Monday, November 05, 2007

The Gog Steady

Download: Gogol Bordello - "Wonderlust King"
Download: Gogol Bordello - "Alcohol"

Let me tell you something about mosh pits. I grew up in them. Not only will I hold my own, I'll hold your own, all while twitching arhytmically and singing along to every word.

On a tangentially related note, sorry if I broken anyone's feet, hands or other appendages at last night's Gogol Bordello show. But, you know, you shouldn't have put them beneath my boots in the first place.

I'd heard tell of Gogol's absolutely insane live show, and let me tell you: it's all true. Eugene Hütz came out in a spangled shirt (which vanished shortly thereafter) and started wailing away on an acoustic guitar. You have to be a supreme badass to have the words "wailing away" apply to your acoustic guitar playing. And he did, my friends, he did.

The band blazed through most of Super Taranta, and it made me come the closest I've come in a long time to feeling genuinely happy. "Super Theory of Super Everything" is the closest thing to finding and embracing truth in this world – it rejects everything that's false (oh, yes, Eugene did just tread on your little ghost-fearing toes). It calls for unity between the things that matter – namely, your brothers and sisters. It's a beautiful song, and was played with rollicking passion and shambolic glory.

Sure, some notes got lost (mostly due to First Ave putting the B-Team on the soundboard last night), and the "da-da-da-da-da-dows" on "Wanderlust King" were a little slurred. But whatever, we know how the song goes. The great thing about Gogol Bordello is that even when they're singing Russian or jibberish, you get it. Gogol drips with sincerity. It's a sincerity based on making a connection with as many people as possible.

And I've gotta applaud the enthusiasm with which Gogol comes to their audience. The whole band – even that old dude on violin – exude passion and excitement. I was a little disappointed that the sparkly, flashy dancers in back didn't take a more prominent role, but it's ok. It might have even been a little bit of sensory overload.

Download: The Hold Steady - "Massive Nights"
Download: The Hold Steady - "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window" (Bob Dylan cover from I'm Not There soundtrack)

And then Ian Anderson texted me and told me that Art Brut had just vacated the stage.

Cue my friend and I running through the Minneapolis downtown, barely containing our ebullience, making phone calls and gossiping about high school friends we'd spotted at the show.

Now, I've seen the Hold Steady three times. And seats do not suit them. I just had to get that out of the way in the interest of not dwelling on seats the whole review. My right knee is swollen to hell from dancing to hard and whacking it constantly. Gogol Bordello says to "start wearing purple?" Fuck that, I will turn my flesh purple.

But the band was great. At the Thermals two weeks ago, Kathy did this impression of Craig Finn that involved puckering up her face and clapping really fast while jumping. Spot on, Kathy. That is exactly what Finn was like last night: a clappy, chatty, happy dude who somehow, despite looking so happy, makes my heart shatter.

They played all those songs you want the Hold Steady to play: "Your Little Hoodrat Friend," "Cattle and the Creeping Things," "Barfruit Blues," and "Chips Ahoy." You, know, their expendable songs that feel good to hear. They dug into their catalog of songs that we all love to hear because they not only rock hard, but because they touch nerves that need to get touched. Sometimes you just need to get stuck between stations.

And they played those songs that we love to hear even though they kind of sting. Something about "Killer Parties" hits a little close to home; "Ask Her For Adderoll," if a little too stripped and sped up for my taste rings a little too true. And, on a personal note, "How a Resurrection Really Feels" reminded me that it's probably about time to rejoin the living, though I'm not at all ready to do it.

That being said, I wasn't really feeling "Lord, I'm Discouraged" that much. I was kind of surprised, since "First Night" is my favorite song on Boys and Girls. Maybe it's because of the solo, maybe it's because it discusses on a lot of points that are a little too strongly relevant to me. It's definitely a grower. I liked it a lot more when I checked it out on Jon's post (below) last Friday.

And that's the beauty of a Hold Steady show. As my longtime brother-in-arms Alex and I departed the theater, people were stumbling around, some were laughing, a couple were misty-eyed. Some were hugging, most were putting their cool back on and trying to hide smiles behind impassive masks. I felt more empty than I ever have, but I think that might be due to catharsis rather than an actual void (though I need the weekend before I commit to that).

But hey, as Finn says, we're the Hold Steady.

(April Wright)

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