The venue has only been open for half an hour and the place is already swarming with people.

By the time the support band takes the stage, the crowd is already excited. Horns Of Leroy are relatively unknown but the cheerful crowd still welcome them. Horns Of Leroy is a New Orleans style brass band from Melbourne. The band consists of two trumpet players, two trombone players, two percussionists and a sousaphone player. The band launches straight into a high energy, upbeat sound that instantly engages the audience. Their songs flow smoothly from one to the other, with each song maintaining the high energy feel. The set has a real party feel and it is hard not to bop along. The band members themselves appear as though they are having fun, a combination of experienced professionalism and genuine enjoyment in what they are doing. The audience is moving and clapping along, clearly won over by the fun performance. Then the band bring out their secret weapon. They enthusiastically tackle an instrumental dixie style take on Africa by Toto which is a hit with the crowd. They sing along with joy and cheer wildly at the end. The cover was brilliant and impossible to ignore. By the end of the set, it is clear many have converted to fans.

The tone for the evening has been set and the crowd mills around cheerily. Each time a crew member is spotted on stage, more and more the focus of the crowd is on the stage. By the time the lights dim, the entire audience is waiting with bated breath. This is clearly a crowd of enthusiastic Gogol Bordello fans who are eagerly anticipating tonight’s show. The building is packed. When the first few members appear on stage, the crowd goes wild. From the first note, there is a large pit of people near the stage dancing and waving their hands in the air. They start off on a high note with their popular song Not A Crime. The music is often described as ‘gypsy punk’, which is an excellent description. The feel of this gig being one big dance party increases and the atmosphere on stage is positive and fun with the audience loving it. Frontman Eugene Hutz is clearly at home on stage, instantly engaging with the audience and working up the crowd further. The first few songs flow from one to the other, with little to no banter. They play their big hit Wanderlust King early on in the set and the crowd goes wild!

Somehow both the band members and the audience never tire. The singing, dancing, and party atmosphere run unabated. It is hard not to be swept up in this. Hutz often gets closer to the audience, stepping into the area in front of the stage to sing directly to fans. The band themselves are in fine form. They dance around the stage with a confident ease. This is one of the most high-energy shows we have been to. Hutz starts with the banter between songs. He tells stories and shares thoughts with the crowd with the ease of a long-time storyteller. At on point, he sits down and appears to read from a book as he tells us about the art of storytelling. The performance is engaging.  Even a few slower songs do not break the high energy. The band sounds excellent live with the musicians putting in a performance of a lifetime. Despite running around and dancing through the whole thing, they make no mistakes. As they play one of their most famous songs, Start Wearing Purple, the crowd loses it. When the band leaves the stage for the first time, the crowd refuses to disperse. When Gogol Bordello come out for another few songs, the crowd loses all control. There is a real connection between audience and artist that is somehow intimate whilst including all members of the crowd.

By the time they wind down to their big finish, the crowd really lets loose. The whole show just worked, and worked well. This concert in and of itself was a raucous experience that involved art, dancing, and music. The whole show was fun and high-energy. Throughout the set, they had the whole audience engaged as the band took several bows at the end by the audience’s insistence. The show is a resounding success and very memorable! In only a few hours as a part of this experience and it is easy to see how the band became popular.  The crowd was exhausted but elated, and for many, it appears this was the show of the year. The DIY feel with minimum theatrics but maximum effort, energy, and connection from the band really set Gogol Bordello’s set apart. If you missed this, you missed out on the party of the year.

PHOTOS BY JOSE SANCHEZ

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