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DeVotchKa and Gogol Bordello

26 Apr

Call me old and cynical, but I’ve seen it before. Yes, there is no denying that Gogol Bordello can whip a crowd into a sweaty, howling mess and DeVotchKa‘s melodies can bring a man to his knees and beg forgiveness, but at First Avenue on Saturday night, everything just seemed overly familiar, the same shows minus a couple girls.

DeVotchKa- “Queen of the Surface Streets” from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

DeVotchKa took the stage first (regular opener Jesse Malin had the night off because the show had to end in time for Too Much Love, he played later at Nick & Eddie’s) and I don’t envy the more airy and aesthetic group having to keep up with Gogol Bordello’s bruising tour schedule. Frontman Nick Urata seemed to be suffering in particular, holding back on letting his vocals loose and parsing his phrasing to the minimum economy of effort. Not to say that it was lazy, just restrained in a kind of way that made it seem like yes, they were tired. Fortunately violinist/accordion player Tom Hagerman, whip thin and always looking like a displaced poet in his black suit and tie still found the energy to tear up his soaring descants, so there was that transformative power in the air, even if The Amazing Slavic Sisters, the aerialists who wowed the crowd two years ago at First Ave turned out to just be the Amazing Slavic Sister (a phrasing that immediately implies a missing other.) One of the personal highlights was there cover of The Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs“, which you would never know is that tune unless you paying close attention to the lyrics; instead of the Underground’s masochistic austerity, Urata & Co. wrap it up in a sweaty shimmer of balalaika and accordion, a hot mess of a tune. Hitting their big tunes, “The Enemy Guns” and “How It Ends” to finish up the night, I couldn’t help but feel like the setlist was pretty similar two years ago, and less exhausted then.

The Amazing Slavic Sister from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

After that DeVothchKa show in 2008, through acquaintance with then-opener Basia Bulat we managed to find ourselves with the bands at Pizza Lucé for a post-show snack. Although we probably should have left Urata alone to nurse the bottle of red under the care of a Slavic Sister, I and some others hedged around conversation with him and somehow turned to Eugene Hutz and Gogol Bordello. At the time the two groups were based in New York and friends with each other there, and the possibilities of a tour or collaboration together came up. Somewhere in that conversation, Urata said something to the effect that Hutz was the smartest crazy man he knew, and I’ll believe it. Hutz has built a touring schedule that keeps him out on the road for a good two-thirds of the year and they keep audiences coming back for the show time and time again. In the summer of 2008, Gogol turned the Cabooze parking lot into a madhouse, but I’ll always feel like I’m chasing the dragon’s tail since the first show where I saw them at the Fine Line in 2006, swarmed in with what felt like innumerable others, surely past fire code violation and for two solid hours I felt like my feet did not touch the ground. There wasn’t so much moshing at that show because, well there was nowhere to go.

Saturday night at First Ave got a little more loosely rowdy, with enough space for mosh circles and human bodies to be flung around like seaweed in a current and by the time the show was over we all may as well have been underwater, with all the sweat in the air. Playing numbers from newly released Transcontinental Hustle like “Pala Tute” and “Mi Companjera” alongside tunes from Super Taranta! and Gypsy World Strike, the essential point of the show remained the same- swirling violins, crashing drums, a thick bassline and Hutz stripped down and screaming out call and response lyrics about globalism and parties. I can get down for those two things, but by halfway through, I was more interested politically in checking in on the DFL nominating convention and musically in finding a break from the oom-pah-pah Eastern beat. Also, a change in the lineup meant that Elizabth Sun was the only female drummer/dancer/performer on stage, so we were missing another girl. Where are these girls going? By the time the encore rolled around and Hutz stepped out for his ode to drinking, “Alcohol”, it was time to call it a night. I’d seen it before and you can call me old; call me old, I’ll wear my trousers rolled and purple for you now.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

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