Monday, May 31, 2010

The Shondes at the Ann Arbor B-Side

I've raved about the Shondes before and I'll do it again. They're one of my favorite bands these days. Raw and beautiful, angry and delicate, driving and lyrical. All at the same time. This is what post-millennial riot-grrl punk is supposed to be about and they nail it. Wear it all on your sleeve...emotions, ideas, politics, gender & sexuality, religion. Introspective, but unashamed.

I caught them live two years ago but missed last years tour. Musically, they've gotten a lot tighter over the last two years, with better harmonies and better dynamics. Eli's swirling violin, at times a bit classical, at other times cantorial, are in constant duet with Louisa's melodic, in your face, vocals. Their new guitarist, Fureigh, both in look and sound, remind me of Mick Jones of the Clash...churning and nimble. And Temim's drums are were fantastic, precise, pounding and pushing the band forward.

The only drag last night was that the show was pretty empty. They were on the last night of a highly successful 6 week tour, promoting their new album "My Dear One" and had they'd been packing in clubs around the country. Last night was a Sunday night all ages show at a local teen center, with most of the college students gone and with a lot of the marketing directed at the local gay and lesbian teens. The end result was a fantastic end of tour show, with not nearly enough people there to appreciate it.

Here are two videos to give you a taste of what you missed (or what you saw if you caught them earlier in their tour). The first is live concert footage from SXSW and the second is an "introducing The Shondes" video. Great fun. For more info check out their Myspace page or grab their new album from Amazon.

The Shondes - ''My Dear One" Live @ SXSW 2010

Introducing The Shondes....

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Regina Spektor will play at the White House for Jewish Heritage Month

Hot off the presses...Regina Spektor was invited to play for President Obama to celebrate Jewish Heritage Month. I'm stunned and overjoyed. First, because I don't think the White House has honored Jewish Heritage Month before and secondly because I'm delighted by their choice. Spektor has become a poster child for a popular pop music performer who's comfortable with including Jewish identity in her stage identity. Awesome.

Here's Spektor's reaction, from a longer article on Spinner.Com by Michael B. Ayers.
"Having moved to America from Soviet Russia as a child with my family, we dreamed of reconnecting with our religious traditions and of making America our home" Spektor said in a statement. "Having lived here for over 20 years, it is an unimaginable honor to be invited to the White House by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, to an event celebrating Jewish Americans, and to be counted among them. Nothing in the world could make us feel more accepted and at home!"
Regina Spektor - "Samson" [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

Also read Ink Stains and Broken Glass. Two small thoughts about Yom HaShoah, Hey Regina, Barth's your biggest fan and Regina Spektor sings Eli, Eli.

Jewish Blues...Saul Kaye "dips the Old Testament into the Delta:

Am I a prince here in the desert, if I am heir to this thrown. If I listen to Hashaem...will I wander the desert alone. Will I die out here on my own?

According to his website,, Saul Kaye resonates with the parallels between the African and Jewish slavery and diaspora stories. On his 2009 album "Jewish Blues Vol. 1 Live" (CD Baby), Kaye takes his "Jewish experience and blend[s] it with the African one, much like my own journey, taking Jewish stories and putting them to African-based blues". A bit more mannered than Sway Machinery and a bit more Delta than Wolf Krakowski's blues influenced roots rock, Kaye's got a gentle grittiness that's really engaging. I dig it.

Moses Blues

On this topic, for a nice reminiscence on the Jewish influence in the Blues and Jazz, see this blog post by the Blues Blogger.

Hat tip to Wave Street Studios for posting this and other Saul Kaye live concert videos.

Monday, May 24, 2010

LA Jewish Symphony: Like the Human Experience - but Jewish-ier

LA Jewish SymphonyYep. There is one. A consistently performing Jewish Symphony. In LA. Since 1994. And, of course, I didn't know about it until today. (Go ahead. Rub it in). I don't see an official blurb on on the symphony's website, but here's a nice quote from the LA Times..

