Archive for the ‘Gogol Bordello’ Category


As on October 1, NPR has started the Tiny Desk Playlist page.

As of today there are 9 Playlists on the page.  I’m not going to comment on them, as I’ve already posted about all of these shows (except CHAI as of now).  I might disagree with some of these lists, but whatever the case they are a good introduction to Tiny Desks if you haven’t already seen one.

5 Tiny Desk Concerts That Will Literally Make You Cry
• Julien Baker (read more)
• Yusuf/Cat Stevens (read more)
• Bernie and The Believers (read more)
• Rev. Sekou and The Seal Breakers (read more)
• Barbara Hannigan (read more)

The 5 Most Uplifting Tiny Desk Concerts
• Lizzo (read more)
• Superorganism (read more)
• Fragile Rock (read more)
• Dan Deacon (read more)
• Mucca Pazza (read more)

The 5 Wildest Tiny Desk Concerts
• Gogol Bordello (read more)
• Red Baraat (read more)
• The Cristina Pato Trio (read more)
• George Li (read more)
• Dirty Three (read more)

The Best-Sounding Tiny Desk Concerts, Vol. 1 [selected by “the guy mixing the performances and bopping his head along just off (and sometimes on) screen” Josh Rogosin].
• Monsieur Periné (read more)
• Andrew Bird (read more)
• Nick Hakim (read more)
• Tedeschi Trucks Band (read more)
• PJ Morton (read more)

The Best Of The Very Beginning Of Tiny Desk Concerts
• Laura Gibson (read more)
• Vic Chesnutt (read more)
• Tom Jones (read more)
• Thao Nguyen (read more)
• Dr. Dog (read more)

The 5 Best ‘Before They Were Stars’ Tiny Desk Concerts
• Brandi Carlile (read more)
• Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals (read more)
• Adele (read more)
• H.E.R. (read more)
• Mitski (read more)

Tiny Desk Trick Or Treat: Our 5 Favorite Concerts In Costume
• Neko Case’s Halloween Special (read more)
• Blue Man Group (read more)
• Mucca Pazza (read more)
• CHAI (read more)
• Preservation Hall Jazz Band (read more)

#ElTiny: The Best Latinx Tiny Desk Concerts, Vol. 1
• Natalia Lafourcade (read more)
• Jorge Drexler (read more)
• Juanes & Mon Laferte (read more)
• iLe (read more)
• Café Tacvba (read more)

Lianne La Havas’ 5 Favorite Tiny Desk Concerts
• Tank And The Bangas
• Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals
• Noname
• Tamino
• Mac Miller

[READ: October 28, 2019] “God’s Caravan”

This story opens with boys crouching in the dirt shooting marbles.  I assumed it was set in the 1950s, so I was surprised to see that the boy knew of Michael Jackson’s moonwalk.  But it is set in Memphis, Tennessee–“Soulsville the black part.”

Earl was kicking butt and winning marbles left and right when the boys heard an ice cream truck trundle up.  But this was no ice cream truck.  Rather it was a van and it was playing “I’ve come from Alabama with a banjo on my knee.”  On the side of the van, painted in “blood of Jesus” red were the words “God’s Caravan.”  The speakers then broadcast “When I say, ‘Ride or die’…you say ‘Amen.'”

The voice said “Ride or Die” and Earl and the other boys all shouted back “Amen.”

The door opened and there was the pastor, dressed in black judge’s robes.  He said he had sweets for their hearts. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 7, 2016] Gogol Bordello

2016-04-07 22.47.46It was two years ago that I saw Gogol Bordello and I put them on my list of bands to see again–their live show was that much fun.  So they played two nights at Union Transfer.  I chose the first night (Thursday rather than Friday) although I’m not exactly sure why.  I think it turned out to be the right choice because Friday night’s show sold out and if my show was intense, I can’t imagine what a sold out show is like.

This show was part of their tenth anniversary tour.  Not ten years since the band formed, but ten years since their first big album, Gypsy Punks (which was recorded by Steve Albini!).  And their plan was to play that entire album, and some other songs.  I only found out about this entire album thing a few days ago.  It turns out that it’s the GB album I don’t own (I don’t own their earlier ones either), so I had to quickly scramble to see what songs were on it.  Well, it turns out that most of those songs have been played live or appeared elsewhere, so I knew a pretty good amount of them.  Phew.

