I don’t want to get too personal here but the whole tone of the evening leading up to seeing Balkan Beat Box was replete with the bittersweet. After losing one friend to Seattle, I had to say goodbye to another good friend of mine who is heading west. The way I was feeling, I didn’t even want to take pictures when I entered the large Auditorium. If I hadn’t been with him, I was in the sort of mood to be by myself all alone drinking tea and sulking to Belle and Sebastian. It’s fairly crucial that I mention all of this because it shouldn’t be understated how dramatically Balkan Beat Box lifted my mood that night. I went from despondent to dancing in the geography of about an hour.
This was my very first experience with NYC based Balkan Beat Box and considering the connection of Ori Kaplan being previously part of Gogol Bordello, I felt it might be a rough affair. It was around this same time last year that I had actually witnessed the drum riding spectacle that was Gogol Bordello and thought it rather miraculous that I emerged without a fractured bone or a broken lens. The difference between seeing the two bands despite Ori’s previous history is that at Balkan Beat Box, people were respectful of space. They didn’t ram into you like a bull seeing red but instead danced in their own area. Of course, it wasn’t completely sold out either but there was a definite crowd enjoying the show.
I should also say that even though Balkan Beat Box is technically a duo, there was an entire entourage on stage giving the songs a fun triumphant sound. The dual drumming was filled in with the sounds of guitar, bass, and most notably saxophone. The backing vocals also added an extra kick. And, like the fun dance party they wanted to be, the audience was invited to join them on stage for the last song. It felt rather joyous.