The first weekend in August (sans 2010) for over a decade, the once former travelling musical monster called Lollapalooza takes over the city of Chicago in every way possible. Total attendance for the three day festival was pegged at 220,000 in 2014. Keep in mind that those are only the official number of concert goers and does not include artists and hang around that come to the city for a good time. As you can see, those numbers are enormous but that’s nothing special or new to the festival giant. Obviously, Lolla weekend is an extraordinary weekend for music fans in general or those lucky enough to get tickets but I\’m not sure that spending three full days in the August sun with a couple hundred thousand drunk and sweaty hipsters is my midsummer night\’s dream. What Lollapalooza brings to town that is ever so special to me are the 50 plus \”official\” after shows. That\’s not including the daily pop-up and nightly unofficial shows that take place throughout Chicago as well.
Of all the official 2015 after shows there was one that reached out and grabbed me by the short hairs. Gypsy Punk phenomena, Gogol Bordello and Denver punk duo, In The Whale. Upon sight of the listing, my blood pressure started to rise and I could actually feel my hair growing due to the excitement I\’d had for this show.
Upon arriving at Thalia Hall, there was an energy there was an energy and buzz that had taken hold of the out of the way, West Chicago up and coming neighborhood of Pilsen . That energy, suffice to say, was brought by (in my opinion) the after show of the weekend. I will admit that like most of those who arrived early, I wasn’t too familiar with the openers \”In The Whale\”. I had listened to a few songs prior to the show so I wasn’t going in blind and I liked what I\’d heard from their e.p. Cake. When Nate Valdez (vocals and guitar) and Eric Riley (drummer) walked onto the stage there was a certain swagger and confidence that I initially noticed. As if to say, \”Chicago, you have no fucking idea what you\’re about to witness\”. It took a total of about ninety seconds of their thirty minute set for the crowd to realize that \” In The Whale\” wasn’t some bullshit, fly by night garage band that were learning to fly as they went along. Conversely, these two Colorodians were whipping the nearly full Thalia Hall into a punk rock aural orgasm, even though no one knew who they were. For a moment I thought to myself, \”I hope that Gogol Bordello brought their A game because this band doesn’t realize that they\’re the openers!\”
With ITW finishing their hair raising set it was time to take a breath, grab another $5 can of Budweiser and recharge for the globally fused Gypsy Punk ensemble that is \”Gogol Bordello. I\’m ashamed to say that tonight would be the 1st time that I\’d seen Gogol Bordello perform live. Seems outrageous considering that Eugene Hutz formed GB sixteen years ago and has played Chicago so many times that he calls the windy city one of his favorite cities on the planet. (strong words from a gypsy!) Thankfully, tonight would put to rest all of that shame and to be honest, I was damned excited about it too.
By the time that Gogol Bordello took the stage it was midnight and Thalia Hall was filled to capacity. It was obvious that the crowd was fully energized (thanks Red Bull and/or Budweiser) as the members of Gogol Bordello took the stage one by one to raucous cheers. Yet, the loudest roar came when head gypsy, Eugene Hutz hit the stage. Decked out in a silk smoking jacket, a pink ushanka (you know, the Russian winter hats) and a fresh bottle of wine in hand. It was evident that there was one thing on their agenda for the night and that was to party!
Within the seconds that it took for Gogol Bordello to get settled on stage they blasted into \”We Rise Again\” off of their sixth and latest release Pura Vida Conspiracy. With the flash of a smile to the crowd from Hutz, G.B. transitioned into \”Not a Crime and My Gypsy Auto Pilot.\”
It is painfully obvious that Eugene Hutz and the entire band have a special relationship with their fans. Adoration almost seems to slight the strength of the bond that was in full effect that night. It comes across as a reciprocal transfer of energy. Many bands tout \”we do this for you, the fans\” which is all well and good but there\’s no feeling behind it. That’s what was different about this performance. Gogol Bordello didn’t need to tell their fans that they\’re important because it showed in their performance and interaction.
There were more than a few moments when it honestly felt as if the hardwood floors of the hundred year old Thalia Hall were on the brink of collapse due to the non-stop dancing. Even the blue haired little old lady that was there was dancing (I have no idea how the hell she ended up there). I can\’t be sure but it felt as if Gogol Bordello had not only busted their ass on stage but behind the scenes as well when they put together the set list for the night. Of their sixteen song set, along with violin, guitar & accordion solos, fan favorites like Trans-Continental Hustle, Immigraniada (We Comin\’ Rougher), Start Wearing Purple (which was recorded in Chicago with Steve Albini), Wonderlust King wrapped up by an encore of Alcohol.
In life, there are few things are certain. After seeing Gogol Bordello, my list of certainties have grown by several. Those being …. bring a towel and a change of clothes because you\’ll drenched in sweat from dancing and you MUST, MUST, MUST see Gogol Bordello live before you die.
[lg_slideshow folder=\”2015/Gogol Bordello/Gogol Bordello/\”][lg_slideshow folder=\”2015/Gogol Bordello/In The Whale/\”]