranged from punk rockers to metalheads, Baby Boomers to hipsters, and college kids to parents and grandparents. That, to me, is the sign of a great band—one that can keep an audience of all types of people and of all ages excited.
That excitement had climaxed when they played “Start Wearing Purple”—the whole audience was dancing and singing to probably the band’s most well-known song. They even ended it with an interlude of “Break the Spell” before closing out their set. Of course, after they walked off, I wasn’t surprised to hear everyone chanting, “Bordello! Bordello! Bordello!” as a signal for them to come back and play more songs. Gogol could not disappoint their many devoted fans and all came back for an encore. Hütz then talked to the audience about the importance of music and how music is the only real freedom anyone can have, and how it’s literally the greatest feeling in the world … besides sex. After that delightful rant, they played “Amen” to add to the credibility of Hütz’ point. They decided to push their claim a little more by closing with “Undestructible,” declaring that music itself was indestructible. I have to say, Hütz really knows what he’s talking about, because I really feel that music is one of the most blissful things in life, and I sure as Hell couldn’t live without it, and I know Hütz and so many other musicians out there feel the same way. The members of Gogol Bordello truly do show and spread their love of music, especially during their live shows. This was my first time seeing Gogol and from what I got out of this show, I’ll definitely see them again and again.
Gogol Bordello made In The Venue go absolutely wild last Monday! Photo: James Marcus Haney