Absurdist folk-punk collective Sirius.B may be fairly new to the Asheville music scene, but their sound harkens back to an earlier era. Or eras, perhaps.
The group is a scene unto itself, for starters. They packed their Saturday, Oct. 13, appearance at Bobo Gallery with a collection of punk street musicians, belly dancers, arty types in granny dresses and well-coifed fashionistas. Booties were shaking. Exotic dance steps were being executed. It was rather what one would imagine Athens, Georgia’s 40 Watt Club to have been like in the early days of R.E.M.
Only with more gypsy leanings. And Pancho “Chris” Bond’s sometimes snarling vocals would likely have frightened shy ‘80s Michael Stipe.
Bond’s more-punk-than-pretty antics would not, however, have intimidated mustached Ukrainian refugee Eugene Hütz, leader of New York gypsy-punk icons Gogol Bordello. It’s obvious that Sirius.B draws some inspiration from Gogol Bordello, blending folk instrumentation (violin, viola) with marching-band style bass drum, electric guitar and (lest things get too serious) kazoo. There’s also the matter of Eastern-block flavored tunes like “Bella Ciao” — the sort of fare you’d expect from a Hungarian troupe of street performers outside a Parisian cafe.
There’s nothing wrong with usurping the gypsy-punk theme. In fact, with Hütz busying himself as a movie star these days, there’s an opening for such a band and fans are clamoring. (Asheville just voted Sirius.B among their favorite unknown bands in the 2007 Xpress reader’s poll.) A Sirius.B show carries the brewing excitement of something big in the making, probably much as fans felt in Gogol Bordello’s early days, circa 1999 (though it’s unlikely Bond will be kicked out of any clubs — as Hütz was, famously — for his stage antics).
One more comparison: The Pogues. I have to say it. There’s a certain sense of unpredictability (perhaps staged, but palpable, nonetheless) and an undercurrent of righteous anger to Sirius.B’s songs. Take the raucous, irascible “Francophile”: emotive, danceable and fiery. Surely there’s an element of the Shane McGowan (with a few more teeth and a chip on his shoulder) who took his band’s name from the Irish phrase “póg mo thóin” (meaning “kiss my arse”), yet still sweetly penned “Christmas in New York.”
Sirius.B, it’s worth noting, is far prettier than the Pogues. Or Gogol Bordello. On the whole, they may well deserve some sort of prize for being Asheville’s most aesthetically pleasing band — that is, if everyone could just get past their impressively irreverent, combustible, three-ring circus of sound.
Alli Marshall, A&E reporter