Live Reviews

Go_A – Club Academy, Manchester: Live Review

Go_A – Club Academy, Manchester – 16th October 2022

“Music can heal the wounds which medicine cannot touch.” [quote: Debasish Mridha]

Ukrainian band Go_A is the brainchild of Taras Shevchenko who in 2011 had the vision to combine modern electronica with his Ukrainian folk music heritage, the band’s name aptly consists of “Go” as “movement” and “A” from the ancient Greek. Towards the end of 2012 Go_A released their first track Коляда [Christmas Carol].

Go_A’s style is commonly referred to as ‘Electro Folk/Folktronica’ – google will kindly inform you that this “…is a hybrid genre of music that blends acoustic instruments found in folk music and some types of indie rock with the drum machines and synthesizers of electronic music” – even this relatively broad description feels a little restrictive to me when describing their musical style. Go_A’s music feels more akin to a combination of electronic dance music; similarities can be drawn with The Prodigy, with elements of heavy metal and drum and bass thrown in for good measure.

The band grew in popularity when their track Веснянка [Vesnyanka] won ‘Best Track in Ukraine’ and remained in the 10Dance chart on Kiss FM in Ukraine for ten weeks, going on to be awarded ‘Discovery of the Year’ by the station. 

Go_A first came to my attention in 2019 after I had disappeared down a late-night Youtube wormhole and discovered their track COНЦE [Sun] – their mixture of a traditional national dress, driving beat and trad themes had me completely hooked.

In early 2020 Go_A would come to worldwide attention when they were shortlisted as one of the sixteen acts competing to become Ukraine’s Eurovision entry with their song COЛOВEЙ [Nightingale], qualifying for the national finals where they won both the jury and public vote. On the same day that Eurovision 2020 was cancelled, it was announced that Go_A would represent Ukraine in 2021 – unfortunately, due to Eurovision’s rules Go_A would have to compete with a different song, this was a huge blow as COЛOВEЙ was one of the favourites to win the 2020 contest.

Go_A submitted their song ШУМ [Noise] as their entry for Eurovision 2021, but the song was not originally accepted as Eurovision deemed that it was too similar to the original folk tune and therefore contravened their very strict rules. The song was re-worked and eventually accepted in the form that would bring them worldwide recognition. Go_A went on to place second in the public side of the vote in the Eurovision final 2021.

Their lives changed forever when on 24th February 2022, the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine. In the first days of the war, all band members were forced to leave their homes and seek refuge in safer places. They have been on tour since that fateful day, promoting awareness of Ukrainian culture and raising funds to support their homeland.

This was Go_A’s first visit to Manchester and the Club Academy is perfectly suited to their high-energy, rave-like gigs. Anyone who hadn’t visited the Academy before could be in no doubt as to which queue they needed to join, it had formed early and snaked around the block. Scores of young Ukrainian people, many wearing the flag of their homeland patiently waited, their excitement for the occasion was palpable. The audience was predominantly Ukrainian nationals with a decent sprinkling of Eurovision fans making for a very full and electrifying venue.

Go_A gave the crowd exactly what they wanted, and opened with the Eurovision version of ШУМ, the crowd was euphoric from the get-go, showing the cathartic power of live music to unify and rejuvenate.

The band showed no signs that they’ve been on tour for an extended period, the energy of their performance, the passion for their music and homeland was more than equal to the enthusiasm radiating from the audience who sang at the top of the voices and danced throughout the 90 minute set.

I was particularly pleased to hear COНЦE live – Kateryna’s vocals are truly stunning and wonderfully unique, we were also treated to the ethereal COЛOВEЙ before heading back to some hard dance with KALYNA [Guelder Rose].

Club Academy is a fantastic venue, but oh, it does get rather warm in there. Add in several hundred, highly energetic Ukrainians and it reaches a new level. Just when you thought everyone might be getting a little tired we were encouraged to follow Ihor’s example and pogo-jump our way through the penultimate, trance track Небо В Долонях .

The crowd were finally given a brief rest of sorts as Go_A performed their original version of ШУМ. Kateryna encouraged the crowd to summon some Ukrainian white magic by joining hands and dancing in a circle. Similar to ring a ring o’ roses, the crowd duly all fell down at the appointed time before being resurrected and bouncing so vigorously that older members of the audience [aka me] were likely to pull a hamstring.

For their encore, Go_A genre shifted one final time with their drum and bass track Ой у полі. This was a gig that I will not forget in a hurry. The young Ukrainians were not only thrilled that Go_A had come to Manchester but also that there was a keen appetite from non-Ukrainians to share in their culture and make some incredible, joyful and unifying ШУМ.

The band is formed of Kateryna Pavlenko, who provides lead vocals. She has studied folklore most of her life. Kateryna can sing with the so-called “white voice”, an authentic folklore singing technique, and has a command of extreme vocals. Kateryna was an ethnic vocal coach for arts students. She writes songs and music for Go_A and her solo project.

Taras Shevchenko is a keyboards/percussion player and the sound producer of Go_A. He works in various music styles and knows how to combine completely different elements in music, like the Ukrainian sopilka, heavy guitar riffs and techno. Taras writes music for Go_A.

Ivan Hryhoriak grew up in the Carpathians. He has been playing the guitar since 12. Ivan has been experimenting with musical styles and sounds, including acoustics (finger style), prog metal (bass guitar), double bass in a folk orchestra, and electric guitar.

Ihor Didenchuk is a folklorist and unique multi-instrumentalist whose rich musical arsenal includes such traditional Ukrainian instruments as sopilka, frilka, floyara, telynka, trembita and drymba. Ihor returned to Eurovision in 2022 as part of the Kalush Orchestra, who went on to win the competition with a record-breaking 631 points and the third time that Ukraine have won the competition.

Go_A continue on their UK tour before having a well-earned break and then returning to Europe in 2023:

Go_A online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / TikTok @go_a_ukraine

Special thanks to Taras Shevchenko and first time gig attendee Eva for helping with the translations.

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