For some reason I feel the need to see a live concert once every few years. This usually turns out to be a less than life altering experience. The venue is typically smokey and the music is WAAAAY too loud. It's typically standing room only or, if at a large venue, the band is over a mile away. It can be expensive, the the quality of the music always suffers. But that didn't stop me from heading over to the House of Blue in scenic downtown Cleveland last night to catch Gogol Bordello and I am glad I did.
The House of Blues is a nice venue. Not too big, not cramped. Well laid out and decorated in faux voodoo. We arrived after the first act had started to play. I can't recall their name but they were pretty good. Three guys and some solid skills. They finished their set and we found a space near the stage near the wall. We still had to stand, but the new smoking ban made the air quite tolerable as we waited for the second band to set up. I took this opportunity to insert my earplugs. I have learned from my past mistakes. Why a live concert must be played at ear splitting volume is beyond me, but it always is.
The second act came on and that is when things started to get interesting. The band, Valiant Thor (apparently they are from Venus) is a little hard to describe. It's as if they had found a group of homeless guys and gave them all jeans jackets. Lots of hair and beards that would impress ZZ Top. They got right to it with some very loud and VERY enthusiastic playing. The lead singer was REALLY working, and shortly into his second song, he took his shirt off. At this point, I believe I heard Lindsey actually coughing up a hairball. I could not blame her. This was not the buff bod nor wirey frame of a rock god, but the pasty and slightly paunchy frame of a man who does not like the sun or vegetables. I will say that these guys seemed to be having a good time. They enjoy playing and do it with gusto. All I can say is that if these guys are from Venus, it is a very loud place with a crucial lack of barbers. Then the lead singer engaged in the short banter that often happens between songs. And this is where we came to realize that this guy was more Ted Kazynsky than Jim Morrison. He ranted about how the banks had all the power, which they got from the sports teams. He rambled on about the spirits and justice. I swore he was going to pull out his slide of Dealy Plaza and explain where the second shooter was in the grassy knoll.
Thankfully the second act came to an end. Now the crowd came forward in anticipation. At about 11"15 the band started right up and they did not let up for the entire set. This was one fucking energetic show. And despite the volume, you could still make out the Acoustic guitar, violin and accordion players. after two songs the band was intermittently joined on stage by two oriental girls dressed in football attire (sans pads), who accompanied on washboards and (during the bands very catchy "Start wearing purple) a base drum and cyballs. The Cleveland crowd actually got excited and was leaping into the air and singing along. Ed got washed into the Mosh area but I tied myself to a balustrade. The music was very up and I was amazed the lead singer could keep up the frantic pace. During one short break he pointed to s sticker on his guitar and in his thick Russian accent asked if anyone knew what country it was.
"Finland!!" the crowd yelled.
"Yeah, and what is this one?" he pointed to another sticker.
"And what flag is this?" he pointed to a flag draped just beneath the drummer that featured a wagon wheel with a blue top and green bottom.
"Romani!" I yelled. Apparently I was one of only a handful of people who recognized the Gypsy flag, but then I Am a wellspring of useless trivia.
The group plunged back into the set that lasted until at least 1:30 am. The last song was a traditional gypsy song with only the three principles playing until the end. All in all, a great show. We finished the night at the only open restaurant we could find, Diana's on W. 117th. I can't stress enough, go buy their music. You'll like it.