So I dunno if y’all know this about me, but I listen to a good little handful of podcasts. The ones I try my best to listen to every week are Thrilling Adventure Hour, My Brother, My Brother and Me and Throwing Shade. I do my very best to keep up with Sklarbro Count(r)y, but they have a lot of episodes, and occasionally I listen to the Nerdist podcast, depending on the guest. I might have to do a separate post just on podcasts. There’s so much amazing free content out there.
Anyway, in a bit of kismet, earlier in the day on Saturday I was listening to Sklarbro Country, with my favorite twins Randy and Jason Sklar (wait, do they win over Benji and Joel Madden? Over Tia and Tamera? Yeah, they do, cuz they’re super smart-funny), and they were doing their year-end music special. The Sklars make a concerted effort to introduce their audience to amazing indie music, playing different bands at the intro/outros of their segments. It’s not my style of music generally, lots of stuff with a throw-back feel, and WTF am I gonna throw back to? The 80s?, but occasionally our passions cross, in bands like King Tuff or Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.
This year, for their music special, the Sklars had Jonah Ray (of the Jonah Raydio podcast) as one of the guests, and he brought up Man Man as one of his favorite live bands. I was like, “huh, why do I know that name?” then I realized I was going to see them that night.
Man Man and Gogol Bordello spent two nights at the 9:30 Club. Saturday was their second set of performances, but they didn’t tip off any waning enthusiasm.
After Saturday night, I totally agree with Mr. Ray. Man Man was super entertaining. I can’t describe a genre to you, as they wander everywhere throughout their set, from rap to pop to bluesy riffs to rock. Their drummer was impeccable. I wasn’t 100% sure who was in the band and who was hopping up on stage to help out a bit (Gogol Bordello has about a million people in it, so I wondered if some of their people came on and off for kicks), but the core bandmates were solid in their musicianship, and worked hard to engage with the audience. They didn’t really have a person untethered to his instrument to be a constant crowd-pleaser (though there was a woman on stage who did nothing but sing occasional backup vocals – I would have liked to see her engage the audience more, cuz really, what the hell else was she doing?), but the band still somehow managed to create a palpable connection with everyone. There were people down in front belting out the lyrics as Man Man sang, and I felt like the big venue was quite intimate.
Gogol Bordello is an amazing band, best described as gypsy punk. Actually, if I have to explain Gogol Bordello to you, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?? This band’s been around for like fifteen years! They put on an amazingly high-energy show with driving, fast drumming and rhythm section, hand drums to add a world music flavor, fiddle, accordion and acoustic guitar to bring up the Eastern European feel and the distinctive voice of Eugene Hutz leading the charge.
Now, I’ve been obsessing over the idea of going to Croatia for vacation for about a year, and I’d like to visit Serbia and Bosnia/Herzegovina (and possibly Slovenia) while I’m over there specifically to scratch the surface of the gypsies/diaspora(s), and the artistic outpouring they created. The music Gogol Bordello brings to us is so joyful, tragic, kinetic and hopeful that I feel like the journey it represents could lend wisdom to others still working this dynamic out. Diasporas are a bitch. If any group has figured a way through that pain and found a path to joy I think it’s worth studying that journey.
Eugene Hutz is an actor as well, and was in the movie Everything Is Illuminated, but also the focus of a fucking crazy-good movie The Pied Piper of Hutzovina that follows Hutz (as himself) on a car trip into gypsy country. He mingles and plays music with marginalized people across Eastern Europe, and exposes the less-than-favorable conditions of groups scattered in hard-to-access European wilderness. I accidentally tripped across this movie a few years ago and was absolutely fascinated. Anyone should check that out if possible.
So I’m gonna drop in a little video for y’all, because Gogol Bordello is best seen AND heard:
Gogol Bordell and Man Man is super what’s up.