They came out to roars from the crowd and they launched right into the lead off track from the album.  “Sally” features some intense screaming from one of the women in the band, and one of the women came out and supplied it for the song.  And I knew that this set was going to be a lot of fun. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 7, 2016] Xylouris White

xylourisI saw Gogol Bordello a few years ago and the show was fantastic.  For many bands, seeing them once is enough, but for GB, I had to see them again.  So I was pretty psyched that they were going to play at Union Transfer an excellent club in Philly.

When I looked on their site, they said that the opening act was going to be Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas.  I checked out their stuff and it was good.  But that must have been for a previous tour, because when I got there, the listed opening act was Xylouris White.  I couldn’t even imagine what that meant, much less how to say it.

So imagine my surprise when the band came out and it was a guy (with crazy hair) on drums and then a guy with crazier hair and a big beard on what turned out to be a Cretan lute.  And that was it. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 21, 2014] Gogol Bordello

I first heard Gogol Bordello on a PBS music show (I assume it was Austin City Limits, but I can’t find any record of them being on the show).  I didn’t know anything about them, but I was really impressed by what I saw.  Since then I’ve bought a few records, and have enjoyed all of their appearances on NPR shows, but it was after watching the DVD that came with Live from Axis Mundi that I knew this was a band I wanted to see live.  So I was totally psyched that they were coming to the tiny Starland Ballroom.

Now I will say that they were not as exciting here as in the video.  That is due to a couple of things.  The first is that the club in the video was much bigger, allowing them to do a lot more.  The second is that in the video they had direct access to the audience, unlike at Starland so lead singer Eugene Hutz was able to go into the crowd in the video, as were the two dancers (suspended aloft on giant bass drums).  In Starland, they all stayed on the stage (although they did move all over it) and the two dancers have been replaced by one who was excellent but did not climb onto a drum at all).

Comparisons aside, Gogol Bordello put on a pretty amazing show. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 21, 2014] Man Man

I went to the Starland Ballroom to see Gogol Bordello, but I was pretty excited that Man Man was opening.  I really only knew them from three things.  Their fairly popular (at least on WXPN) song “Head On [Hold On To Your Heart]” a synthy treacly delight (that really belies the bands manic energy) and “Paul’s Grotesque” a newer song (for XPN) that I didn’t actually realize was Man Man.  And, third, and most compelling, was their video for “Black Mission Goggle” live at Amoeba Records (which you can see at the bottom of the post).  In it they proved to be immensely silly and yet still quite talented.  And I love a band who can put on a show (which is why I wanted to see Gogol Bordello in the first place).

And Man Man did not disappoint.  The four piece came out on stage, with Brown Sugar, the bassist/Schatzaphone/percussionist/malletKAT player on the right side, Pow Pow, the drummer (whose kit was sideways), right in the middle and Shono Murphy the guitarist/trumpeter/percussionist on the left.  After playing an instrumental opening, Honus Honus, singer, keyboards and all around head honcho came out in a glorious cape, looking like Dave Grohl when he’s most possessed. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: OS MUTANTES-“Fool Metal Jack” (2013).

Iosmut have known about Os Mutantes for years.  I never knew anything about them (and never really understood their name–although now that I have been working with Brazilian books at work I realize that their name is Portuguese for The Mutants (it was the Os that always threw me off).  I had no idea that a) they’d been around since the 60s and were part of the psychedelic scene or b) that they were still around (after some breakups and with a largely new lineup) or c) that they sang in English (which they do on several songs on this album) or d) that their new album kicked so much ass.

The album is called Fool Metal Jack and it is a fantastic mixture of fast heavy rock, Brazilian traditional sounds, what I assume are Native Brazilian chants and a heavy dose of weirdness.  All wrapped up in an anti-war stance, like on this track “Fool Metal Jack.”

A creepy, distorted  bassline introduces this song which sounds like the guy from Gogol Bordello singing a Tom Waits march.  It’s about a soldier in the middle of a war.  The bridge means more voices come in, bringing in an even more disorienting sound.  And the chorus chanted “Yes.  No More War” completes the song.  By the time the wailing guitar solo comes in the chants of “This is the war of hell” have even more impact.

