Gogol Bordello: Lessons Learned in Caffeine, Punctuality and Randori

Delayed blog post alert!

I saw Gogol Bordello, a gypsy punk band, perform in Burlington, VT on June 6. I learned a few things, and validated others which I already knew.

First, let be back up to that morning’s Aikido class, where lesson one of the day took place. Sensei told me, early during our first technique, that “nidan is about not being there.” Essentially, when uke attacks, you should not be meeting in a head-on collision, and move into a space where you are better balanced and positioned to respond to the attack. I practiced this in the morning as kokyu-nage (which at first I had difficulty with because it looked like tenchi-nage done halfway), and again that evening. More on that in a moment.

Preparing for a late night, I did a few things. First off, I had a couple of mixed espresso drinks at my friend’s coffee shop around lunchtime. I planned on supplementing these with a nap, but unfortunately could not find the time to fit one in. So, I snacked on chocolate covered coffee beans, figuring that they would give me that extra kick I needed to make it through the night.

I also learned that, even if you hear that a band has “no opening act,” they will still not take to the stage for at least one (or, in the case, two and a half) hour(s) after admission. The doors opened at 8:30. At around 9pm, a DJ took to the stage and played typical DJ music for an hour. Most of the crowd were not terribly impressed. At around 10:30, a dancer from the band appeared. The crowd thought she heralded the arrival of the rest of the crew, but that did not happen for another 15 minutes or so. Finally, the lead singer appeared, followed shortly by the rest of the band, and things began to liven up. This was a good thing, as I was getting tired and yawning. One of my companions actually had suggested leaving because she was so frustrated with the wait, and she was the biggest fan in our group.

Third lesson of the day: do not expect gypsies to be punctual. They operate on their own schedule.

Fourth lesson: chocolate covered coffee beans do not have that much caffeine in them! You actually get more from drinking the coffee. It was 10:30pm and I was yawning. Not a good sign.

What do gypsy punk and Aikido have in common? Randori! Two words: “Mosh pit.” I was warned ahead of time, just as the music started, that I was standing at the edge of the mosh pit. I’d heard about these things, even seen video of them, but this was my first experience in one. It started simply enough, with the guy immediately to my left encroaching into my space, which is to say, jabbing his elbow into my ribs. (This was unintentional, I’m sure, as there simply wasn’t enough room to move.) Then the crowd started to bounce. And sway. A lot. The next thing I knew, I was getting tossed every which way with the crowd. Keeping my balance was an exercise, to say the least, as several people around me were smart enough to drop their drinks (spilling lots of ice all around) as soon as they started hopping to the beat. This went on (and off) for a couple of hours, during almost every song that they played. I held my ground the whole time, after positioning a friend to my right so I had one less angle to worry about. The real fun was when the guy in front and to my left, who had to weigh at least 300#, started to bounce around. There was nothing to be done except get out of his way, which I did. A lot. Lesson five: If you don’t practice randori in Aikido class, give a mosh pit a try, as there are a lot of common elements, including colliding bodies, flying fists, and the need to pay close attention to your personal space.

Final lesson of the day: Gypsies know how to look cool, even especially if wielding an accordion.

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