"the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony is an established and growing ensemble that aims to fill a cultural niche by exploring new or seldom-heard music by or about Jews."

The symphony seems pretty active and has two upcoming concerts, a "Humanitarian Aid Concert" to benefit Mazon on June 13 and a "Cinema Judaica" concert that highlights Jewish film composers and Jewish or Israeli themed films on Aug 8th. Both shows are in LA. See their 2010 events page for more info.

Zinovy Goro, founding member of the LA Jewish Symphony, discusses klezmer music

LA Jewish Symphony on JLTV Education Program 2009

By the it just me does the JLTV suit that introduces the JLTV spot make you claw your ears off. What a putz. Noreen Green of the LAJS wasn't much better "What is the Jewish Experience...but the Human Experience." Sigh. The most interesting thing about is that...we're just like everyone else. whoopie.

I'm being snarky, but I'm glad to know the the LA JS exists and hope to see them play sometime soon. I'm actually quite impressed that their "Cinema Judaica" concert focuses on films with Jewish themes AND skips "Schindler's List". Here's the run-down....
"Jerry Goldsmith's music from Masada, Elmer Bernstein's Ten Commandments Suite, and selections from films with Jewish themes by Steven Schwartz (Prince of Egypt) and Charles Fox's Victory at Entebbe Suite with Israeli-born pianist Andy Feldbau. The program will include World Music artist and composer Yuval Ron, featuring his music from West Bank Story, which won the 2006 Oscar for Best Live Action Short."
That's a great list. Go LAJS!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Contemporary Jewish Music: More possible musicians for Detroit's JCC Stephen Gottlieb Music Fest

Hot from the camp, JCC, and synagogue circuit, Contemporary Jewish Music includes a wide variety of pop-liturgical musicians and styles. Here is a list of some of my favorites that I passed along to the JCC Stephen Gottlieb Music Fest committee. For more of an explanation see my earlier post about Yiddish singers. As always, this is just a intro list..there's lots more out there.

Mare Winningham
The Emmy award winning actress is a recent Jewish convert. She recorded a wonderful record of original Jewish themed songs over Appalachian American folk music melodies.

Joshua Nelson
Nelson, an African American Jew (or Jew of Color), is the "king of kosher gospel." He mixes back and forth between Jewish, Christian and World music stages.

Julie Silver
Popular pop-liturgical songleader with a folk-pop sound

Linda Hirschhorn's Vocolot

If Debbie Friedman is the queen of pop-liiturgial songleading, Linda Hirschhorn is the duchess.

Craig Taubman
Major pop-liturgical singer-songwriter.

Josh Nelson Project

Popular Pop-liturgical songleader with a college rock sound

Todd Herzog
Popular Pop-liturgical songleader with a folk-pop sound

Hazzan Richard Kaplan
Jewish Renewal hazzan mixes hassidic, eastern, and contemporary music into a deeply spiritual mix (music starts around 4:20)

Temple (Danya Uriel and Eyal Riulia)
"Eyal and Danya are dedicated to revitalizing Hebrew chanting as a form of meditation and ecstatic prayer on the path of the heart."

Andrew Hahn - Kirtan Rabbi
Jewish devotional chant based on Eastern vocal traditions. "Kirtan is fully participatory, call-and-response devotional chant. A live kirtan is at once ecstatic, contemplative and — most of all — playfully improvised."

Iron Menorah!

As child of the 80's, Iron Maiden was a serious part of my soundtrack. Not because I was big heavy metal fan. Other than a minor obsession with Blue Öyster Cult, the lack of humor and the overt Christian references in much of the music always turned me off. But a lot of my friends were die-hard headbangers, meaning I knew Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and the Scorpions as well as I knew my own favorite punk bands.

Cleary, the guys in Iron Menorah, a Jewish Iron Maiden tribute band, weren't turned off. These guys love their Iron Maiden and play hard. They push the shtick hard in their stage performance, with mock-peyes swinging and hava-nagilla riffs raging. But for all that, they're actually pretty good. Definately head-bang worthy.

