By Trystan MacDonald
Photos by Aaron Tamachi


Gogol Bordello


There are two days where everyone pretends to be Irish in Ontario’s capital, St. Patrick’s Day and whenever Flogging Molly comes to town. The only real distinguishable difference between the two dates is the green attire worn during the former, and the poor beer selection offered during the latter. Aside from that, everyone’s usually thoroughly drunk and listening to the Irish punk band (anyone who’s been in an ‘Irish’ themed pub during St. Patty’s can attest to the heavy rotation of Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphy’s received on the speakers.)

The Sound Academy, known for its elongated floor– and poor beer selection – easily manifested into that of some large drinking hall where a mass of people convened to partake in the wildest party achievable on a Sunday night, with a cut off time of 11 pm.

Upon arriving at the venue Mariachi El Bronx were in the middle of their set. Now, for the record, Mariachi El Bronx is the dual persona of the notable punk band The Bronx, simply substituting out their punk music with…well…mariachi music. A general confusion befell me as to why such a band would be opening for two punk bands that inspire reckless life decisions in the name of fun. That isn’t to say that the band was terrible, if anything, they were probably one of the most notable mariachi bands I’ve ever seen (Note: Such a statement has little to no meaning, since I’ve never actively pursued mariachi music as an interest ) For many, myself included, the back drop of trumpets and soft acoustic guitar melodies provided a pleasant prologue to consume as much Budweiser and Corona before the floor would become a testament to the fun that can be had while completely inebriated.

For a long time I never knew who Flogging Molly was. I was aware that there was some badass Irish punk band that wrote some pretty incredible hits and falsely attributed that to the Dropkick Murphy’s (not entirely false, The Dropkick Murphy’s are pretty badass) only to find out that the majority of tune’s that I incorrectly attributed to the band from Boston, were actually Flogging Molly tunes. After clarifying that rather embarrassing mistake about a year ago, I enthusiastically waited for their next appearance in Toronto.

Met with a thunderous applause when taking the stage, Flogging Molly wasted no time starting the party that everyone was so eager for. Guitars roared over the speakers accompanied by Dave King’s distinct voice as fiddles eloquently weaved in and out of every verse and chorus. While Flogging Molly took the stage before Gogol Bordello, the tour was organized with the concept that the two bands were equal, with each of the bands’ sets lasting an hour and a half, making the show not only an incredible deal for the ticket price, but an incredible party. Flogging Molly would go on to play an extensive set ranging from their greatest hits, to notable singles from their newest album. The band put on an impeccable show with their performance being adequately matched by the crowd’s energy. When they first took to the stage, a still and calm audience that politely watched the mariachi opener quickly turned into the party of the year. A dry concert floor would soon become a perilous center of drunken pandemonium as it slowly became inundated in beer (not a terrible waste, it was mostly Budweiser) challenging all those jigging, skanking, and moshing to remain upright.

There were sparse moments when the band would take a moment to breathe as King spoke to the audience, but such moments were brief with the majority of the band’s set taking on an infectious momentum that encouraged all to have as much fun as possible, well beyond the point of reasonable. The band would finish their show with notable songs like “The Seven Deadly Sins”, “Devil’s Dancefloor”, “What’s Left of the Flag”, and ending on a more somber note with “ If I Ever Leave this World Alive.” The band would bow, say their goodbyes, and clear the stage for their gypsy punk colleagues in Gogol Bordello. The crowd would take this precious time to replace the drinks they unfortunately dropped during the course of the set; the intermission music playing over the speakers would be drowned out by the sea of people wading through the Sound Academy’s floor, ankle deep in tall cans of Bud, Corona, and Rolling Rock (did I mention the poor beer selection?)

If you were looking forward to reading a play by play review of Gogol’s performance, this is not that. By the time Gogol Bordello took the stage everyone was pretty fucking drunk, including myself. This isn’t me projecting my own state of inebriation on an entire crowd – like that one guy at every party who recounts how, “Everyone was completely wrecked,” but in reality it was just him – everyone was thoroughly mangled; on Budweiser no less. With that being said, there is no better environment to experience the gypsy punk rock sensation known as Gogol Bordello. Now admittedly, I would prefer to remember more than I do, but I feel that the band would find my fractured memory of their set a far bigger compliment, than that of a clinical review of their show, this is a punk band after all.

On that note, I do remember how impressed I was at such a well-coordinated spectacle from the band. I assumed, wrongly, that the look and feel of the band would be far more ‘rougher’ than it actually was. With the accompaniment of a couple of projectors, a decent amount of visual lighting, and an incredibly theatrical band led to ultimately one of the best hour and a half sets that I’ve ever experienced. So much so that the band borders between the definition of punk-rock and art, a marriage that almost seems paradoxical. While sonically not as aggressive as Flogging Molly’s music, Gogol Bordello’s gypsy-fused rock embodies that same essence of community and celebration. Ultimately, I think that’s what everyone subconsciously went to experience on Sunday evening; a righteous party with great people, great beer, and great music.


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