Eastern Europe is the new Brazil — these days, even Jews (despite pervasive and excruciating anti-Semitism) are getting their Ukraine on again. Player-hating also remains tragically rampant: in the region itself, among the diaspora, and among the fellow-travelers. Either it’s the usual stresses of a musician’s life, or some of the Balkan revivalists can’t handle a diet of cured meats and slivovitz. Beirut’s Zach Condon had the temerity to suggest, entirely reasonably, that Gogol Bordello’s popularity may have something to do with their raucous shows, costumes, and general wackiness (“a fiddle-driven Sham 69” was another commentator’s best-dismissal-ever). Eugene Hutz takes umbrage at the suggestion:
For us, this whole movement was about getting people thinking about authenticity rather than the ironic plastic crap we’ve been force-fed for generations.
Okay, is “authenticity” why you have two dancers in heavy makeup playing enormous drums? And the Kusturica-movie costumes, and talking like Boris Badunov when you’ve lived in Vermont and the Bronx since the Reagan Administration? Elsewhere, Hutz reminds us:
The region’s not about vodka shots, accordions, and red pants.
No, but your band is. Or at least your shows are. Nothing wrong with that, but if you’ve set the bar at projecting “authenticity” from a region that is repressive, radioactive, and racist it is perhaps a task that no band, Eastern European or otherwise, can perform.