I was tipped off by a twitter tweet that said "Oh. My. God. Jewish Iron Maiden cover band called Iron Menorah at @mohawkaustin. Effing awesome."

Yeah. Pretty much.

Here's a video from their April gig at Hole in the Wall in Austin Texas.


By the way...if you dig this at all, hop on over to my buddy Keith Kahn Harris's Metal Jew blog for his chronicles of all things Jewish and Metal. I'm looking forward to getting his take on this.

Update: Kirsten Rosenberg, the Jewish lead singer of all-female Iron Maiden tribute band the "Iron Maidens" just chimed into say howdy. Hi rock. Everyone check out her group's take on The Wicker Man.

Hat tip to aquiferproductions for posting the video to YouTube and to the excellent rock photographer Steve Hopson for the band photo.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Mixed Marriage: Jazz and the Post-Klezmer Revolution in NYC

Greg WallI'm up late working on a list of currently active Jewish jazz musicians (e.g. musicians who mix Jewish music and jazz music) for the music fest and ran across this gem, "Mixed Marriage: Jazz and the Post-Klezmer Revolution in NYC." It's an hour and a half music performance and discussion with Lewis Porter and Greg Wall, sponsored by NYC's Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of the Imagination. Greg Wall is a great sax player who's played in a number of Jewish jazz fusion bands including Hasidic New Wave, the Greg Wall Trio, and The Later Prophets. He's also an ordained Rabbi. Lewis Porter is jazz pianist, author and Professor of Music at Rutgers University.

I wasn't able to embed the video, but you can watch it on YouTube. And you should....

Jewish Hipsters: Even more possible musicians for Detroit's JCC Stephen Gottlieb Music Fest

They're young, hip, and Jewish and are making noise. Here is a list of some cool Jewish musicians that I passed along to the JCC Stephen Gottlieb Music Fest committee. These folks play rock clubs as well as Jewish events and do it with style, with their Jewish identity a significant portion of their stage identity. For more of an explanation see my earlier post about Yiddish singers. As always, this is just a intro list..there's lots more out there.

Jeremiah Lockwood & Sway Machinery
Grandson of a cantor and a passionate delta blues guitarist, Lockwood
fuses the two into an amazing mix. Imagine if the Blues Brothers went
to Yeshiva instead of Catholic School.

Girls in Trouble
Alicia Jo Rabins folk-pop band, singing in English about the stories
of women in the Torah. Personal favorite of mine.

Amazingly good Orthodox hip-hop rapper. Raps in English, Yiddish, Hebrew, and Aramaic.

Yummy "Bible-gum" pop band from Chicago

David Griffin's Hebrew School
Wonderful guitar pop band that channels 1960's and 70's pop music

Shir Yaakov, Eprhyme & Darshan
Shir Yaakov's a soulful singer who performs solo and teams up with
hip-hop rapper Eprhyme in the band Darshon.
Shir Yaakov:

The Shondes
Riot-grrl punk band with lyrics centering on Jewish and queer identity politics

Good for the Jews & The Leevees
"The best band in the world since last Tuesday" Hilarious comedy musical duo.

In that video the duo is backed by the band, The Leevees, a funny
Jewish rock band.

Rav Shmuel
Hassidic folk-rock singer-songwriter

The Wailing Wall.
Swirly Bob Dylan-esque folk rock.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

More possible musicians for Detroit's JCC Stephen Gottlieb Music Fest: Sephardic / Mizrachi musicians

Here is a list of Sephardic / Mizrachi musicians that I passed along to the JCC Stephen Gottlieb Music Fest committee. For more of an explanation see yesterday's post about Yiddish singers.

Pharaoh's Daughter
Led by Basya Shecter, Pharaoh's Daughter plays neo-psychedelic Sephardic/Mizrachi folk rock. A friend described them as "a Jewish Jim Morrison getting lost in the desert." Something like that.

