A “Blind Date” Concert Experience with Gogol Bordello | Live at First Avenue

by AJ Sugar

Ideally, one is at least somewhat familiar with a band and their music before attending a show. Saturday night, however, I was told by a good friend of mine that I was going to a concert of a band whose name was familiar, but I had literally never heard a note of their music.


‘Despite the fact that I have had this CD since probably 2007. Behold the unlistened perks of working at a radio station.’

My ticket was provided for me, and the show was at the always-amazing First Avenue here in Minneapolis. So it was set, and I attended the second of two back-to-back sold-out shows by Gogol Bordello. It was almost refreshing to go into a show blind; I get a lot of preconceived notions about a band and their show if I know anything about them or their music at all. This was a chance to see an act in their live element, untainted by any previous bias or ideas.

‘Admittedly, the name sounded like there would be moustache involved...I was not wrong.’

‘Admittedly, the name sounded like there would be moustache involved…I was not wrong.’

A couple of drinks (or three to four) were had during the beautifully voiced opener, Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas, and we somehow made our was to the front rail despite the other 1600 people in the venue. During the set changeover, we even scored free t-shirts that were being tossed into the crowd, sporting the confusing-to-my-virgin-ears phrase ‘Start Wearing Purple’. But hey, free band swag, they were off to a good start in my book!

A couple of minutes later, the lights dimmed, and the aforementioned moustache with a body strutted onto stage with a bottle of wine(?) and an acoustic guitar. At this point, I was more than intrigued by what the hell this show was going to have to offer. It didn’t take long to find out, though. Halfway through the opening jam, a violinist (or fiddle?), accordion player, bassist, guitarist, drummer, and auxiliary drummer had taken to the stage as well. The second song brought in two backup singers/dancing ladies, making for a packed stage, but holy shit this was just getting started.

After the first song, a slower but groovy jam, this show burst into an unstoppable wall of energy. Each and every person on that stage was captivatingly dynamic. Musically, I have rarely heard something this unique that is actually good. Truthfully, I would probably never go play their album in my car to sing along with, it just didn’t strike me as that kind of music; but I would pay a lot of money to see these guys (and girls) live every time they come to town. This is an astonishing live act that needs to be seen in person to be appreciated.

After well over an hour of complete sensory orgasm, it was more than time for a cigarette break, so we stepped out, and even ended up going to another bar for a couple drinks. A quick glance at ye olde Facebook machine showed that Gogol Bordello was still playing. I had assumed that the show would have been long over at that point, but I was happily mistaken. We trekked back to the venue and caught probably another half hour or more of music. The singer had been lacking a significant portion of the outfit he started the show with, but had come back, redressed and with a fresh bottle in hand, plenty of which ended up tossed and spilled on the stage and crowd. How the hell they still had this kind of constant energy flowing is beyond me. There had been plenty of alcohol consumed, but I am pretty certain that the time was closing in on 1am, making for a damn long but fucking awesome set.

The show did finally reach it’s climax and end. The car ride home was spent gushing over the performance we had just seen. This had turned out to be one of the best live acts I have ever seen, and I am ashamed they have not been on my radar longer. Going into anything blind usually doesn’t pay off at all, but this was a perfect introduction to a musical group for me. Had I listened previously or looked up pics or info about the band, I would probably go in with a this-is-going-to-be-hipster-bullshit attitude. Seeing this all first hand though, and truly experiencing an event like this cannot be summed up in any words I am capable of. Keep your eyes and ears open for this band to play near you, I promise you won’t regret one second of it.





Photos by AJ Sugar

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