Gogol Bordello, Trouble Funk
901 Wharf St SW
Washington, DC, 20024
Doors 7:30 PM / Show 9:00 PM
This event is all ages
Watch & Listen
When they met in the mid-1990s, Thievery Corporation’s Eric Hilton and Rob Garza instantly bonded over their shared passion for bossa nova. Dedicating their 1996 debut 'Sounds from the Thievery Hi-Fi' to bossa nova pioneer Antonio Carlos Jobim, the Washington, D.C.-based duo have spent nearly two decades creating boundary-warping, complexly crafted electronic music partly inspired by bossa nova’s intricate rhythms and lush textures. Now, with their seventh studio album 'Saudade,' Thievery Corporation present their first release devoted entirely to the Brazilian-born genre that first connected them. “We always try to progress into something different and stretch our musical chops, and taking a whole album to dive into this one sound seemed like a really great way to do that,” says Hilton. Adds Garza: “It’s a bit of a departure for us, but at the same time these are our roots, this is what brought us together. It’s us coming full circle from electronic music back to something organic before we move on to our next chapter.”
****Released on their own label ESL Music, 'Saudade' borrows its title from a Portuguese word meaning “a longing for something or someone that is lost, a contented melancholy, or, simply, the presence of absence.” “Saudade is the essence or feeling of true bossa nova,” explains Hilton, who names “those warm, soulful, melancholic vocals” as one of the elements of bossa nova that’s most alluring to him. Drawing influence from classic Brazilian performers like Antonio Carlos Jobim, Gal Costa, and Luis Bonfá—along with Serge Gainsbourg, Ennio Morricone, and more modern artists like electro-samba pioneer Isabelle Antena—Saudade achieves its delicate yet deeply sensuous sound with the help of more than a dozen guest musicians. With each track sung by one of five female vocalists (including longtime Thievery cohort LouLou Ghelichkhani, newcomer Elin Melgarejo, Nouvelle Vague singer Karina Zeviani, Argentine chanteuse Natalia Clavier, and former Bitter:Sweet singer/songwriter Shana Halligan), the endlessly mesmerizing album also features such guests as U.N.K.L.E. drummer Michael Lowery, Argentine singer/songwriter Federico Aubele, and master Brazilian percussionist Roberto Santos.
Although Thievery Corporation stay true to traditional bossa nova’s elegant fusion of samba and jazz all throughout 'Saudade,' the album is rich with strange and wonderful flourishes that revel in the duo’s hyper-inventive tendencies. Opening with the dusky “Décollage,” 'Saudade' glides from the smoldering and string-drenched “Quem Me Leva” to the hushed and mysterious “Sola In Citta” (an Italian-sung nod to the legendary sound tracks of Ennio Morricone, featuring Wurlitzer electric piano by Enea Diotaiuti) to the sweetly ethereal “No More Disguise” (a dream-like piece laced with orchestral strings and bolero rhythms). With the instrumental title track serving as its gently stunning centerpiece, 'Saudade' also offers the sultry and spacey“Claridad” (a swaying Latin number propelled by analog organ beats) and the French lullaby of “Le Coeur” (featuring the sublime saxophone work of Frank Mitchell, Jr.). And on the final track “Depth of My Soul,” Halligan delivers a haunting vocal performance that merges with the song’s swirling symphonic soundscape to hypnotic effect.
Over the years, Thievery Corporation have given nods to their bossa-nova influence on individual album tracks, slipping those quietly enchanting songs into recordings that reveal the duo’s careful studying of everything from Jamaican dub reggae to punk to vintage film soundtracks to psychedelic space rock. After coming up with sketches for several bossa-nova-style numbers while recording their last studio album (2011’s Culture of Fear), Garza and Hilton considered releasing an EP showcasing a handful of Brazilian-inspired songs. “The more we worked on those songs, the more we got into the vibe of that vintage, organic sound,” recalls Hilton. “Making an album fully dedicated to that sound felt like a good idea, especially at a time when the electronic dance music world is so saturated and there’s not much of a focus on musicianship.” Rather than feeling hemmed in by the unfamiliar approach of creating music solely in one style, Thievery Corporation found a great deal of freedom in writing and recording the songs that make up 'Saudade.' “In a way it was really liberating to do something out of our wheelhouse, to put ourselves in a totally different mindset and immerse ourselves in this one particular genre,” notes Garza.
