New Year In D.C. With Gigi Mac And Gogol Bordello

A welcome return for our international correspondent Gigi Mac who had quite a start to 2016…

I feel so very special… Eugene Hütz loves DC! For a good while now, every year Gogol Bordello descends upon the District and parties with us on New Year’s Day, This year, we got TWO nights! He does not leave out his current hometown however– NYC got their local boys for New Year’s Eve, then their caravan careened downward swiftly & professionally, permitting us to start 2016 off in proper Gypsy Punk stylee!  Last year I could not attend the festivities, much to my Russian partner in crime Elena’s chagrin, but this year we were both extremely giddy back in October when tickets went on sale & we quickly scooped ours up– luckily, as both nights sold out almost immediately!
gogol 4So this was the year for anniversaries & poignant moments… the club, a long time favorite venue of the DC area- ‘Club 9:30’, celebrating 35 years of existence [and 20 years at its current location]. Named for its original address at 930 F Street, NW, DC— a home away from home for me, having seen & heard multiple examples of coolness crammed up in there, such as That Petrol Emotion, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Butthole Surfers, B52s, the Orb, to name a few… even a nice intro to the DC Hardcore scene, with Minor Threat, etc — I couldn’t commit tho’, hardcore boys aren’t very fun…  anyway, enough of the 9:30 Club! Bottom line: lots of great, grimy & slightly smelly memories… maybe I’ll tell you guys more later, especially that Orb show… 😉
Also, another anniversary was being celebrated by Gogol Bordello themselves! It seems that a particular release in 2005 has done extraordinarily well, “Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike”  and this tour was in celebration of its 10 year existence — a majority of the songs were from that album, with some unexpected diversions [which differed each night]. Finally, a sad departure of Elizabeth Sun, dancer & ‘hype girl’ of the band… she was joined by Pamela Racine, her predecessor, to inject a double dose of cool bad-ass Asian chick-ness to both shows, dancing, background vocals & pretty decent percussion when needed. It’ll be sad to see her go…

gogol 2With our front row position well-established [having waited outside in the bitter cold as a huge line formed behind us, we the early few] after slinking around rhythmically to some catchy samba & forro chunes piping over the speakers, by 9:15ish we were greeted by some fetching young lads from L.A. — ‘Chicano Batman’ the opening band — nattily attired in tuxes, ruffled shirts & bowties [clearly break-away or infused with spandex, considering the stage athleticism]. Their sound?  think Prince with less ‘Revolution’ meets trippy, late 70s Mexican surfer. A  hint of jazz, but definitely able to seriously ROCK– blisteringly hot & focused bass, charming & flirty front man on keyboard and rhythm guitar with luxurious flowing curls & a killer falsetto — just wished the sound guy could have balanced out his mic better.


But it’s allllll good, we’re still alive… [ha !] and the quiet, underrated & brilliant lead guitarist… sadly, even though the drummer was quite good we didn’t even get to see him do his magic — that keyboard & our lovely grooving frontman dominated the stage, which was fine with us… A good 30-45 minutes or so, then they were off, the serious roadies were back– checking & strumming & banging & flashing & ‘sibilancing’ & flexing & tweaking & hydration placing & smoke machining — an efficient thing of beauty, those boys… More piped-in chunes, getting a bit more giddy every time they played some samba we recognized… and then…. and then…?

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Illumination!  What a great way to start the set! YES! Eugene et al had finally taken the stage and we were fully in the palm of their collective hands…  I was fascinated by the different people we had seen outside waiting to go in — the adorable & seemingly reserved Israeli couple looking like they stepped out of a Burberry catalog in front of us in line earlier (who’d had a very short-lived moment of panic at first since they’d forgotten to get their tickets from will-call and was afraid we’d make them get in the back of the line, which was at that point curved around the block, aww, the poor well-dressed darlings… how cruel would we have been??) now crazed & sweaty & practically levitating during the rhythmic “heys!!” Burberry be damned!  One older lady who had never been to a Gogol Bordello show, horrified, with her dangly earrings & crisp Gogol Bordello t-shirt, clearly purchased that evening, as she was caught up in waves of bodies crashing into each other, [as, of course, along with the gypsy element, we can’t forget the PUNK element] and crashing into us, as we held our front positions fast & with purpose — every song better than the one before — Sergey’s violin, Pasha’s accordian, Eugene’s acoustic guitar, wildman Boris on lead guitar, Tommy on bass, Pedrito on percussion & vocals & ‘hype’, both drummers… sorry I forgot their names… shame on me… 😀  [btw, I believe some nice boys helped the lady get to safety eventually… bless her… we chatted with her later — and she remarked how much I looked like Natalie Cole… I do! but that’s beside the point… RIP btw, to my sorta twin]

