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Bohemian rhapsodize!

Gogol Bordello member Eugene H

Agent provocateur Eugene Hütz, he of the indelible saloon-style moustache, glimmer of gold teeth and perpetual layer of stage sweat, has three words cocked, loaded and steeped in his syrupy-thick, Eastern European accent to describe the New York-via-Ukraine punk rock of his band Gogol Bordello. It’s a slightly abstract term, but nothing less would properly suit the caravan of wayfaring, ragtag gypsy ruffians he so eccentrically pioneers.

Gogol Bordello (with Dub Trio & DJ Dubta)

WHEN: 6 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: First Avenue Main Room; 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis
TICKETS: $16 advance, $18 at door;; (612) 332-1775

New Rebel Intelligence is what they swear by: a new way to look at the world, a way to survive in the wake of creationism, globalization, alphabetized political disasters A-Z, you name it. Hütz and Gogol Bordello make that type of cacophonous, anarchic mayhem to confront the chaos of life head-on and to spit fire at it. The philosophy behind their philosophy is hard-nosed and to-the-point: This music, a type of trans-global rebel rock, if you will, is what makes it possible for such earthly contradictions to seem harmonious, at least for the two-and-a-half minute duration one of their madcap tracks takes to distract.

“Times are changing in a pretty f-ing interesting way, right in front of our faces,” Hütz said of the seductive powers of his own musical freedom. “We’re getting rid of the mainstream. Everything happens on our own artistic terms. We have that power to decide what we play and who we play with and how we play it.”

That they do. Gogol Bordello has been rumbling with rusty switchblades on the outskirts of various musical genres since 1999, weaving traditional gypsy two-steps with a multicultural pot of punk, ska, metal, cabaret, roots reggae, spaghetti Western twang, dub and other sounds generated by those nothing-to-lose rebels from across the globe. And though their breathless, breakneck live shows are legendary, Gogol Bordello packages together some smartly written songs, celebrating the sweet and sour sides of a wine-soaked wanderlust.

Take the whole of “Super Taranta!,” the troupe’s latest album and product behind their sprawling fall/winter tour, a dizzying speed-rock interpretation of Tarantella, a ritual music from Italy: It’s sexual, mystical, wildly cultural, almost obscene – all qualities Hütz’s merry big-top band of lords and ladies eat and imbibe. Each is an exuberant explosion of joy with an irresistible sing-along chorus; a ballad of celebration, whether superficial or otherwise.

Scoff if you must at Hütz’s wild-eyed, old-world inspirations (Gypsy-folk? And punk? Wait, like, together?), but they hit closer to a very real time and place than many stubborn, recreationally inflexible hipsters might assume.

Following the disastrous meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and a subsequent seven-year trek through Eastern European refugee camps, Hütz and his understandably shaken family immigrated to the United States. As a Kiev kid for whom headbanging and air guitars were escapes, the initial evacuation turned over a new discovery.

“My dad and I were both very interested in rock, and I took over his music collection,” Hütz said. “To things like Jimi Hendrix and Parliament Funkadelic, I added Dead Kennedys and the Clash and the Sex Pistols, and right around then, it was time to hit the road, so to speak.”

As legitimate political refugees, the Hütz clan couldn’t take anything with them worth more than a couple hundred bucks. Leaving some of their belongings with relatives in France, they gave the rest away and set off with little more than two family guitars necessary to both their income and their sanity.

“All of those situations have directly influenced my music,” Hütz explained. “It’s all basically autobiographical, and at times it also includes the experiences of my friends and the extended family of Gogol Bordello.

“It’s because of location that I couldn’t not combine these sounds; it’s what I’m rooted in,” he continued. “My original experiences with music were around tables full of food with guitars and accordions floating around my family. That was my first rock-and-roll.”

Eventually, the family settled in Vermont and Hütz took off for New York, stumbling upon and becoming comfortably surrounded by other refugees who shared his vision of an international punk sound born from what shook them up most.

“I feel like it’s an artistic strategy of elevating yourself out of whatever bad happens to you, and then simultaneously making sense of it,” said Hütz. “Nobody would ever believe me if I told them our music was a product of happiness. It’s our therapy, an example of overcoming many hardships, circumstantial and emotional.”

Though he never intended the music of Gogol Bordello to be political, he’ll be the first to tell you how impossible it is to completely avoid it. Thankfully, his politics are new, rebellious and, yes, sharply intelligent; based on the belief that art can shift negative energy to positive energy and inspire individual action.

“What it comes down to is the actual power that people have in their hands,” Hütz said. “It’s a lot more than people think. I encourage a different revolution – an internal revolution. For me, it’s a personal journey, the strategy of steering your life.”

Having made their very raucous presence known, in one incarnation or another, for nearly a decade, the now nine-piece Gogol Bordello is finally learning to root itself. Sometimes that means connecting each sinewy strand of origin from places as apparently disparate as Russia, Israel, Ethiopia and America. But together, the members have all helped the band achieve a universal sound at once exhausting and exhilarating with all it encompasses.

“I write these songs about being Eastern European because it’s in my blood,” said Hütz. “But it’s the band as a whole that makes it appealing and understandable to people in Brazil and Japan.”

And that message, loud and clear:

“People need to remember that we’re all a bit supernatural,” Hütz said with an ever-so-slightly devilish laugh. “You just have to do some work to get to it.”

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