Frontman Eugene Hütz (far left) and Gogol Bordello // Photo: Daniel Efram

A Salve for the Soul: Gypsy Punk’s Gogol Bordello Brings Communal Music to 9:30 Club

Anyone who has witnessed the unbridled exuberance of a Gogol Bordello show knows that the gypsy punk dance party is an experience unlike any in modern live music. 

If you’re in DC over the holidays, this is your chance to see the rowdy extravaganza. Gogol Bordello, led by joyously charismatic Ukrainian frontman Eugene Hütz and featuring several special guests, will rock the 9:30 Club on December 30 and 31.

“We’re bringing a celebration,” Hütz promised during a phone interview with On Tap from his home in lower Manhattan. “That’s our vibe. It’s a collaboration with our friends. We’re bringing our gypsy punk vibes. [Rapper] Marty Baller is bringing authentic hip-hop vibes. We’re also coming with friends from [dub/rock group] Dub Trio, whom we’ve shared several tours with in the past. We’re making a collaboration that people will remember. We have a lot of creative spirits. That’s how we grow.”

Now in its 21st year as a band, Gogol Bordello has always tried to stretch and grow in new musical directions – and 2020 is no different. Hütz, especially inspired by hip-hop in recent years, is dropping a solo album next March exploring that inspiration while remaining rooted in his eclectic, international style of music-making.

“The times bring new influences,” Hütz explained. “Your core remains the same, but I’m always curious about what’s new on the streets, in the clubs and at the festivals. Besides exploring new sounds within the band, the solo record is something that kind of bubbled up on its own. It’s my own take on urban music.”

Not surprisingly, Hütz – a longtime darling of New York City’s cutting-edge artistic set – has recruited some top-tier talent to help out on the solo record.

“It’s really cool collaborating with friends I’ve made along the way like Tim Armstrong of Rancid, Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Marty Baller,” he explained enthusiastically. “I find hip-hop music right now particularly inspiring. I’ve always been a fan, but I’ve come back to it. Hip-hop is very special to me.”

While hip-hop may hold a unique appeal for Hütz, his legendary band’s musical DNA is rooted in punk rock. Hütz said early in his career, he was mesmerized by Iggy Pop’s theatrics and showmanship, and he incorporated that physical aesthetic into his own show.

“Iggy is one of my mentors,” Hütz said, noting that he’s played on live bills with him several times. “If not for Iggy, the whole school of stage performance in rock ‘n’ roll would not be nearly as swashbuckling as it is. The whole idea of being very poetic but very athletic and physical at the same time – it takes a very singular kind of individual to be able to pull it off. Creating that synthesis and storytelling, and delivering it in an athletic and Dionysian way, is a special way of performing. Even as a kid, I took my initial start from Iggy. He’s amazing. He’s a hero.”

Closer to the nation’s capital, Hütz singled out DC punk pioneers Fugazi as another key influence.

“They had the cream-of-the-crop kind of radical art sound,” Hütz said. “When I heard them, I was like ‘Yeah! That’s my kind of music.’ I was bewitched by that. Also, I discovered Bad Brains [another legendary DC punk band] through Fugazi, and then go-go music.”

It’s no secret that Hütz’s home country has loomed large in the impeachment proceedings consuming Washington this fall. However, the loquacious artist – perhaps wisely – declined to weigh in, except to say that Gogol Bordello’s communal music is designed to be a salve for the soul. That might be just what politics-weary DC needs to usher in a new year.

“When we all get to dance around the fire together – metaphorically or not metaphorically speaking, because the show gets quite fiery – there is nothing else quite like it,” Hütz said with a laugh.

“My job is to bring joy, energy and fresh vibes into the air [and] help people recharge their energy to deal with the rest of the world. That’s what I get from art and music. Everybody around the world has their own shit to deal with, and day-to-day we need joy. Hopefully, we can create a situation where people can recharge for a couple of hours.”

Catch Hütz with the rest of Gogol Bordello and special guests on Monday, December 30 (doors at 7 p.m., tickets $35) or Tuesday, December 31 (doors at 9 p.m., tickets $75) at 9:30 Club. Learn more about the gypsy punk band at www.gogolbordello.com.

9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; 202-265-0930; www.930.com