When I first heard that the Boban Markovic Orkestar was coming to town, I thought La Tulipe was a strange choice of venue. A rock club on the northeastern edge of the Plateau district, it's in a largely Francophone neighbourhood and at the outskirts of the venue districts. It's also fairly big, but it has good sound and decent sightlines. Much to my surprise, La Tulipe was full - not Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings full, but full enough. DJ crew Royal Air Togo started the evening off with the requisite Electric Gypsyland vibe. I only caught about 20 minutes of their set.
Once the Orkestar hit the stage, 12 strong (two drummers and ten brass), it was clear that it was party time, even on a Tuesday night. Balkan music, to my ears, is a music of extremes - alternately fantastically joyous and heartwrenching. Markovic focused on the joy, though the slower moments had that keening, sorrowful quality that imbues much Rromani and other Gypsy music. I am assuming that a lot of what was played was traditional, as I was standing beside a crowd of girls who were screaming the words to every piece. (For my part, I only recognized two tunes - "Chaje Shukarije" and, oddly enough, "Hava Nagila.") Apparently Marko Markovic, Boban's son and trumpet phenom, couldn't make the tour; nor could their tapan player, so Aaron Alexander was admirably subbing on kit. Even with problematic monitors, nothing seemed to hinder the Orkestar's powerfully engaging two-hour set.