Monday, June 18, 2007

Phish and Avinu Malkenu

Phish Concert Poster from the Phish Poster ArchiceI got an email this weekend from my brother Nate about the band Phish. Nate and his wife Sara are big Phish fans. He wanted me to know that Phish plays Avinu Malkenu in concert. For those of you not familiar with Phish, they're a rock jam band in the tradition of the Grateful Dead. They pack stadiums and inspire fans like my brother and sister-in-law to drive all over the place to see their shows.

The story of how a Rosh Hashana prayer became part of regular set-list of one of the most popular bands in the country is exactly the kind that I was talking about last month when I wrote about the 'Jewish fringe' bands The Jewish Legend, A Silver Mt. Zion, and The Silver Jews. The Phish bass player, Mike Gordon, is Jewish and willing to connect his and the band's public identity with Judaism. According to an article written by Jacob Horowitz for JVibe, Gordon grew up in Newton, Mass attending a Conservative synagouge and a Solomon Schechter day school. Later on, he introduces his Phish bandmates to Avinu Malkenu and other Jewish and Hebrew songs. And this introduction was not just because he was fond of the music. According to the JVibe article, Gordon has an "effortless spirituality" and a deep connection with Judaism.

"Music," he explains, "fills many of the holes that religion leaves open. The philosophical feeling behind religion, a religious upbringing, and even the notion of praying to God is very abstract. This transfers directly to my relationship with music. While you cannot necessarily touch music, you can feel it and it is something to believe in." "I've always compared my movements on stage to davening [praying]," he added. "To me, music has always served as that type of religious release."

When I was growing up in the 80's, I was constantly awash with pop music full of Christian imagery and themes. I dealt with it, but always wondered why a popular music so full of Jewish musicians never seemed to slip in some Jewish material. It seems like it's finally happening. About time.


Phish 1999-10-03TMWSIY Avenu Malkenu




By the way, if you want to see some very well meaning, non-Jewish, Phish fans puzzling over Avinu Malkenu, check out this Phish FAQ page. I find it fascinating.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great blog. I always thought Gordon and the other boys from Phish were from VT. I guess that's just where they went to college. Don't think you mentioned this in the writeup, but they're broken up so if you want to see more Phish live you'll have to wait for the nostalgia reunion tour in 2015!

Jack said...

Huh. I didn't know that they'd broken up. I missed that. But they've been at it since the early 80's, so I guess it's reasonable for them to take a break.

Chus said...

This is what I think: Phish Reuniting For 2009 Shows

J said...

For all you Jewish Phishheads out there... http://kosherphish.blogspot.com/

Jack said...

J...awesome. thanks!

Jack said...

J- I just realized how brand new your blog is. Mazel tov for getting it started. Other than this post, I don't think I've got much to offer you but let me know if I can help out in any way.