This stomping song was a great introduction to this band who I now need to explore further.

[READ: April 18. 2013] The Last Interview

I enjoyed Kurt Vonnegut’s “Last Interview” and since I had always intended to read Bolaño’s I was delighted to see that our library had it.  Bolaño is a fascinating interview subject because you never really know what he is going to say.  There are even serious questions about the veracity of his life story which many people believe he fabricated for more dramatic effect.

But the one thing that is absolutely consistent about Bolaño is that he always praises writers whom he respects (and will trash those he doesn’t, although that seems to come more from the interviewer’s  instigation (not that he needs a lot).    So the last interview that he did is the one from Mexican Playboy which has been collected in Between Parentheses.  But the other three are earlier and, it seems, a little more “truthful” or at least less naughty-seeming.

What’s fascinating about this book is that the introduction by Marcela Valdes (“Alone Among the Ghosts”) is over 30 pages long!  The article originally appeared in The Nation on Dec 8, 2008 (read it here).  As such it’s not an introduction to this book, it’s introduction for English readers to Bolaño circa 2666.  And it’s a great read.  It is primarily about 2666, which Valdes has read many times.  She goes into interesting depth about the story but mostly she relates it to Bolaño’s own experiences while writing the book.  It focuses especially on his research about the real murders.  His interest was genuine and he sought help from a reporter who was doing genuinely decent work (ie. not accepting the word of the state about what was going on).

Bolaño has said he wished he was a detective rather than a writer, which explains The Savage Detectives and Woes of the True Policeman.  But Valdes also points out how almost all of his shorter novels have some kind of detective work involved–seeking someone who is lost or hiding.  The article was really great and is worth a read for anyone interested in Bolaño, whether you have read him or not. (more…)

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I’ve heard a lot of live music from Gogol Bordello (from NPR and on Live at Axis Mundi).  And quite a lot of those songs come from this album (they had a few years of down time between this record and their release from 2010).  It’s always fun to hear an album for the first time when you know live versions of the songs pretty well.    And of course, it’s always weird to hear the songs that you don’t know  (I guess they weren’t popular?)

But even if I didn’t know most of the songs already, this is a great album and a great introduction to the manic energy that is Gogol Bordello.  While it’s true that they are best represented live, this album is very well produced and mixed and really showcases the kind of insanity that Eugene and crew can get up to.

And there’s not a bum song on the record.

When I first played this in the house, Sarah  found it way to hyper, and I can appreciate that.  Gogol Bordello literally never stop.  Their songs are full of a combination of punk and gypsy–a ton  of energy.  And mostly, it is directed at fun and overcoming difficulties.  Eugene Hütz is not very angry although he certainly has things to complain about.  But mostly he is  singing for justice (and alcohol).

The album opens with Hütz singing a somewhat quiet intro before HA! and the punk comes rumbling  in.  There’s a prominent violin, fast acoustic guitars, and accordion and some really intense drums.  I never noticed the drums as much as I did on this record.  In a couple of tracks the drums seem to never stop, even as the melody slows down–and it still sound s good.

There’s some screaming elements, some gypsy keening  and a tribute to “Alcohol.”  In most  live versions of “Alcohol,” I find the ace too slow, but it sounds great here.   Some other highlights are “American Wedding,” “Wonderlust King,”  “Harem in Tuscany” (which has some great gypsy stylings).  And for a change of pace (as if there weren’t enough interesting things on this record), “Dub the  Frequencies of Love” introduces some reggae into the mix.

Hütz  is a great front man.      He is full of energy and excitement and his accented singing style is really great–passionate if not very conventional.

Oh, and the cover shows the band’s backing vocalists with fire buckets on their feet because he plays them live.  A tuneful racket indeed.

[READ: April 13, 2012] Hot Pink

I have yet to read Adam Levin’s The Instructions (it’s over 1,000 pages, so I’ve been putting it off).  But I was glad to get this collection fo short stories so I could see what his writing is all about.

Hot Pink is a collection of ten short stories.  I really enjoyed a couple of them.  I was a little confused by a couple of them and one or two I had a hard time getting through.