Led by Galeet Dardashti, Divhan plays Sephardic/Mizrachi folk music. A bit more mannered than Pharaoh's Daughter, but equally great.

Smadar Levi
Israeli singer of Morrocan descent

Yasmin Levy
Wonderful Sephardic vocalist. A mainstay on the world music festival circuit.

Sara Aroeste
Sephardic Ladino rock band

Sephardic psychedelic indie-rock band. Saw them live last fall and they were GREAT.

Yair Dalal
Israeli "Ethnic Musician," which means something like Mizrachi folk music treated as art music without becoming theatrical. wonderful.

Jaffa Road
Sephardic/Mizrachi group from Toronto.

Jaffa Road also just recorded a wonderful album of original Jewish
wedding music called The Hupah Project and sometimes performs under
that name

Cantor Aaron Bensoussan
Moroccan born Aaron Bensoussan performs Cantorial, Yiddish, Ladino and
Moroccan Folk Music, as well as jazz w/Uri Caine

Flory Jagoda
Grande Dame of Sephardic music, songwriter of Hanukkah classic "Ocho
Kandelikas" and NEA heritage award winner. In this video, she's
singing with Cantor Gaston (see below)

Cantor Gaston
Cantor in MA, originally from Argentina. Sephardic music with South American flair.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Possible artists for the next JCC Stephen Gottlieb Music Fest: Yiddish Singers

As I've mentioned, I'm on the steering committee for the Detroit JCC's Stephen Gottlieb Music Fest. We're just starting to plan next year's fest. To help out, I'm putting together some lists of possible musicians we should consider. I started with Yiddish singers because ever since I found out that the International Association of Yiddish Clubs will be having their annual conference in Detroit next August I've had Yiddish on the brain.

Caveat 1: These are just some bands I like, that I believe to be currently active, that I want other members of the committee to check out. It's not an exhaustive list, just a starting point.

Caveat 2: I'm not the only one making suggestions and I have no idea if any of these bands will be available or affordable, so these aren't a short list of candidates. Just some initial brainstorming....

So..if I didn't include a band you love and that you think is still active, feel free to comment and give me a dope-slap. And if you're local to Michigan, feel free to yell a lot. If we get early feedback that you'll come out for your favorite band, it will help get them here next year.

Wolf Krakowski & Fraidy Katz
Wolf is a Yiddish singing roots rocker from New England. He was produced by Frank London for John Zorn's Radical Jewish Culture label. Amazing. This "video" is really just his album cut stuck on YouTube. He has concert footage that he's going to get me. Personally, I think that Wolf would be an amazing show.
His Website:
His "Shabbes, Shabbes" video:

Fraidy Katz, Wolf's wife, is also a fine Yiddish singer. They come as a pair, with their touring band the Lonesome Brothers. Again, this video is just an album cut. I'm expecting some concert footage soon.

Lori Cahan Simon
Lori's a traditional Yiddish singer & folklorist from Ohio.

Daniel Kahn
Daniel is a local, but now living in Germany. He plays a raucous "Yiddish punk cabaret" drawing on the history of radical urban, intellectual, socialist Yiddish culture. I saw him play a fantastic
set for 400 at Temple Israel last year. He got a great reception from the mixed generation crowd. He just played at the Detroit Craft and Folk fest this past Sunday.

Adrienne Cooper
Adrienne is "Internationally recognized as one of this generation’s stellar performers of Yiddish vocal music"

Cooper sometimes performs as one of the "Three Yiddish Divas" along
with theatrical singer Joanna Borte ( and jazz singer Theresa Tova. Here's a video of the three of them.

A ferocious Yiddish klezmer/house band from London. Video quality
isn't great, but the sound is fine.

Klezmer Punk band (emphasis on klezmer) from Brooklyn with excellent Yiddish vocals

Elizabeth Schwartz
Elizabeth typically sings with Yale Strom and their klezmer band Hot Pstromi. She also sings in Ladino, Hebrew, and English. This is a rehearsal video.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Chazzanut Conference

Shabbat Shalom everyone, tonight I'll be singing Aleinu at services. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

One unsubtle segue later...

