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House of Tudor 

Gogol Bordello's debauched Gypsy ferocities, and the Transcinema Festival's mind-altering new media

Wednesday, Oct 9 2002
You might think a handlebar mustache should only be worn with an ironic wink, but the long, curving whiskers sported by 30-year-old Eugene Hütz are, for better or worse, an expression of passion, not parody. Originally from Kiev, where his father played guitar in one of that country's first rock bands, Hütz developed avant-garde tastes at an early age, visiting the black market to buy tapes by Einstürzende Neubauten, Suicide, Iggy Pop, and the Birthday Party. After the nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986, the Hütz family fled to the isolated climes of rural western Ukraine, where violins were still made from trees struck by lightning, and folk music and mysticism twirled hand in hand. There, Hütz discovered the musical richness of the Gypsy Diaspora, and followed its long, winding path through the refugee camps of Poland, Hungary, Austria, and Italy in which the Hütz family was interned. Eventually, Hütz made it to the United States and plunged into his lifelong dream of playing in a punk rock band. But while performing at a Russian wedding, he realized something was missing. After moving to New York, Hütz hooked up with two Russians, two Israelis, and an American with aural wanderlust, and formed Gogol Bordello. Together, the musicians raised a raucous whirlwind of sound that spanned centuries of tradition with post-punk sensibilities and nomadic ferocity. On the group's madcap live release, Multi Kontra Culti vs. Irony (a necessary follow-up to the more fastidiously recorded Voi-La Intruder), Gogol Bordello spills forth a debauchery of clarinet, accordion, and violin, over which Hütz howls in broken English about backyard barbecues with Stalin, a gang of immigrant vampires, and cities devoid of punk rockers. "In this kind of town you'll have a problem finding a prostitute," Hütz warns in "Punk Rock Parranda." "In this kind of town the women never get wet/ In this kind of town, music is just background for dining." The rest of the concert album, like Voi-La, offers sweat-agitating tales of itinerant hardship and courage, such as "Occurrence on the Border (Hopping on a Pogo-Gypsy Stick)" and "Through the Roof 'n' Underground," as well as hair-raising stomp-alongs that call for insurgent trickery and sincere buffoonery, such as "Let's Get Radical" and "When the Trickster Starts A-Poking (Bordello Kind of Guy)." But, as rowdy and rousing as Gogol Bordello's records can be, this type of music must be experienced live, with much hard-liquor consumption. Besides, if you stay at home, you'll miss the Gogol Dance Troupe, two lovely ladies who sometimes dress as Russian border-crossing guards, bind Hütz in microphone cords, and put out cigarettes on the frontman's chest. Gogol Bordello performs on Wednesday, Oct. 9, at the Bottom of the Hill with Mark Growden's Acoustic Piñata opening at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $8-10; call 621-4455.

Sparked by the exploding genre of new-media arts, a micromovement of "expanding cinema" has swept through the Bay Area, giving the progressive art/music scene a flickering, high-tech, sepia-toned sheen, created live by "exploratory VJs" and precipitated by such forward-thinking outfits as blasthaus, White Box, the Lab, and the sadly defunct "Synth." It is easy to say that no single event has done more for the budding art form than the Transcinema Festival, which, now in its fifth year, still seems light-years ahead of its time. This year's festival kicked off Oct. 8 with the informal creation of Video Riot, a 300-foot-by-200-foot projection comprised of images brought in by cinema artists living within a 100-mile radius of the Dimension 7 (D7) studio on Folsom Street. If you missed that mind-altering display, worry not; there are eight more days of frontier-stretching art, music, cinema, and workshops. The festival continues on Wednesday, Oct. 9, at 7 p.m. at the San Jose Museum of Art with eight new-media works, including the latest by Laurie Anderson's former art director, Perry Hoberman, Let's Make a Monster, a compilation of found-media fragments recombined to form narratives that examine the blurring boundaries between science and fiction. (Hoberman shows again on Friday, Oct. 11, at the Victoria Theater at 7:30 p.m., along with numerous other artists.) Further highlights include "The Art of the VJ" on Thursday, Oct. 10, featuring a live documentary performance from premier U.K. club visualists the Light Surgeons between 8 and 10 p.m. at SFMOMA's Wattis Theater, followed by music from Broker/Dealer and video editing from DelRay at 111 Minna. On Friday, the Lab hosts a 6 p.m. reception for media installations, including Andrew Eyman's The End, consisting entirely of final scenes from more than 100 '50s movies, set to a reorganized loop of the orchestral climax from Leonard Rosenman's East of Eden soundtrack. Transcinema curator and blasthaus founder William Linn moderates a symposium on evolutionary cinema at the Lab on Saturday, Oct. 12, at 4 p.m., followed by 10 media-based performances. Transcinema 2002 runs through Monday, Oct. 14, with additional multimedia performances at the Lab on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 18-19. Tickets are $5-10 per event or $20 for a festival pass; go to for more information.

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Silke Tudor


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