Last Night: Gogol Bordello at Fox Pomona on Thursday, May 21st.
Better Than: Being an actual gypsy in Eastern Europe
Download: Super Taranta on Side One Dummy Records
For years, night life in down town Pomona usually meant parking the car, catching a show at The Glass House and making a clean exit. For many, it also meant a swift walk past the forsaken skeleton of the Fox Theater on Garey Ave. followed by the whiny, rhetorical question "why the fuck don't they do something with this place?" As I weaved my way through darkened parking lots filled with cars a couple blocks from the theater, which made it's glorious return a couple months ago, I'm guessing people aren't asking that question anymore. Last night, the theater hit another milestone as it welcomed it's first Golden Voice concert featuring New York gypsy punks Gogol Bordello and Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros (who I regrettably missed due to traffic issues...seems like a reoccurring theme in these reviews).
But after a brisk, two block walk from the car to the glowing marquis, it was hard not to feel a bit of excitement swell in your throat as clusters of noise, people and cigarette smoke brought life to the spanking new neon scenery. In a story written by yours truly for our friends at IE Weekly a few months ago [shameless plug... check the story here] I chronicled most of the work that went into resuscitating the glamorous structure, mis-haps and all. But stepping inside the grand foyer drenched in winding stair case splendor and multicolored murals was an experience that echoed a new era in Pomona nightlife.
With Gogol about to start, people were bumping into each other like confused ants, grabbing last minute drinks, texting their coordinates or running around the second floor in awe of the Fox aura. All things considered, the choice to go with GB for the first Fox concert was spot on. In the darkness of the concert hall, parades of tattooed punkers, olive-skinned gypsy chicks and heavily-mustached carnival characters darted to the front barriers of the stage. Savvy, laid-back show goers, buzzed over to the bars lined the exits at the back of the hall. After all, you can want to be too far away from the booze at a good rock show.
Emerging from the wings, head gypsy Eugene Hutz and bassist Thomas Gobena emerged to a roar that swelled from the front row to the silhouettes in the balcony. Starting things off with a slow build of thumping and hazy acoustic guitar, the rest of the band slowly crept on stage in front of a gargantuan black and yellow banner sporting their sling shot logo. Launching into an hour and a half set, the band's clap-happy sound took off instantly with early favorites like "Wander Lust King" and "Ultimate" from 2008's Super Taranta. Under swirls of rainbow stage lighting, the controlled chaos of the crowd almost stole the show as people jumped, clapped and sang like a trained choir.
The energy only intensified as toga-wearing back-up vocalists emerged with the band's customary, glittery marching drum and cymbals as they pounded away on the stage filled with color, light and sweat. Churning through one song after another, the unified shouts of the crowd filled the air of this 2,000+ capacity venue.
The frenzy continued with pounding percussion for several more songs, that included some insane chops from Sergey Ryabstev, the band's gray-haired violinist on instrumental breaks like "Barro Foro". Having never seen this band live, it's hard to put the sever eclecticism of Russian folk, Ukrainian party music, Samba and funk into one neat paragraph. But suffice it to say that unless you've seen them, you haven't seen anything like it. Launching into the opening chords of "Start Wearing Purple", the crowd exploded again, locking arms and dancing with each other with brimming beer cups held high. Even with the security in front, one girl managed to squeak her way on stage and give Hutz a kiss or two as he flailed his acoustic guitar around like a stage prop...ah, the life of a gypsy.
Another thing you must know about a gypsy party is that it doesn't like to be told when to get off stage. After several false set endings, the band kept going, vamping wildly on their closing songs until finally making a riotous exit, only to return momentarily for an encore. All around fans stomped the floor like a thunderous heard of buffalo until the band returned to close out the night. Filtering back into the foyer, the sense of success for the Fox was palpable as it ushered in a new chapter in it's history. And with more acts like Wilco and Band o Horses on the way, there's plenty of reason to believe in the glowing hype of this revived venue.
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Personal Bias: Party music of any culture is never a bad thing. Especially when it involves the lead singer jamming out on a metal bucket.
Random Detail: One thing I did notice: was anyone else bothered by the fact that there seemed to be only one ATM in the entire building?
By The Way: HEY!!!!......HEY!!!!.....HEY!!!!