Sunday, May 2, 2010


I can't sleep, my mind still buzzing from last night....truthfully, early this morning; I'd expected my 2 AM bedtime would have me drowsy by now (10:30 PM). But I guess this is the cost of obtaining a musical education.

One aspect of parenting teenagers that I sincerely relish is having them teach me about popular culture; and what could be more significant to a teen than the bands they enjoy? A unique characteristic of this particular generation of kids is their deep respect for the classics. I am as delighted to observe my 70-year-old uncle share Pink Floyd with my 17-year-old son, as I am to talk about The Beatles with my 13-year-old daughter. I've used the philosophy of Dylan to resolve the teen angst about the work world ("Gotta Serve Sombody!"). My middle child has bridged the years between Rush and Ramstein; my youngest has introduced me to Julia Nunes and fun with ukuleles. When my oldest talks about Cake and Spoon, I counter with Bread and Cream. And although Blue Oyster Cult was the bane of my high school years, we all agree that you can never have too much cowbell.

Which makes last night, upon deeper reflection, a truly amazing experience.

I heard about the band when the lead singer was interviewed by Terri Gross on NPR and was immediately intrigued.

My oldest learned about the band from a friend...I think the same friend who introduced him to Vampire Weekend and Streetlight Manifesto. He was taken with the group's high energy and the unique sound.

So when Gogol Bordello was scheduled to play Philly, there was no question we were going. A more significant question might be which one of us was more enthused. I planned my attire for weeks: one must attend a gypsy punk event dressed like either a gypsy or a punk, no? Given that my ethnic roots tilt toward the former (and at age 49, the latter would just look silly on me) the choices were obvious. And I was hoping to wear my purple shoes--my attempt to start wearing purple--but the heat wave suggested sandals might be a more comfortable choice.

I am convinced that if I attended a Gogol concert three times a week, I wouldn't need to worry about any other form of aerobic exercise. One cannot help but dance, and honestly, I was deeply concerned by those attendees who stood stoically, arms folded across their chests. People, this is like a Ukranian wedding, minus the bride and the rustic foods! I ended up next to two 20-ish women, Aubrey and Sandi, who invited me to dance with them. (Aubrey was truly inspirational, starting her dancing during the set-up for Gogol, jiving in response to a Flogging Molly song, and not stopping until 90 minutes later, when a shirtless, perspiring Eugene Hutz bid us all good night.)

Eugene lost his shirt somewhere during the second song, and I suspect attendees would have followed his lead had it been permissible. I am amazed at the level of energy the entire band--and the audience--were able to sustain. Wow. They made The Who seem like the electric organist at the nursing home.

But what really has stayed with me (in addition to the pain in the soles of my feet) is how Gogol's music is the music of my Eastern European roots (and my husband's too, his ancestors from the pogroms of Russia). I love this stuff, could listen to it endlessly, its melding of the celebratory and the melancholy. (Is it merely coincidence that my people are Hungarian and Hutz's first band was named "Eugene Hutz and the Bela Bartoks"?)

Even more amazing is my son's love for this genre. Is it genetic? Is it something in the blood? Or is it the way of nature that we ultimately embrace that which reflects our heritage?

Tomorrow--it is fast approaching--I shall "Start Wearing Purple."

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