Toronto’s Sound Academy got a little culturally punked out on Sunday night when Gogol Bordello enchanted us with their uniquely bizarre brand of Gypsy punk and turned the lakeside club venue into a Russian dance hall. Like a den of headless chickens with instruments, not a single member of the eight-piece band from the Lower East Side of Manhattan stayed still for more than five seconds as they pranced their way through 90-minutes of pure anarchy.

The leader of the pack, Eugene Hütz, a Servo Roma gypsy descendant from Boyarka Ukraine, set the pace early during the opening “We Rise Again.” It’s impossible not to admire his hyperactive enthusiasm.  Half the time you can’t even tell whether he’s singing in English or Russian, but you’re singing along nonetheless. As he swings his wine bottle around, his right-hand man, Sergey Ryabtsev, is in your face violently flailing on his violin.

Although the entire show was pretty much non-stop chaos, the end of the set was the highlight starting with the (almost) instrumental “Mishto!” Every time we dropped into the main chorus rhythm, the entire floor would erupt into one big dance party as if their home country had just won the World Cup. The energy levels only increased into the next song as Gogol Bordello inspired mass participation to sing along with the chorus of “Start Wearing Purple.” Sparking enough encouragement for the sweating mob to keep singing and dancing their way though the final stretch of “Pala Tute” and “Wonderlust King.”

Celtic folk punk band, Flogging Molly, opened the evening, contributing to the cause of a full night of singing, dancing and brotherly camaraderie. From the opening notes of “Screaming at the Wailing Wall” you could help but do a little jig on the spot. Front man, singer and guitarist, Dave King, would play a long with a little frolic of his own between verses. Before their iconic anthem “Drunken Lullabies,” King explained how the song had become a celebration of his native Irish background, alluding not only to the much needed peace in the country, but also the social responsibility they have developed and now becoming the first country to legalize gay marriage.

Much like Gogol Bordello, their 75-minute opening set came to a high near the end with lively singles like “Devil’s Dance Floor” and “The Seven Deadly Sins.” The seven-piece band, equipped with fiddles, flutes and accordions, maintained as much vigor as the lively crowd who came to party.

Both Gogol Bordello and Flogging Molly provide that classic punk rock sound that we all know and love, but with a spicy cultural kick. The native instrumentals and influence, along with an over-abundance of stamina make their shows an experience and one heck of a good time.



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