Eugene Hütz is a fascinating man — OK, he’s not a golden throated songbird, don’t think he ever claimed to be… his lyrics are at times in severely broken English & very abstract, and the presentation of these lyrics at times don’t even make sense at first, but the man is a genius, and there’s pain & joy & storytelling in everything he produces. At one point during the night, we saw each other — he was working the crowd as he always does and the band was almost catching air, they were so on fire, and there, in the middle of this perfect storm he got in front of me, came close, looked me in the eyes, of course causing the multitude of boys behind me with their Eugene Hütz man-crushes to almost sever my torso on the barrier bar as they pushed into me to get close to him, and in those animated, dancing blue eyes I saw a man in complete…. control…. of… EVERYthing…. I studied him in that moment and got a bigger picture of Mr. Hütz, our ‘Genio’ — it was almost scary, the calmness… it was like stumbling onto a wolf in the woods and gazing into its eyes… was I matching his breathing? Was he as fascinated as I was? Certainly he won’t attack…. and then he was off again! Eugene Hütz might play the jester well, but this man is no jester…
Encore was almost like a whole new set, and when they started it off with ‘My Companjera’ I almost had a complete & sultry stroke! I’d been waiting for it the whole night! ahhh, sweet completion… so after almost 2 hours of gorgeous audible assault, and a few bruises, the lights went up, and off we went into the wintry night…

…and this was just the first night!! Second night I tried ombred blue extensions, with success, and while I was quite pleased, that wasn’t even the highlight of the evening! [she exclaimed with witty sarcasm…]

gogol 3There was a certain buzz in the air Saturday night that wasn’t there Friday… it was almost like the duende that was dancing around with us Friday night brought his tricky little pals for the real party! Those duendes can never pass up a gypsy party! I didn’t realize this was even possible, but whatever we experienced the night before was quadrupled Saturday night — the boys were on a mission. Song after song, brilliant! Each better than the one before, the encore was like a whole new show! Even with a tender moment with lovely Elizabeth, as this was her literal last show with the band… during an embrace, Eugene asked her if there was a song they hadn’t done yet that she wanted to do… she was a little flustered and couldn’t think of anything, but later regrouped, and before we knew it we were caught up in a delightfully violent & extended rendition of ‘Immigraniada’ “we comin’ ruffah, every time”.
It had to wind down at some point however.. even Eugene made mention of the incredible energy, and it pleased our Gypsy King… and once again, when the lights went up and the bouncers kicked us out, we his loyal subjects spilled out into the frosty night to stumble back to our lives…  at one point during our walk back to the METRO, Elena & I, drenched in sweat– our own & others’– looked at each other, grinned & said “what just happened??”
So I’m writing this Monday evening, having had 2 full days to decompress and load up on gallons of vitamin c-infused water, my voice has been reduced to a sexy rasp [hello boys…] but I’m feeling a bit bummed — could this be what postpartum depression is like? I don’t think I like this… it’s not me at all!  haha  In the meantime, however, in the back of my mind I’m sorting out what I’ll be wearing next year, and its inevitable turning to ‘purple’, because mark my word, we WILL be attending the after party. I better brush up on my Russian… 😉
Wow ! ..just WOW ! A night out with Ms Mac has joined my list of things to do before I am too old to Rock & Roll. Thanks to John Shore for his kind permission to use his brilliant photos of the gig. You can find more of his work at If you are ever at the 9.30 club in Washington keep an eye out for Gigi. She’s the one with the sexy rasp who looks like Natalie Cole !

Gigi Mac Remembers The Fete des Gitans And I’m Sure It Remembers Her.