Intense musical exploration has always been essential to Thievery Corporation, a project hatched in 1995 when Hilton and Garza were introduced by a mutual friend at Washington, D.C.’s Eighteenth Street Lounge—a popular gathering spot for musicians that’s co-owned by Hilton. Soon after making their 1996 debut with two underground hit vinyl singles(“Shaolin Satellite” and “2001 Spliff Odyssey”) and 'Sounds from the Thievery Hi-Fi,' the duo became loosely associated with the trip-hop scene that had newly emerged in the UK. In 2000, they released 'Mirror Conspiracy,' which introduced live vocalists (including Bebel Gilberto and the late Pam Bricker) into the project’s mix. Following 2002’s 'The Richest Man in Babylon' and 2005’s 'The Cosmic Game' (featured politically minded collaborations with Perry Farrell, Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne, and David Byrne), Thievery Corporation put out 2006’s 'Versions' (a compilation of their remixes of songs by such artists as Sarah McLachlan, Astrud Gilberto, Anoushka Shankar, and The Doors). By then, Garza and Hilton were itching to evolve past their reputation as ambassadors of the downtempo scene, and began to conjure up more subversive recordings that reflected their passion for social activism, as heard on both 2008’s 'Radio Retaliation' and 'Culture of Fear.'
Now on 'Saudade,' Thievery Corporation are once again changing direction, trading the fiery energy of their last two albums for a wistful mood and summery spirit—a shift that both members found highly refreshing. “Even though we’re very socially conscious, it’s nice to take a break from the political theme and just concentrate creating some beautiful songs in the same vein as all these old records that we love,” says Garza. And as one ofthe most influential and respected names on the electronic/dance music scene, Thievery Corporation also discovered their own breed of rebellion and innovation in committing themselves to a time-worn genre on 'Saudade.'“We’re still chopping up beats, but this time we’re making them sound warm and vintage—which is not at all what’s happening in electronic music right,” says Hilton. “What we’re doing here is pretty traditional and timeless-sounding, and in that it’s completely contrarian.”****
Gogol Bordello never stays in the same place for long. Bandleader Eugene Hütz started to hear the songs of Seekers and Finders as he shuttled back and forth between three continents, and the nine-piece ensemble developed and refined them on the road. From its inception, Gogol Bordello has been a band of immigrants, with members hailing from Ukraine, Ecuador, Russia, and Ethiopia. They tour relentlessly. Travel is in their blood.
Yet for all the long hours and far-flung adventures that birthed it, Gogol Bordello's seventh studio full-length advocates loudly for living life in a specific time and place: right now – and in the real world.
"People think you explore the world with the latest phone in your hand," says Hütz. That's the antithesis of living for Gogol Bordello. None of these songs sprang forth from an interesting news story or an extended studio improvisation. "My focus is always on staying experiential. Go for first-hand information, transmute it into wisdom, and share it with the people in a communal celebration."
The party kicks off with an incendiary exchange of violin and accordion licks, bolstered by full- throated ensemble vocals ("Did It All"), and the excitement doesn't relent until the final fade of "Still That Way." There are pivotal moments of rippling marimba ("Clearvoyance") and triumphant trumpet courtesy of Manu Chao collaborator Roy Paci ("Walking on the Burning Coal"). The frenzied punk rocker "Saboteur Blues" flips a middle finger in the face of French philosopher René Descartes, while "Familia Bonfireball" draws on Hütz's earliest experiences in the Ukraine to illustrate how forming a band provides escape from the demoralizing grind of the industrial revolution and narrowly prescribed destinies.
Time and again, Seekers and Finders exhorts the listener to be present and participate. "Break Into Your Higher Self" accelerates the quest for spiritual enlightenment to lightning speed. On the surface, "Still That Way" might sound like a simple barroom sing-along, or even a lighter-waving arena anthem, but it rails against getting mired in nostalgia. "I'm still very drawn to the idea of being with the times."
That Seekers and Finders distills lifetimes of experience and emotion into a succinct 38-minute album speaks volumes about Hütz's aesthetic. "Bowie always said his main area of expertise was processing information, and I can relate to that. My storytelling is all about assembling diverse, disparate things and bringing them into focus."
For all the immediacy of Gogol Bordello's music, the process of making a new record doesn't always happen quickly. Following the 2013 release of Pura Vida Conspiracy, Hütz bounced back and forth between South America and Eastern Europe. "I was basically living in Brazil, and going back to the Ukraine to do all these cultural projects." But it was only after he resumed living in New York City that something inside him shifted.
"I never felt content with one home base ... I needed three," the singer explains. "They really complemented one another, and I finally felt like I'd found some very solid, tangible ground for myself in the world." And suddenly, new song ideas began to coalesce more clearly. "All of this material came out of that triangle – it's almost an encapsulation of that lifestyle – but it only came into focus after I moved back to New York."
Gogol Bordello formed in New York in 1999, injecting Eastern European musical influences into underground rock to forge their distinctive "gypsy punk" sound. In keeping with the band's roots, the title track "Seekers and Finders" pairs Hütz with another genre-bending NYC artist who started her career at the turn of the 21st century: Russian-born singer-songwriter – and longtime friend – Regina Spektor. "It's the duet of the wandering Jew and the roaming gypsy by the campfire, which we represent most perfectly."
