Petaluma’s annual Beer Circus returns to save the world

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PLANNING TO GO?

What: The Lagunitas Beer Circus

When: Saturday, Sept. 14, 4:20 p.m.-10 p.m.

Where: Petaluma Fairgrounds, 399 Payran St.

Admission: $40, includes one beer.

Information: Lagunitas.com/BeerCircus

“See things you can’t un-see! Hear things you can’t un-hear!”

That is the seductively cautionary slogan/tagline/mission statement of the annual Lagunitas Beer Circus, coming to Petaluma’s fairgrounds this weekend in celebration of the over-the-top event’s tenth anniversary. Featuring over 100 performers on two stages, with an eye-popping array of burlesque and sideshow acts including jugglers, contortionists, aerialists and others, the massive 21-and-over gathering draws costumed attendees (there’s a Circus Costume Contest) to comingle in the company of food trucks, classic Midway games, elaborate face painters and of course, beer, beer and more beer.

As always, headlining the show is a trio of musical acts chosen for their specific combination of genius, oddness, outrageous stage presence and general danceability. This year, they are The Golden Dawn Arkestra, Lyrics Born and Gogol Bordello.

From Austin, Texas, the Golden Dawn Arkestra perform a vast array of musical styles (funk, rock, disco, world beat, electronica with long, jazzy, groovy, psychedelic dance jams) while presenting themselves as a vaguely Egyptian, sun-worshiping love cult from outer space. Lyrics Born, from Berkeley, is a popular, underground Asian-American rapper-singer-DJ with a knack for inventive musical combinations and a reputation for putting on a first-rate stage show.

The headliner this year is Gogol Bordello, the legendary rock band from New York City, founded in 1999 by Ukranian-born Eugene Hütz (rhymes with “Two Green Kites”). Frequently described as traditional gypsy music mixed with punk and dub-step, the band itself has a far more exotic and outrageous view of itself than just a list of musical inspirations. In the “artist’s statement” posted on its website (written in pencil on a very crumpled piece of paper), the band states the following.

“Gogol Bordello’s task is to provoke its audience out of a post-modern aesthetic swamp into a neo-optimistic communal movement toward new sources of authentic energy. With acts of music, theatre, chaos, and sorcery, Gogol Bordello confronts the jaded and irony-diseased. Our treatment of traditional material is frivolous, but is not irony-driven, and thus is real. We choose to work with gypsy, cabaret and punk traditions. It’s what we know and feel. The troubadours of neo-authenticity are coming as a trans-global art syndicate family that has never been witnessed before. PARTY!”

Well, whatever that actually means, it sounds very arty, very punk, and basically perfect for the Lagunitas Beer Circus. Eugene Hütz agrees.

“Well, yeah, we are pretty much definitely a band you can’t un-see and can’t un-hear,” he says, calling up from somewhere in Latvia, where the band played the previous evening. Of the band’s upcoming appearance in Petaluma, Hütz says, “We are very much looking forward to shaking people psychically, while entertaining them out of their minds and making them dance all night.”

As a band that was formed in New York just previous to the events of 9-11, Gogol Bordello – whose upbeat performances play like massive riots of sheer joyous freedom — has always existed as an antidote to darkness and difficulty, and Hütz personally resists the idea that world is rapidly becoming a more dangerous or dark place.

“I don’t believe the world is drastically changing at all,” he says. “If you look at history, change is actually pretty gradual and slow. I grew up in a very violent environment. I’ve seen terrible things. And yes, I’ve heard the doom and gloom all around, and I read about people’s perceptions that the world is ending or something. But one thing I’ve learned is that a lot of people’s ‘perceptions’ are out to lunch. Some people like bad news. They are excited to get showered by whatever crap that is coming in their minds and imaginations. We’re not like that, and we don’t give in to that idea.”

PLANNING TO GO?

What: The Lagunitas Beer Circus

When: Saturday, Sept. 14, 4:20 p.m.-10 p.m.

Where: Petaluma Fairgrounds, 399 Payran St.

Admission: $40, includes one beer.

Information: Lagunitas.com/BeerCircus

With a laugh, he adds, “And why are we even talking about such dark s—t so early in the morning anyway?”

Gogol Bordello, says Hütz, is a band that finds the humor in everything happening around them. Their songs avoid messages, in lieu of simply serving up high-energy music that is as fun to watch as it is impossible to stop listening to.

“We don’t give advice in our music, like some bands do,” Hütz says. “Advice is not our thing. We are a wake-up call. We are saying, ‘Wake up, wake up to what’s happening, to the fact that we all trapped in the Matrix, we are all trying to solve the Rubik’s Cube of life together, and now that I’m awake, and you’re awake, maybe we should just all dance.”

As for the aforementioned “Artist’s Statement,” exhibited as an artifact on the band’s webpage, Hütz says the document was discovered behind an amplifier in Gogol Bordello’s storage space, right around the time their new website was going up, and so, there it is for all to see.

“It was originally written in ten minutes for a Whitney Museum show in 2004,” he recalls. “We were confirmed to play, and the curator called and wanted an artist’s statement, so I sat down and wrote it - and then forgot about it. But it sounds pretty right on to me now. People have always been doing horrible things to each other, and they are also doing wonderful things for each other. The world is dark. The world is full of life. The world is unpredictable. The world is predictable. So let’s just have a party.”

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