Rose, Noir et Blanc en Mai…
To me these colors will always represent the Camargue, the gorgeous southwest region of France — a place where the native language  blends with Catalan & Calo into something cool & murky & kind of funky… the elegant pink flamingos [almost surreal to watch while in flight], the powerful black bulls, and the majestic white Camargue ponies…
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 So right now that June is here, the Mediterranean is just a little more quiet than it was a few weeks ago. May 24th marks the Fete des Gitans– le Pelerinage as some call it.  A pilgrimage to a little beach town named Les Saintes Maries de la Mer.  From what I understand [if you follow these things] shortly after Jesus’ death, christians were being persecuted left & right.  Somehow Mary Magdalene, Mary Jacob & Mary Salome escaped to safer areas with their servant Sarah la Kali [ Sarah the black]. Their little boat made it to Southern Gaul, or what we know now as Southern France. Rumors circulate around Sarah – some speculate she was Egyptian, some say a true Romani because she would collect alms for the poor – I suppose that’s a quality to have to be a Romani?  Some even say she was the daughter of Mary Magdalene & Jesus… whatever the case may be, and keeping a long story short, the Roms adopted her as their very own saint—Saint Sarah, and every year in mid- to late- May quite the gathering of gypsies transpire in that sleepy little beach town to pay homage to their ‘Sainte Sarah’… As a disclaimer, I understand that the term ‘gypsy’ might be offensive to some, but my friends, who are of Rom origin are happy to call themselves that [gitan or gitane in french] and I, quite fond of my friends, use it with love & admiration.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Since the details and the origins of the festival/pilgrimage get little muddled & confusing [sometimes I wonder if the gypsies relish in that – a little mild chaos always adds to the fun] I won’t dwell too much here, but the MUSIC!! I’ve only had the privilege of visiting once, but I treasure it, and the memory is still fresh in my head. You have to imagine as many gypsies that can afford to come, make their way down [or up] to enjoy their time together.  French, including the manouche, Romanian, Italian, Morroccan, Spanish, Turkish, Russian, Ukranian, Irish…  flamenco guitars [but of course], contra basses, violins, tablahs, dumbeks, flutes, tin whistles, fanfare brass, cajones, all kinds of things that shake & ring etc, etc, etc… sometimes in a pinch [which I’ve seen personally] an upside down ice bucket & a spoon – one must always keep the rhythm going!
In this clip [taken by my friends who attend every year] is Urz Karpatz, a favorite each year, but what surprised me was somewhere by the end [and off-camera the whole time I suspect!] was Manitas de Plata! a self-taught maestro of sorts, and the unofficial mayor of ‘Les Saintes’, as the locals call the town. That was quite a get, girls!  Manitas, nee Ricardo Baliardo, is an extraordinary gypsy-flamenco genius, and still performing at almost 93.  Whenever I hear about his soirees with Picasso, Dali, Brigitte Bardot, and so many more, I long for a time machine…
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 This was recorded the year I went – 2002 – by a dear friend who passed away a few years ago. This particular restaurant/bar/hotel is Les Vagues—a favorite hangout place for Manitas & his cousins & entourage in the Les Saintes right across the street from the sea — still can’t believe we had our own little session with the maestro himself:
still flirting, ever so charming… he even had Pikachu on his keychain – I suspect one of the grandkids hooked him up. haha
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Around the 19th of May or so, the cars & vans & trucks & caravans make their way, little by little into town. Apartments get rented out, parking lots fill up, vendors sell their wares—sometimes quite aggressively once they realize you’re not from ‘these parts’… every other corner or so musicians will gather, girls will dance, hats passed around filling up with Euros… if you settle into a nice spot at a café, you can witness all kinds of fun. The daytime hustle in Les Saintes is quite a spectacle, but then the night comes…. That’s when it all starts. All one really needs is a couple guitars, a few guys who really know how to play, because when one gets tired, he can hand it off to somebody else, and the crowd will come.  If there are tasty libations, all the better!
This little compilation captures some of the night time awesomeness:
more from my friends who manage to make the trip every year… even with a little bit of high jinx at the end – ah t’is quite a lovely shade of green I turn when I watch this stuff  😉
The cool part about the Camargue, this part of southern France, is that nearly everyone is related. The Baliardos & Reyes’, [think of the Gipsy Kings] distant cousins themselves, connect with the Soles’, who connect with the Regis’ who connect with Arenas’[and not necessarily in that order, but you get the gist] and practically everyone in between, and what you have here is ultimately la famille – family, and if you can hang, you sort of get adopted into the fold.  It’s a beautiful, musical, sometimes crazy thing! Can’t wait to go back…

Go Dancing Into The Fray (Liam McKahey and the Bodies)

Earlier this month, on April 10th, a crowd funding campaign was launched by our friends Liam McKahey & the Bodies. The band have recorded 10 new tracks & are hoping to attract the patronage of the world’s music lovers to get the album produced, overdubbed & mixed. They were initially hoping to raise A$7,000, that’s US$6600, €4750 & , in real money, £3900. The campaign met this target just like that. There are people all over the world who have a connection with Liam’s music &  are eager to hear some more but it was always plain that finishing this new record, “Black Vinyl Heart”  properly would need more than this initial contribution.