But before recording in New York and Washington D.C., the band had already invested countless hours working up the material. During their extensive tours, Gogol Bordello uses nightly soundchecks as an opportunity to rehearse and develop new material. "Usually, I craft the songs and then the band arrives and makes them better, composed adventurous pieces. This time, however, I welcomed the band’s creativity from the getgo. Many late nights followed as we captured the magic amongst us. It felt like it did when I was making my first recording ever where capturing that luminescence is the most important thing in entire world.”
Seekers and Finders also marks another return, as Hütz resumes production duties after entrusting them to outside producers including Rick Rubin (Transcontinental Hustle, 2010) and Andrew Scheps (Pura Vida Conspiracy, 2013). "Our path has blessed us with those grandmasters, but I've always had a strong D.I.Y. ethic and knew eventually I wanted to get behind the wheel myself! It was like being a matador facing the beast of Gogol’s collective creativity.”
And what was Hütz's biggest takeaway from experiencing all those different approaches to record- making? A reinforced belief that you should never stray too far from your original idea. "Capture the moment ... the moment is king."
There were many stops along the path to Gogol Bordello's Seekers and Finders, and many more to follow. As pleasant as it may feel to set up camp for a spell in Brazil or Ukraine or New York, ultimately the roving storyteller must move on.
"When I was in my twenties, that just seemed like a romantic notion," Hütz concludes. "But here I am, still cruising around with my guitar like The Fool on a tarot card. And there's actually great comfort in that. There's something rewarding and fulfilling about commitment to a destiny ... even if it's a pretty funky one."
Thus 'Seekers and Finders' comes from a very wide and magical playground, a playground where people are still explorers who climb trees and walls across the world to seduce the hero of their heart... The playground where you get to see all sides of Gogol Bordellos path: The Good... the Bad... and the Snugly.
Miles off the radar of popular music during the early ‘80s, Trouble Funk energized their D.C. home with the sound of go-go music, an uproarious blend of swinging, up-tempo ‘70s funk and a ‘60s style horn section. The band formed in 1978, and the lineup coalesced around drummer Emmet Nixon, percussionists Mack Carey and Timothius Davis, guitarist Chester Davis, bassist Tony Fisher, trombone players Gerald and Robert Reed, trumpeter Taylor Reed, keyboard player James Avery, and saxophonist David Rudd. Trouble Funk earned a loyal fan base for their notoriously can’t-miss live act, a raw, party friendly version of dance and funk with few songs but plenty of extensive jams organized around audience-friendly vocal tags and call-out hooks. The first go-go record released outside of D.C., Trouble Funk’s 1982 debut “Drop the Bomb” appeared on Sugar Hill, the same label then championing early hip-hop. (The two styles had very similar origins, in the break beat culture of urban block parties.) Also in 1982 they released a single “So Early In The Moring” on D.E.T.T. Records, later reissued on diverse labels as 2.13.61 & Tuff City.
Trouble Funk sometimes shared the stage with hardcore punk bands of the day such as Minor Threat and the Big Boys. This decision was made by promoters. Unsurprisingly, go-go heads didn’t shave down to Mohawks and thus ended the failed marriage of the two scenes. Though the band’s second album, “In Times of Trouble”, appeared only on the local label D.E.T.T., Trouble Funk earned national distribution with a prescient concert record, “1985’s Saturday Night (Live from Washington, D.C.)”, released through Island. After taking the live act nationwide and even worldwide (they played the 1986 Montreux Jazz Festival), Trouble Funk returned in 1987 with the boundary breaking “Trouble Over Here, Trouble Over There”, featuring sympathetic heads like Bootsy Collins and Kurtis Blow. It was a bit of a stylistic misstep, however, Island released the group from its contract. Their song “Pump Me Up” has been sampled by many other artists and is featured in Style Wars and the fictional R&B radio station Wildstyle in the game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Also, the song “Pump Me Up” was sampled in Dimple D’s one hit wonder “Sucker DJ” which went to #1 in Australia.
Keyboard player Robert “Syke Dyke” Reed passed away at aged 50 on April 13, 2008 from pancreatic cancer.
Undeterred, Trouble Funk kept on grooving around the city, playing often, even into the ‘90s and 2000’s, for nostalgic party goers as well as the musically curious. Today, Trouble Funk continues to remain a figure on the Washington D.C. area live music scene and you can catch them doing their known tunes as well as some new.
$75.00 - $125.00
Super Excellent Seats are non-transferable. The ID of the person attending must match the purchaser’s name, which will be printed on the ticket face.