“Frankenwittgenstein” reminded me a lot of a George Saunders story although it goes in a very different direction.  In the story the narrator’s dad sees a special on bulimia and decides to build a doll. Bonnie: The Beautiful Body-Action Doll for the Self-Body Image-Enhancement of Toddling and Preadolescent Girls at Risk.  The dad is quite clever and makes a digestive system that actually works!  And so he markets the doll to a toy company.

They want changes made.  Over and over.  For years.  And the dad makes them and goes slowly insane.  It’s funny but not crazy funny (like George Saunders), and the conclusion is fairly satisfying. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GOGOL BORDELLO-Live from Axis Mundi (2009).

This is a strangely-named disc collection.  The CD is actually live shows from the BBC as well as a few demos and other sessions.  The DVD that comes with it is actually a 2007 show live from Axis Mundi (Irving Plaza NYC).  For this review I’m only talking about the CD.

The BBC Sessions, as always, sound great.  The band is wild and spirited although a little less than in a typical concert setting.  They plays “Ultimate,” “Wanderlust King,” “Mishto”, “Alcohol,” “American Wedding,” and “You Gave Up (Roumania)” (all of which come from Super Taranta except “Mishto!” (from Gypsy Punks Underdog World Strike) and “You Gave Up (Roumania)” which I believe is exclusive to this disc.

The band is clearly having a lot of fun with the songs (the nine minute “You Gave Up” is a great jam) and they are perfectly in sync with each other.  At the end they even do a couple of promos shout outs for Radio One.

“Stivali E Colbacco” comes from something called the “Super Taranta Sessions” and was recorded by Steve Albini (his presence isn’t really evident, except maybe when the aggro guitar kicks in, but the song sounds great).

“Troubled Friends” comes from the “Gypsy Punk Sessions” and was recorded by Victor Van Vugt (who did the Super Taranta album).  It’s the first thing that slows the album down and feels like a B-side or a tack-on.  Mostly because the music is too minimal and meandering (and at 6 minutes is too long).

“60 Revolutions” makes up for the previous song with some solid songcraft.  At 6 minutes this is also a bit too long.  But it’s good exploration of Gogol Bordello’s flirtation with Spanish lyrics.

The last two tracks are a demo of “Immigrant Punk” which sounds different but not radically so (the lyrics seem clearer) and probably the least essential track of all, an instrumental version of “Immigrant Punk.”

The BBC stuff certainly makes this worth tracking down.  The rest is filler; but it’s pretty good filler.

[READ: December 31, 2011] “Blog This”

This is the final blog post from Max Barry’s website that I’ll be talking about (yaaay)–there’s two short stories left after this.

Like all good blog posts, this one is about the creator of the blog.  Barry was searching the web when he found a post called “Writers Who Blog.”  Barry posted a link to the article but the link is now dead and a very cursory websearch came up empty, so alas, there will be no confirmation of sources here.

So Barry says that this article about Writers who Blog totally trashes him.  He was going to let it go until he saw that a) the author was the same guy who wrote the worst review ever of his book Jennifer Government (this link is also down…I guess Barry really got to him!) and b) the critic was going by a lame pseudonym for the review but now he has revealed himself.

This post revealed to me that Barry created something called NationStates, a nation simulation game (which I would love to explore but don’t have time, which appears to be thriving).

Anyhow, the critic, Todd Bunker criticizes Barry’s blog posts, claims barry lies about his number of visitors and calls his readers sycophants.  Harsh cries indeed.  I think some of the many comments for this post include deliberately sycophantic comments.

Bunker also looked at Neal Pollack and Wil Wheaton’s blogs.  I happen to like Pollack, although I’ve never seen his blog.  But I have to say I have been following Wil Wheaton on G+ for a while now and he is a delight. I’ve never seen his blog, but I am never not amused by him (little shout out to the guy who inspired Wesley Crusher.die.die.die).  (more…)

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Recently Palladia broadcast some highlights from the Austin City Limits Festival in 2010.  The bands they showed were Phish, The Flaming Lips, Vampire Weekend, Muse, LCD Soundsystem, Sonic Youth, Spoon and Slightly Stoopid.

There were so many good bands at this festival (why is Richard Thompson in such small print?) that I won’t really complain about the inclusion of Slightly Stoopid and LCD Soundsystem on this best of (but they could have included Band of Horses, Yeasayer, Broken Bells, Gogol Bordello (the list goes on!).  (I’d never heard of Slightly Stoopid and although I like LCD Soundsystem, live they were less than stellar).  Although I am glad they didn’t include the Eagles, thank you very much.