In addition to other annual Jewish music events that I can't seem to make it to, there's an upcoming Chazzan (traditional cantor) convention that I would so love to attend. It's sponsored by the Belz School of Music, a part of Yeshiva University in New York and will have performances and lectures on a variety of cantorial music topics. Sigh. Wish I could go.

In lieu of attending, here's a video from Cantor Yaakov Lemmer, one of the specials guests at the conference.
Cantor Yaakov Lemmer-Ribono Shel Olam

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Upcoming Michigan Jewish Music Events

Hi folks...Spring is upon us. My dogwood is flowering, the kids are talking more about camp than school, and bands are touring. It's a great time for Jewish music on the North Coast.
Here are a couple of concerts that I know of coming up in May. If you know of others, let me know!

Kosha Dillz plays Union Station in Traverse City, Detroit, and Mt. Pleasant on May 5, 6, and 7.

KoshaDillzKosha Dillz is a hot Jewish hip-hop musician. His latest album Beverly Dillz, has been described as "uptempo, synthesized introduction to a spiritual fast life of the Hollywood underground via Garden State perspective, sprinkled with a touch of unorthodox "kosher" heritage and culture." For information on his tour stops or about his albums and mixtapes, see his myspace page.

Daniel Kahn plays the Detroit Folk Festival and Craft Fair on May 15th (or 16th?)

Daniel Kahn Michigan's own Daniel Kahn will be back from Germany to visit family and to play the 1st Annual Detroit Folk Festival and Craft Fair. Kahn plays a wicked Yiddish punk cabaret, evoking the salons pre-war Vienna and Berlin singing about parasitic capitalist bosses and Russian army draftees. I saw him wow a crowd of 400 in the fall and can't wait to see him again. Sorry I don't know which slot in the two day fest he's playing, but check in on the Festival website. They promise more info soon.

Uncle Moishe and the Mitzvah Men will hit the Detroit 'burbs on May 16

Uncle MoishyUncle Moishe has been a mainstay of Orthodox children's music for decades, with a whole of series of popular CD's, video's, and concerts around the world. I don't have much info on the concert, but you can get contact info on the Detroit PlanIt Jewish website.

Heartland Klezmorim play the Detroit JCC on May 27

Heartland KlezmorimLansing's own Heartland Klezmorim will be playing at the JCC in West Bloomfield on May 27 at noon. HK plays a loose and brassy klezmer that's always great fun.

The Shonde's hit Ann Arbor's B-Side on May 30.

The Shondes are one of my favorite punk bands, mixing diaspora Jewish and queer identify politics into "a twisted carnival film noir come true." Their riot-grrl growling is driven by typewriter drumming and lifted by a swirling violin, lush, lovely, and barbed. Oh, and they're some of the sweetest folks I've met and I owe Temim a corned beef sandwich and a donut.

The Ann Arbor B-Side is an all ages club. So bring your all-ages to the show. And to get warmed up, grab a copy of their brand new disc.

Update: The Red Sea Pedestrians play pretty much everywhere

Red Sea PedestriansI goofed and forgot to include the touring schedule of The Red Sea Pedestrians, Kalamazoo's own klezmer-tinged roots rock band. My bad. The RSP is a family favorite and was in heavy rotation in the car for a month after seeing them live last summer.
"The Red Sea Pedestrians are a one-of-a-kind, full-blown, instrument-swapping fusion between tradition and the here-and-now. We’re talkin’ high-energy world-beat grooves, hypnotic laments from the earth, songs of celebration and wonder: a warped and beautiful blend of Klezmer, Greek, Gypsy, Celtic, Jazz and American Roots, all filtered through the band’s original vision"
Here's their handy-dandy touring schedule widget with all their summer adventures listed. They'll be playing near you at least once. Promise.

Band website design