Gogol Bordello gets avant hard

"Britney Spears and the Strokes — they're the fucking same. More about haircuts than music," growls Eugene Hetz, lead singer of New York gypsy punk cabaret Gogol Bordello. "The great majority of art and music is produced with gimmick in mind, and has desensitized impressions instead of delivered a fireball of energy."

Hetz is quite the firebrand himself. And right now, brandy and Captain Beefheart are his fuel as he hurtles across Idaho packed into a van with eight others. Hetz and his multicultural compatriots (Ukrainian, Israeli, American) met on the New England wedding circuit in 1998. They now marry fevered chunks of accordion, fiddle, guitar and sax for a thick miasma of cultural chaos and violent vaudeville appropriately described as "avant hard." The outcome isn't strictly traditional, though Hetz stresses its authenticity.

"This band is built upon strong characters," the Eastern European refugee emphasizes, "actual people who have lived nomadic lifestyles for a good part of their life and came together in New York. This is why I view our music as authentic, because it comes from authentic experiences."

Gogol Bordello's absurdist theatrics have attracted the movers and shakers in New York's art world, resulting in a 2002 Whitney Biennial showcase, while its alcohol-soaked antics achieve an intensity Iggy Pop and Pogues fans appreciate. This past September, the group released Multi Kontra Culti vs. Irony, its second collection of surreal stories set to a Slavic stomp.

"Music has the power to take you out of sadness," says Hetz. "And that's why joyful music comes from poverty-stricken areas."

Gogol Bordello plays the Masquerade Sat., Oct. 19.??