I’m trying to get actual set lists of these airings (they mentioned the song titles during the show but I didn’t write them down).

This was a 2-hour broadcast and it was really good.  If they re-air the episode, it’s worth watching.  The quality of the broadcast is excellent (even if the HD format does take up way too much space on a TiVo).

[READ: November 6, 2011] “Beer Cans: A Guide for the Archaeologist”

A while back I read a few old articles that I got from JSTOR, the online archiving resource.  This month, I received some links to three new old articles that are available on JSTOR.  So, since it’s the holiday weekend, I thought it would be fun to mention them now.

And to start of the holidays, I present you with this–a loving history of the beer can (for archaeologists).

This is a fairly fascinating look at the development of the beer can from 1935 to the present.  The selling point of the article is that archeologists could use beer cans to date the timeframe of an excavation.  I agree with this; however, since they only date back to 1935, I’m not entirely convinced of its long-term usefulness.

The problem with the article is that page two shows a chronological timeline.  This in itself is not a problem (although it is odd that it goes from present to 1935 instead of chronologically forward); the problem is that the article itself more or less sates exactly the same thing as the timeline.  For although this article is 20 pages long, there are tons of photos and very little in the way of text beyond what was in that (very thorough) time line.

Nevertheless, you can see the morphing of beer cans from ones that you had to pop open with a can opener to ones that finally had self opening cans.  See the switch from tin to aluminum, and even learn why the tops of cans are a little narrower than the sides (called a neck-in chime, it evidently saves a lot of money). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GOGOL BORDELLO-Trans-Continental Hustle (2010).

When I first heard Gogol Bordello, they were touring for this album (thanks NPR).  Consequently, I knew this album pretty well when I bought it.  At first I felt that it didn’t have the vibrancy of the live show (how could it?).  But after putting it aside for a few weeks, when I re-listened, I found the album (produced by Rick Rubin) to be everything I expect from Gogol Bordello: loud, frenetic fun, a bit of mayhem, and some great tunes that sound like traditional gypsy songs, but which I assume are not.

While I was listening to the album, I kept thinking of The Pogues.  They don’t really sound anything alike but they have that same feel of punk mixed with traditional music.  For The Pogues, it’s Irish trad, and for GB it’s a gypsy sound–I’m not sure if it is attributable to any specific locale.  But they have a common ground in a kind of Spanish-based trad style.  From the Pogues, you get a song like “Fiesta” which is overtly Spanish.  From GB, you get songs like “My Companjera” or “Uma Menina Uma Cigana.”  Singer/ringleader Eugene Hutz has been living in Brazil, and he has really embraced the culture (and the accent).  He also sings in a kind of drunken tenor (his accent is probably more understandable than MacGowan’s drunken warble, but not always).

I’m led to understand that previous albums were a bit more high-throttle from start to finish.  This disc has a couple of ballads.  At first they seem to not work as well, but in truth they help to pace the album somewhat.

It’s obvious this band will not suit everyone’s tastes, but if you’re looking for some high energy punk with some ethnic flare, GB is your band (and if you like skinny guys with no shirts and big mustaches, GB is definitely your band.  It is entirely conceivable that Hutz does not know how to work a button).

[READ: June 20, 2011] All the Anxious Girls on Earth

I’ve really enjoyed Zsuzsi’s stories in recent issues of The Walrus.  So much so that I wanted to get a copy of her new book.  It wasn’t available anywhere in the States yet, so I went back and got her first collection of short stories.

This collection felt to me like a younger, less sophisticated version of Zsuzsi’s later works that I liked so much.  This is not to say that I didn’t like them.  I just wasn’t as blown as w.

“How to Survive in the Bush”
I had to read the opening to this story twice for some reason.  The second read made much more sense and I was able to follow what was going on (I think there were a few terms that I didn’t know–a 1941 Tiger Moth, East Kootenays–that were given context after a few pages.  It transpires that this is a story o a woman who has given up her life to move to the boonies with/for her husband.  The whole story is written in second person which while typically inviting, I found alienating.  It made the story harder to read for me, but once I got into the groove of it I found it very rewarding. (more…)

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