Monday, December 25, 2006

J-Dub Showcase

This past shabbat was most certainly sweet. we had a couple dozen people over for davening and dinner. i led k"sh and ethan led maariv. i got to use a few pieces of atypical nusach, one piece of nusach beach boys and another from the gospel tradition. many of the characters reappeared the next day for our football game in malcolm x park.
post-football sarah beller dropped in for a bit and invited us to come to a j-dub showcase of sorts. j-dub is a record label that work to create hip jewish fusion. I am clearly in no position to dub anything hip or otherwise, but i am quite glad that sb reminded us about the event. Lenny had e-mailed me earlier and i totally forgot to put it in my date book.
right, so what was this thing? well, it was a concert at 6th and I. There were two acts, SoCalled and Golem.

SoCalled is not easily describable. He samples some wild stuff from early 20th century Yiddish theater to contemporary house beats. he also busts out with rhymes, plays accordion, ad libs, and drops niggunim. here is a video of a piece he performed (though it isn't typical):



Despite my never having had any interest in Yiddish theater, i thoroughly enjoyed SoCalled's set. I haven't entirely figured out why yet. Joelle put it very well, when she pointed out that we were not particularly versed either in Yiddish theater or the contemporary hip-hop scene so we were to a large extent outside of the fusion that was happening. i am friendly to that argument at a rational level, but at some other level, i loved hearing a guy rock out and splice together hassidic nusach and jumping beats. i couldn't understand his Yiddish rap, and it was a little much, but all-in-all it was an entertaining and certainly interesting 40-minute set. i'll check into his music some more.

the other act was Golem. They are a punk-gypsy-klezmer band. Again, i have very little experience with two of the three types of music being fused. the band was made up of a upright bass, drums, trombone, electric violin, accordion/vocals, and straight vocals. they mostly played a very high intensity horn-driven jams with some sweet solos mixed in. the musicians all played beautifully and the crew had lots of energy and presence. we tried to count the number of languages they performed pieces in and ended up with Russian, Yiddish, Ladino, French, another slavic language or two (evin wasn't there to parse them for us), english, and i think some of the gypsy music may have been in romani. There set was also entertaining and got people moving with great beats. i ran out of attention span before they ran out of set but i was glad to have seen them.

the venue is odd. it's an old synagogue with extremely dated stuff on the walls like "remember ye, the law of Moses". The audience seemed to have a lot of older folks and was decidedly light on hipsters, punks, and various other natural constituencies of the music presented. the audience was sitting in pews and the performers were set up in front of the torahs' ark. all told, a tough situation for an irreverent dude like SoCalled. I bet it would have been easier for both acts to get big audience participation had they been in a more friendly venue. That said, i thoroughly enjoyed the show and look forward to seeing what j-dub presents next. I hope they present it in more natural digs next time around.

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