On Stage Extra: A rockin’ voice from Ukraine headlines at Brooklyn Bowl

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times 

Gogol Bordello plays international punk music that is wild, aggressive and filled with Eastern European influences. That’s because frontman/founder Eugene Hütz is wild, aggressive and a native of Eastern Europe.

This week, the band is celebrating 15 years of New Year’s Eve shows in New York and Philadelphia with shows at the two cities’ Brooklyn Bowl venues.

On December 28, Gogol Bordello will be in Philly to headline a show at Brooklyn Bowl (1009 Canal Street, Philadelphia,www.brooklynbowl.com/philadelphia). From December 29-31, the band will establish temporary residence at New York’s Brooklyn Bowl.

Hütz has always mixed politics and world views into his music so it’s not a surprise that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has become a big motivation.

Hütz, who is also an actor and a DJ, was born Yevgeniy Aleksandrovich Nikolayev-Simonov in Kiev, Ukraine in 1972.

“I’m very connected to that cause and what is happening there,” said Hütz, during a phone interview last week from his home in New York.

On the night of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Les Claypool of Primus and Hütz began collaborating on a joint release to rally support for the Ukrainian people. “Zelensky: The Man With the Iron Balls” also features Stewart Copeland, Sean Lennon, Billy Strings, and Sergey Ryabtsev. Proceeds from the sale of the single will be donated to Nova Ukraine, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing humanitarian aid to the people of Ukraine.

According to Hütz, “As soon as Russian aggression broke out, Les and I connected to address the catastrophe ASAP. We jumped on creating affirmative music that calls for unity and pays respect to the real doers in Ukrainian defense – such as President Zelensky, who demonstrated previously unheard-of stamina and heroism.

“The reoccurring chant in the song, ‘Revolution of Dignity,’ honors the 2014 Maidan Revolution, which resulted in the removal of Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych and lead to Russia’s military intervention against the people of Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea and the start of the Donbas War – part of the broader Russo-Ukrainian War.

“It is our way to show that heavyweights like Les, Stewart, Billy and Sean stand with people of Ukraine and the country’s sovereignty from the very start of Russian-led terror.”

Video link for “Zelensky: The Man With the Iron Balls” — https://youtu.be/BowjATQloVA.

On May 10, artdopomoga.com, the Ukrainian volunteer resource, released its first compilation – “Artdopomoga Ukraine Vol.1, (2022),” which included a new Gogol Bordello track, “Teroborona (Civil Defense),” which was recorded in the early days of the war.

Teroborona is a term for Civil Defence Units formed of civilians who stood up to protect Ukraine. This is a dedication to their courage and to the courage of all defenders. The song is rooted in Ukrainian traditional dance “Arkan”, one of true Ukrainian Hutzul spirit. All proceeds will go to Ukraine relief.

Lyrics feature shout outs to specific units of Teroborona in various Towns in Ukraine.

In autumn 2022, Gogol Bordello released “Solidaritine,” the band’s eighth album which was preceded by “Pura Vida Conspiracy” in 2013 and “Seekers and Finders” in 2017. This title reflected the shift of the times in terms of political and cultural polarity, violence, and strife, addressing it head-on.

“We made ‘Solidaritine’ in early winter and then it came out in September last year,” said Hütz. “We made it very quickly.

“There is a sense of urgency with everything that goes on in our work. It gave emotional support to people challenged with the pandemic.”

There was no one better to capture this unbridled spirit than hardcore legend Walter Schreifels (Gorilla Biscuits,
Rival Schools, Quicksand). Retreating to Vermont to cut the bulk of the album over a four-day session, the band
and Schreifels found a dynamic working relationship.

“All of it was written prior to the invasion of Ukraine,” said Hütz. “It did happen that this horrific invasion came on all of us. Now, the united people strike back.

“Even back in 2004, our punk music was devoted to the Orange Revolution – deeply connected from a global point of view.”

The Orange Revolution (Помаранчева революція) was a series of protests and political events that took place in Ukraine from late November 2004 to January 2005, in the immediate aftermath of the run-off vote of the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election, which was claimed to be marred by massive corruption, voter intimidation and electoral fraud.

Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, was the focal point of the movement’s campaign of civil resistance, with thousands of protesters demonstrating daily.Nationwide, the revolution was highlighted by a series of acts of civil disobedience, sit-ins, and general strikes organized by the opposition movement.

Gogol Bordello even supported the Ukrainian resistance by performing in the country earlier this year.

“We went to Ukraine in August,” said Hütz. “We went to support Ukrainian troops by playing in military bases. We also performed in refugee huts for people who were uprooted and crammed into very small living facilities. Despite all that is going on there, the morale is high and unbreakable.”

Hütz and his band have always supported world peace –especially “Pura Vida Conspiracy.”

According to Hütz, “The Spanish language phrase “pura vida” refers to the gusto that true life should have. The album’s overall message is ‘Borders are scars on the face of the planet.’ The album is about the quest for self-knowledge beyond borders and nationalities.”

“I played in bands in the Ukraine since I was 14,” said Hütz. “I led another band in the United States before I moved to New York.”

Hütz started his musical career back in Ukraine with the band Uksusnik (Vinegar Dispenser). When he first arrived in the states, he was living in Vermont and formed the punk band The Fags. He later moved to New York where he met current Gogol Bordello members violinist Sergey Ryabtsev and former accordionist Yuri Lemeshev.

“The name Gogol Bordello existed before we became a trio,” said Hütz. “First, there was a duo, then a trio and then a quartet. We were acoustic at the beginning and didn’t even have a bass player.”

Now, the band, which is a self-professed “volcano of music”, has settled with seven members – Eugene Hütz (vocals, guitar), Sergey Ryabtsev (violin), Pedro Erazo (vocals, percussion), Boris Pelekh (guitar), Ashley Tobias (vocals), Korey Kingston (drums) and Gil Alexandre (bass).

Gogol Bordello has appeared in art house films such as Liev Schreiber’s “Everything Is Illuminated” with Elijah Wood and “Filth and Wisdom,” which washelmed by Madonna. The band is also in several documentaries, including “Gogol Bordello Non-Stop,” “The Pied Piper of Hutzovina” and “Kill Your Idols.”

Gogol Bordello has developed a reputation for being one of the most energetic and powerful live bands on the road today. Since their genesis in the Lower East Side punk-rock scene of 1999, they have been riling up audiences with an inimitable patchwork of raucous punk and Eastern European Gypsy-swing

“We have a pretty good fan base wherever we go,” said Hütz. “It seems we always play in front of a stormy sea of people going bananas.”

Hütz also has a message for Putin and the world.

“Ukrainian people are going to prevail,” said Hütz. “It was a very big mistake to mess with them. They’re unbreakable.”

Video link for Gogol Bordello — https://youtu.be/LqAoEwiMtUg.

The show at Brooklyn Bowl on December 28, which has Crazy & the Brains as the opening act will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door.

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