Gogol Bordello with Kubzavod at the Tequila Lounge (794 Bathurst), Wednesday (September 25). $11. 416-968-2001.
when you think about it, combining punk and Roma music is a logical thing to do. Eugene Hütz, the psycho-charismatic frontman for what he calls the Ukrainian Gypsy punk cabaret Gogol Bordello, opines that both genres are the music of the underdog. (He means old punk, and not the genre in its current incarnation.)
"They were just begging to be combined," says Hütz on the phone from New York City, where the Kiev native now resides. "I was waiting for someone to do it, and when nobody did I decided I had to."
Gogol Bordello have just released their second album, Multi Kontra Cult Vs. Irony. It's wild, melancholy, ripping, poignant and refreshingly new. Only Seattle's Kultur Shock, with members from Bosnia-Herzegovina, have attempted anything similar.
"Once the ice is broken," says Hütz, "there will definitely be more bands mixing ethnic genres."
Born in Kiev at the height of the Cold War, Hütz -- a sort of Iggy-Pop-meets-Kafka -- had to look to the black market to discover punk rock. And it was when his family was evacuated to rural western Ukraine after the Chernobyl disaster in 1989 that he discovered Roma music.
Combining the two would wait, however, until Hütz came to Vermont, where he met other immigrants from Eastern Europe and Israel (the band boasts one lone American member) and eventually formed the band. Before that he spent three years in refugee camps in Poland, Hungary, Austria and Italy, an experience Hütz describes as "a fucking waste of time."
"It was really monotonous and depressing. We thanked god we had guitars."
While Hütz was in a camp in Italy, Gogol's accordion player, Yuri Lemeshev, was sitting in a camp maybe two miles away. Talk about coincidence.
With such a rich life story, it's not surprising that Hütz disdains the current Western culture of irony, in which we seem almost incapable of genuinely liking anything or saying what we mean.
"Irony is easy and it's safe," he observes, but he admits that it does have its place. "Irony as an element in art is essential, and a great literary device," he says. "But I don't think it's a great life position."
Gogol Bordello's live shows are alcohol-fuelled chaotic spectacles featuring storytelling and elaborate props. Hütz writhes Iggy-style. Lyrics often spin wild tales of the immigrant experience, Ukrainian folklore or absurd erotic dreamscapes that can include anecdotes about a gang of supernatural immigrant vampires or a backyard barbecue with Stalin.
Things get broken. Hütz gets injured. They've been banned from tons of places.
"Those places just don't want to deal with that level of excitement," Hütz says by means of explanation. "But extreme music requires extreme behaviour. We're a bunch of fucking Eastern European mutts."