[ATTENDED: April 7, 2016] Xylouris White
I saw Gogol Bordello a few years ago and the show was fantastic. For many bands, seeing them once is enough, but for GB, I had to see them again. So I was pretty psyched that they were going to play at Union Transfer an excellent club in Philly.
When I looked on their site, they said that the opening act was going to be Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas. I checked out their stuff and it was good. But that must have been for a previous tour, because when I got there, the listed opening act was Xylouris White. I couldn’t even imagine what that meant, much less how to say it.
So imagine my surprise when the band came out and it was a guy (with crazy hair) on drums and then a guy with crazier hair and a big beard on what turned out to be a Cretan lute. And that was it.
After no introduction, just a Hello Philly, George Xylouris (hence the name) started playing the lute. And it was intense. He played really fast riffs and notes and kept up a very loud rhythm on the low strings. It had a drone like quality and was really loud.
I was closer to the drummer, Jim White (hence the rest of the name) and I was mesmerized by him. He had a relaxed smile on his face and was doing all kinds of interesting moves with his arms. He seemed to pull sticks from behind his back or raise his arms way in the air. And the drumming seemed to be… abstract. It always worked but it never worked in a conventional way. So it turns out that the drummer, Jim White, started Dirty Three, a fantastic instrumental band, but I didn’t know that until after the show.
Nevertheless, I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. he switched to mallets and then back to sticks. He plays sparely and then really loudly. He played the rims, he clicked sticks and he even seemed to drop the sticks intentionally on the drum heads to make interesting sounds. And then every once in a while he would put forth an incredible burst of fills and noise. It was very cool.
I thought I took more pictures from the show, but it turns out I have more video. So here’s a fun 15 seconds of chilled out drumming from White.
Xylouris, by the way, was playing the whole time. Sometime its was incredibly loud drones, other times there were some seriously fast finger picking. He sang for a number of song, but he was singing in Greek (I assume) so who knows what he was saying. Incidentally, there was a guy behind me who shouted something in Greek to Xylouris, which registered a smile.
I have no idea how many songs they played. I have no idea if the songs were improved. I couldn’t tell anything. I thought he even said at one point–one more short song and they were are done, but that song proved to be very long and was followed by something else.
The whole set was mesmerizing. Here’s a clip of them rocking out from fairly early in the set (before Jim took his jacket off).
And then there’s this great set-ending moment.
I was intrigued enough to buy their CD and much to my surprise, the CD is really rather mellow. There’s only a few places where the drums are really loud and the lute is played beautifully with all kinds of fingerpicking and whatnot. In other words, nothing at all like the live show. And that’s cool too.
Turns out that George Xylouris comes from a musical family and has been playing the Cretan lute since he was little. He has played with all kinds of folk and rock dignitaries.
It proved to be an unexpectedly delightful show.