At the time of writing almost A$12,000 has been pledged. I know that the Bodies are excited & affected by such generous support. There is mastering, artwork, printing & pressing of CDs & vinyl, then distribution to be considered & paid for. Just another A$3,000 & this killer LP can be finished just right.The group are using Pozible, the Australian platform for creative projects. There are incentives to pledge from T-shirts to the whole Bodies crew coming round your house & giving your street something to remember. The world will be a better place when this album is released. All the details, a video & a musical taster, can be found at

 I have written about the band here & there. Say something twice, why say it again. So, loosehandlebars is pleased to hand over to our new international correspondent Gigi Mac from Maryland in the US of A. Gigi’s money is absolutely on McKahey’s Mob coming up with the goods. After some music, some very good music, she is going to tell us why.

  To say I have eclectic musical tastes would be an understatement.  Coming from a large musical family, with culturally & ethnically diverse members & friends, my philosophy ever since I was a kid has been:  if it sounds good, stick with it. Many years & countless genres later, I think around 2000 or so, I had the privilege of running into a little ditty by a band unknown to me at the time — Cousteau — called “Jump in the River”.  It was so lush, so arresting, so moody, I had to hear more, and figure out who was singing all this loveliness.  Granted, I’ve always adored gypsy rumba & flamenco music, so at the time of their discovery, I wasn’t into digging deeper for this stuff—maybe because I knew it would completely take over… I liked it where I kept it– it was like my little secret, my retreat.  If I felt particularly dark or destructive, I would fall into it — this voice, especially– and something about it would ‘fix’ me.

Fast forward to around 2011 or so. Cousteau having been broken up for a while, and I, during a particularly bored Google search, wonder what had happened to this band… I was content enough to have what I considered the most exquisite collection of songs I’d ever hear in my collection… that baritone, going as deep as it wants to, or up in an incredibly vulnerable falsetto, the thoughtful poetry set to poignant melodies…  Could there be more? Then I find Liam McKahey and the Bodies.  A new sound, new vibe, new brilliance—“beautiful songs of love, loss, opiates, trains and outlaws…”  Liam on his own on this ‘Lonely Road’.  This time he really gets to shine as a writer as well as a performer – bold step, but I got a feeling it was long overdue.
What perplexes the idealist in me most of the time is why more people aren’t stampeding over each other to hear him & his band!  I suppose in a world of quick money making hacks, capitalizing on posturing and being a brand, instead of actual music, to an equally vapid audience, talent– real talent, recognized by a smaller segment of individuals with extraordinary taste, will always thrive, if only humbly; one may not have 10 Bentleys in one’s garage, but maybe a well-maintained Triumph motorcycle will do nicely 😉
 So now we, the privileged few, have a chance to partake once again in a new effort by Liam McKahey & the Bodies — ‘Black Vinyl Heart’… I contend that they are still too far away from us up on the Northern Hemisphere, and I am daily very jealous of the Aussies, as I pretend to hunt for cheap Qantas flights… nevertheless, the band as it is has really had a chance to gel and achieve a nice cohesion. They’ve shared stages with others and are falling into place in the growing music scene in Canberra, which I understand was previously almost nonexistent.  Every time I hear a smidgen of what will be released I bristle with excitement! almost like sympathetic nervous butterflies lol I am particularly ready to go on this continuing musical journey with the ever clone-worthy Mr. McKahey!

Absolutely ! It’s my own fault. I asked Gigi for a contribution but did she have to be that good ? We hope that she will stick around & share her other passions with us but we are all going to have to raise our game. OK… Liam McKahey & the Bodies need assistance & just a little bit of your money. Later in the year, when you have their shiny new music in your life you will be able to say that you helped to make it so. One last time, to do the right thing go to...