If Gogol Bordello is the Rolling Stones of gypsy punk, 17 Hippies must be their more literate Beatles counterpart. Berlin's "orchester spezial" plays a dizzying, high-energy mixture of French songs, English ballads and Eastern European rhythms that will you have you wondering what exactly you're listening to--as you tap your feet to it.
But before proceeding any further, we must confront the name. There are only 13 musicians in 17 Hippies and none are hippies in the peace, love and flowers in their hair sense. One is called a hippie in Germany for half succeeding at any idealistic pursuit--like forming an acoustic folk outfit six years after the Berlin Wall fell and setting out to change the world armed only with a banjo, ukulele, accordion, trombone, trumpet, violin, cello, woodwinds, mandolin, Irish bouzouki, guitar, double bass, Indian harmonium and, from the sounds of it, kitchen sink.
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What comes out of those instruments could be Balkan, Cajun, Indian, African--all in the same song. Words are generally sung in English or German.
While a Gogol Bordello/17 Hippies show would represent the ultimate euro-trash/euro-thrash double bill, you only get the second half Saturday at the Great Park in Irvine. But at least it's FREE (if you don't count parking, which is $8).
Showtime under the stars is 8 p.m. If you show up an hour earlier, you can catch stand-up comics Tom Connolly and Danny Villapando, and if you show up beginning an hour earlier than that you can munch vegetarian Avanti Café food in the Hangar Café (after paying for it, of course). Snacks, desserts, beer, wine and soft drinks are also served.
Orange County Great Park is on Sand Canyon off the 5 Freeway in Irvine, right where the old El Toro Marine Corps Air Station used to be.