Sunday, March 16, 2008

Gogol Bordello & Skindred at the Canyon Club (at the 4 Queens casino), Las Vegas March 15, 2008

Melanie and I discovered Gogol Bordello quite by accident when flipping channels in boredom one night and ending up on IFC or someplace similar who was showing a documentary on the New York No Wave movement. Somehow, Gogol was believed to be a modern continuation of this movement. Their absurd stage show especially appealed to Melanie and she then bought their CD.

We never expected them to come to Las Vegas, as we get so few touring bands and we assumed that no one here would know who they were.

Boy, were we wrong! This show by far had the longest line of any show that we’ve been to out here. I don’t think that the venue had any idea of their popularity, either – they made everyone enter through an outside entrance (we’re guessing so that the line wouldn’t enter the casino) and we had to pay cash to get in, as they couldn’t move their cash register to the back. They didn’t ignore the fire laws as most clubs in LA would do, but it was more crowded than any gig we’ve seen out here!

Opening was Skindred, from the UK, who we had never heard of but obviously a number of people in attendance were fans. They had a large portion of the audience slamming, pogoing and singing along to their weird mix of alternative, punk, reggae and rap! The singer can truly sing, but it was a bit too odd for me – but then I don’t care for reggae or rap, so I couldn’t relate.

Eventually, GB appeared and lived up to their odd reputation as Gypsy Punks! I can’t imagine how they came up with this concept, but I find it even weirder that it has become as popular as it has. Considering that bands such as the Hellacopters have painfully small audiences in this town, I can’t comprehend how this joke band got such a following. But, then, I’m an old fogey and certainly not in tune with the modern crowd. Melanie understood though and loved them!

While I can’t deny that they put n a funny, energetic show, for me it was just silly entertainment – I didn’t care for the music. It is an even odder combination of eastern Europe folk music, polka, zydeco, reggae, and rap (the reggae and rap influences are less pronounced on the recordings that I've heard) with the main instruments being acoustic guitar, fiddle and accordion! Their entourage is huge though, with a drummer, electric guitarist, electric bassist, rapper (in addition to the main lead singer), girl backup singers and various percussionists! They paced the show well, with more people coming on stage as the evening went on until the final song with at least a dozen people on stage in various wacky costumes playing a variety of instruments.

I had never before thought of the connection between zydeco, polka and reggae, but as GB perform, it seems undeniable. Unfortunately, I don’t really care for any of those styles overly much. Melanie does, though, and she loved the whole thing, as did the audience, who went crazy the entire night! Everyone was singing along and pogoing non-stop! I have no idea how this band has become so popular, but maybe I’m the only person who doesn’t know them! The crowd ranged from punks, to normal folks who looked older than me to hippies of all ages. I can only guess that the reggae influence draws the hippies (there were hippie dances and recorder playing going on before the band started) and the intense weirdness draws in the punks.

In any case, if you want to see a spectacle, this is for you! Just don’t expect a r’n’r band, but if you dig the other musical styles I mentioned, and enjoy a good laugh, Gogol Bordello will provide that!