I am a Yid. I like to rock. Veitur!

- [ Tuesday, May 25, 2004 ] -
Matisyahu web samples?
I've heard a lot about this guy, Matisyahu, the Reggae Hassid. He's supposed to be amazing in concert. I would love to hear what this guy sounds like and he hasn't released an album, yet (as far as I know).

Does anyone know where I can download any kind of sample mp3s or bootlegs? Does anyone have any bootlegs to post/send? I would love to hear a show.

If you have any information, please leave a comment or e-mail me at velvel[at]gmail[dot]com.


UPDATE (6/3/04): I have gotten a few responses via e-mail, and unfortunately, as of this time, there are no samples available to the general public.

- [ Friday, May 21, 2004 ] -
Two kinds of Jewish Music fans
Enjoy these two articles I got a hold of, while I'm in Cleveland for Yosef's wedding.

Article #1: Jewish rocker, Moshe Skier wrote this in 2000.

Article #2: I found this one posted on the Jewish Music Yahoo Group with the following introduction:
A friend in seminary in Manchester sent me a fax today, mentioning that a rav in the seminary (Rav Aronson) gave a shiur on music and concerts and he read an article which i scanned in (it was three pages long, too much to type) and posted here:
One of these articles is pure evil, and the other one is common sense. I hope you can tell which is which.

- [ Wednesday, May 19, 2004 ] -
JM Target Marketing
Ha! I just received a piece of e-mail advertising. Apparently, writing a smart-ass e-mail to a JM "star" will get you put on their direct marketing e-mail list. And no "unsubscribe" button, either. Hmmm.

My Jewish Blogroll, version 2
Version 1.2 of this post can be found here.
I updated some descriptions, added and removed some links.

These blogs are written by/about Jews, mostly. I happen to like Jews and have a vested interest in them.

Blog in Dm rocks. But in a Jewish way. The Hassidic Musician is an anonymous, Orthodox Jew who is a musician on the NYC simcha circuit. This guy has got some strong, controversial opinions and they're all correct. He is very articulate and nails each one of his points home. Highly recommended if you're at all interested in Jewish music. Especially if you don't like Jewish music.

Fiddish is the new "lightly-edited" company blog of Forward journalist Steven I. Weiss. You may remember Weiss from such blogs as Protocols, z"l. General Jewish news, and infotainment. A guaranteed solid daily read.

Hirhurim is a halachic blog with discussions of the relevant issues of the day.

Israelly Cool is an Israeli blog written by an Australian expatriate. He is an excellent pundit on news and politics.

MO Chassid is a zealous Modern Orthodox man who has some good rants. He likes to point out what's wrong with everybody else and what they should be doing. He tries to be positive every once in a while, but like most good bloggers, he knows the interest is in the outrage. And the outrage is what drives us to blog.

This Normal Life is a blog of neat, little stories about living a family life in Israel. He doesn't post that often. But all his work is quality. He is also published in legitimate Jewish publications.

The Shaigetz is a really funny, insider view of real Chassidic life in NY. I just read a post where he explains their secret hat code.

The Town Crier has a good perspective on current events affecting the young, frum world.

Allison Kaplan Sommer, an Israeli housewife, is the author of An Unsealed Room, which was nominated for a 2004 Bloggy. Commentary on living beyond Israeli politics.

The Village Idiots is a team-blog with topics similar to The Town Crier and Fiddish. The Town Crier is also one of the VI bloggers. It started out being a way to show examples of idiocy but it had a hard time sticking to that topic. Good oddball news stuff with a frum spin.

The Yada Blog is a Jewish gossip column that basically introduces links with headlines. Most of it ends up in a column for the online magazine, JewsWeek. It reads like the teaser for a Jewish version of Access Hollywood.

YUTopia is written by Rabbi Josh Yuter. He is a Jew living in Chicago, yet I've never met him. He is studying for an advanced degree at U of C and lives far away in Hyde Park. His posts are very intellectual and he has an excellent guitar tablature library for Jewish Music.

Protocols, z"l
Alas, poor Protocols. In my Jewish Blogroll post, I wrote:
Protocols is a team-blog out of NYC by a bunch of YU/ex-YU guys. It's kind of an uber-blog in the Orthodox blogosphere. The guy who posts about 90% of it, is Steven I. Weiss. General Jewish news, and infotainment. A guaranteed solid daily read.
Things have changed. Weiss got himself a paying gig at Forward and has a new "lightly-edited" company blog, Fiddish.

So what's the story with Protocols?

Weiss is still listed as the "founding elder" and appears to still be in charge of the thing. He enlisted the help of a few guest-bloggers to replace his posts. The blog has been pretty uninteresting (to me) since then. And the most-recent guest-blogger also has the benefit of being ignorant, misguided and extremely offensive to the tastes of the blog's (former?) clientele. Now the content sucks, and the comments are all about how the content sucks.

In general, the idea of guest-blogging is pretty shitty. The guest-bloggers haven't found their voices and just post the latest rant that they had in mind. It's not like finding a new blog from Google based on a keyword search. The audience has been following Protocols everyday for the last year. The audience hasn't yet figured out how to relate to the guest-bloggers. And it appears that the guest-bloggers haven't found a way to relate to the existing audience. Weiss, or whichever Elder remains in charge, should just pick one or two new bloggers as a replacement and be done.

I was sticking it out for a while, hoping a better guest-blogger would show up and that the current one would leave. Neither is the case. I'm not against the new Protocols, necessarily. But its character has changed so much, that it can no longer rely on its previous goodness to stay on my blogroll. As soon as its quality standard is raised, I'll gladly put the link up.

However, I am posting three new links to help keep people informed of the ever-changing Jewish blogosphere: Fiddish, The Town Crier and The Village Idiots.

