Balkan Beat Box
Monday, March 15, 2010
Better Than: Studying Google Earth's atlas to trace the gypsy diaspora.
Have you ever been to a cockfight, a reggae festival, and an electro-trance party all at the same time?
"Gypsy punk" as performed by Balkan Beat Box involves seemingly all the world's folk music buttressed by heavy rock 'n' roll and a pumping dance-club pomp. So when the group finished its show Monday at the Fillmore by inviting onstage as many people as wanted to dance their asses off under the scrutiny of spotlights, it became a grinding microcosm of the genre. Both Balkan Beat Box's music and its live show are open invitations to include every regional style imagined upon this shrinking, melting globe.
Israeli-born Tomer Yosef led the band as chief vocalist, but also as its top cheerleader. He clapped his hands and thrust his hips with one leg propped over the amplifiers--when he wasn't sashaying to one side to work his turntables or a crescent of steel drums and bongos. These West Indian drums faced off against a traditional rock drum kit at the other end of the stage, bracketing dueling pulses across an atmosphere filled already with saxophone sirens and howling guitars.
The saxes, handled by Eyal Talmudi and Balkan Beat Box founder Ori Kaplan, blended tunes at times reminiscent of Middle Eastern harps or Eastern European accordions. Other times they delivered the treble urgency of a country fiddler in a life-and-death struggle, or a bullfighter heralding his meaty prey. It sounded like the dawn in every foreign country you've ever been to, accompanied by a jazz flourish.