Gogol Bordello: “We play very celebrative, tribal, dance-around-the-fire kind of music…) (TONIGHT at Brooklyn Bowl)

“We play very celebrative, tribal, dance-around-the-fire kind of music, so of course we were always championed by promoters to do New Year’s Eve multiple nights,” says Eugene Hütz, mainman...

“We play very celebrative, tribal, dance-around-the-fire kind of music, so of course we were always championed by promoters to do New Year’s Eve multiple nights,” says Eugene Hütz, mainman of Gogol Bordello.  Tonight, December 27th, the legendary gypsy punk band kicks off their 16th annual New Year’s Eve celebrations right here at Brooklyn Bowl Philadelphia, followed by four consecutive nights at the original Brooklyn Bowl.  Last year, Gogol Bordello did a similar run of dates at the two BB venues, which, during a recent phone chat, Hütz tells me definitely hold a special place in his heart: “We started out doing multiple nights in [Brooklyn Bowl] Las Vegas, years ago, and that proved to be a great all-around party…  The vibes are already up because it’s run by Peter Shapiro, who’s a kindred spirit and a really good friend of mine.  In the music business, at the end of the day, you still do most business with kindred spirits.”

Last month, Eugene Hütz announced the re-launch of his label Casa Gogol Records.  The announcement was accompanied by the release of a collaborative cover of Angelic Upstarts’ “Solidarity,” with Bernard Sumner of Joy Division and New Order (in addition to long-time Sumner collaborator Zachery Allan Starkey, Angelic Upstarts’ own Neil Newton, and Steve Sidelnyk, known for his work with Massive Attack and Primal Scream).  The song was released as a single (courtesy of Casa Gogol Records) on November 27th as a benefit for the people of the Ukraine, Hütz’s country of origin.  “We did this cover with these English musicians of this great English punk rock band and repurposed it as a support for Ukraine,” Eugene tells me, before adding, as a Ukrainian himself, “It was particularly meaningful to me.”

Although Zachery Allan Starkey was the one who initiated the collaboration while opening for New Order in the US in early 2023, Eugene tells me he’s a longtime fan of Sumner, and has had the opportunity to meet the post-punk legend several times on the festival circuit: “We’ve met at a number of festivals over the years…  I grew up listening to Joy Division a lot.  Who isn’t a fan of Joy Division?” he says, before adding, “It’s a huge, humbling honor for me to work with him.”  He tells me that he admires that band’s ability to make the kind of music that few other rock bands can manage: “It’s not really music by art school kids, but they reached high art with what they did…  I mean, Rock N’ Roll isn’t high art, let’s be honest [laughs].”  He adds that he was thrilled by how receptive Sumner was to the idea: “I was pleased to hear Bernard needed no convincing for it.”  He was equally excited that Bernard wanted to mix his own version of the song.

Eugene Hütz tells me that the idea behind re-launching Casa Gogol Records has to do with his love of New York City (his longtime home) and its transgressive and subversive musical history.  “There’s just a lot of great music in New York bubbling up that’s also inspired by music I really love,” says Eugene, citing no wave and hardcore, specifically.  “These are very young cats and it’s great to see the no wave torch being picked up by the youths,” he tells me, prompting me to mention Scott Crary’s Kill Your Idols, a 2006 documentary about the original no wave movement, in addition to then-newcomers Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liars, A.R.E. Weapons, Black Dice, Flux Information Sciences, and Gogol Bordello themselves.  He laughs and admits, “I was just having a conference about that film with the new youth…  I love that idea of lineage.”  He also says that he feels like music like that provides a particularly poignant reflection of New York City: “New York is a really extreme city, an extreme environment that can be very alienating… and no wave and hardcore counterbalances alienation; it’s very communicative.”

2024 releases from Casa Gogol Records will include the debut EP of punk girl duo Puzzled Panther – featuring Victoria Espinoza and Kay Bon Tempo, in addition to Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Brian Chase and Hütz himself – and a new record from Grace Bergere, who Eugene characterizes as, “absolutely stunning and a great songwriter.”  Puzzled Panther and Bergere will also be serving as special guests on the New Year’s Eve shows, with Puzzled Panther opening 12/31 (with immediate support coming from cumgirl8, who will also be appearing on 12/30, with an opening set from Mary Shelley) and Bergere opening 12/28, prior to a direct support set from Jon Spencer (12/29 will feature NYHC bands Incendiary Device and Values Here.)

Apparently, the idea to keep doing these New Year’s Eve shows over the years (many of which have been at Brooklyn Steel and Terminal 5) came, in part, from Eugene’s friend and fellow NYC legend Jesse Malin, who told Hütz, “It’s when everyone would be getting home from tour and looking to reconnect, and we all go see Gogol Bordello around New Year’s Eve, because it’s a reliable thing, a great communal event,” which the Gogol Bordello frontman tells me is also what helped to inspire the band to do multiple nights, with different lineups each night: “It’s almost like flipping through the pages of the live sonic catalogue of New York City.  Like, we’ll have art-punk one night with Puzzled Panther, we’ll have hardcore one night with Incendiary Device and Values Here, and then we’ll have a night with New York legend Jon Spencer, giving different pockets of New York music.”

Opening our show tonight in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection is New Jersey punk outfit Crazy & The Brains, who have toured with Gogol Bordello in the past.  However, Eugene tells me, “We’re not just tour buddies…  Christoph Jesus is a great frontman and great songwriter that’s going to fully blossom in coming years.”  He says that they have more plans to work together in the very near future: “I’m also cooking up a collaboration with Crazy & The Brains for Casa Gogol Records…  There’s so much synergy and comradery between the bands.  Rob [Mellinger, bassist] and Zac [Pless, drummer] of Crazy & The Brains helped out Puzzled Panther, backed her on the first tour.”

When I ask Eugene what can be expected of Gogol Bordello and Casa Gogol Records in 2024, he tells me, “I’ve been producing so much that I’m, not going to stop doing that but kind of gonna, a little, move back to my initial true calling of mine, and make a new record…  I’m not gonna announce it yet, but we’re gonna do it with someone very special for us, as far as producing goes.”  But he tells me that there is more touring in the works with many of these bands, referencing the shows that they used to play with some of their biggest musical friends, including Mariachi El Bronx and our very own Man Man: “As far as Casa Gogol being a New York thing, we’re gonna turn this Casa Gogol into a touring operation, which is how it initially started.  It started as our own mini-Lollapalooza.”

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.