The old Protocols is gone, but there are always better things coming up.

- [ Tuesday, May 11, 2004 ] -
Prolific blogging
I've been very prolific with the blog for the last few days. Don't get used to it. I just happened to have a lot to say this week.

Proper venue
As far as the Lag B'Omer show goes, the proper venue made all the difference in the world.

I posted about the last time I saw the Moshe Skier Band. Excellent show, but nowhere near what I saw this time.

I saw Yossi a few years ago, just after Purim 2000, the last time he came here. I think he had a different band then. It was for a fund-raiser for the Sephardic Day School. It was an awful, all-star lineup. Each act had its own merit, and some of them were good. I say awful because no thought was put into whether it would be possible to find even one person who would be capable of enduring every single act. The Sephardic dayschool's boys choir, Yaniv, Yoel Sharabi and Yossi Piamenta.Gevalt. Not exactly designed with the music-lover in mind.

The concert was held in a school auditorium that probably seated a few hundred. These concerts never make money. I don't know why they happen, but they do. There are big donors that financially support the entire event. Naturally, the donors get complimentary blocks of tickets for the best seats. Young, unemployed shmoes, like myself, get stuck in the cheap seats.

After agonizing through the musical horror of the evening, culminating with Sharabi, Yossi's band finally took the stage. He started off very quiet, as I'm sure he was warned several times before the show. Before he even had a chance to loosen up a bit, the evil crowd was hounding him.

"Too loud!"

"Turn it down!"

People had their hands over their ears. They were all the old donors who were sitting in the first few rows. My friends and I were in the back yelling, "More! More! Louder! Louder!" Yossi got confused and asked the crowd what they wanted. Money ended up winning, and Yossi ended up playing a set that was full of self-censorship. He never really got into the zone. He was great, but he never really got us to where we needed to go.

Jewish benefits suck.

Why not have music for music's sake? Wouldn't promoting Jewish art for art's sake be an excellent kiddush Hashem instead of a chore?

That was four years ago. Two nights ago, I rocked my Jewish heart out.

Thank you Kfar.

Lag B'Omer, Band #3:
The Piamenta Band

The Moshe Skier Band was truly excellent. If I would have gone home after only seeing the MSB, dayenu.

The Piamenta Band just blew me away. The band was so tight. The bassist always played the perfect note. The keyboardist was a dynamo. The drummer drove the band as he and the bassist played as one. Yossi had such a presence. The music just flowed out of him. Maybe it was all the Tehillim he was saying before the show. And Moni, Yossi's son and backup singer, was competent. He really just looked happy to be there. The show was phenomenal. The energy felt really good there, the whole night.

This set was only six songs. Only half the amount of songs as the last band. This band is very much a full-blown jam-band. Unlike some other jam-bands, the set list was also pretty much the same as all the taped shows I heard from this year, as well as their new "Live: New York City Performance" CD. But each performance was different enough that I'm pretty sure I can listen to all the recordings a few more times. But I would still go see them live every night, if I could.

Unfortunately, their set started really late and the show felt a little short at around 45-50 minutes.

The Yossi Piamenta Band is a force of nature that has to be experienced live.

Set List:
  1. Od Yishamah
  2. Baruch Ata
  3. Ve-Hoo Rachum
  4. Agadelcha
  5. Red House
  6. Shlichei Mitzvah

UPDATE (6/9/04): Listen to the show for yourself.

Shiny-Shoe Charity
After harping on some negative aspects of a certain Jewish music community, I would like to post an exerpt from a more civil e-mail from reader, Monro888:
Aside from the fact that I struggled for years to make a living, the real reality of life hit me when my first child got engaged. I could not afford to pay for a band let alone a wedding. It was a trying & difficult few months when they should have been joyous ones. In walks Shloime Dachs into our life & not only offers to sing for free but gets me a one man band as well. He knew my future Mechutanim & heard the situation. The wedding was beautiful & I have no words to amply thank him for taking some of the enormous weight off my shoulders. To top things off, he brought Yisroel Williger along with him to add even more to our Simcha.

I will add one more thing. I'm also involved with Chai Lifeline, an organization which assists families & children with Cancer. A relative of mine recently needed their services in a big way. I suddenly found myself visiting him in the Hospital several times a week. Do you know how often many of these singers were there singing at his bed side trying to make the day a little brighter? Bring a smile to his face? One day, I asked Shloime how he knew this relative of mine, to which he said he never met him in his life & was there because Chai Lifeline & Bikur Cholim have their numbers to call when these situations arrive. Mee Koamcha Yisroel!
I'm just posting a positive anecdote here to throw on the pile of questionable stories. These are two nice stories. This is probably something that should be on Dachs' website instead of a story about taking what is owed.

I'm not trying to make these people out to be bad guys. Some things need to change in this industry. There are also a lot of positive things going on here. I know that every one of these artists does his best to give tzedaka, especially from his talents. That is the kind of thing that can be used for good PR. I invite the entire Jewish advertising/publicist community to embrace these kinds of stories.

I still stand by all my statements. I will not change anything on this site without reform by action and/or statements directly related to my posts. But I do wish a yasher koach to everybody who gives back to the community.

Manischewitz, the Sheitel Macher
I replied to Monro888. I mentioned that whatever negative things I was posting, I was acting as an advocate for "Jewish consumers and allowing them to make better choices for themselves." I want to remind you that in the post he is complaining about, and previously in this e-mail exchange, I have been talking only about Jewish music and advertising in Jewish music. So Jewish music, and specific examples of it, is pretty much the context here.

Here is an excerpt from Monro888's reply:
If you do have lots of time on your hands why don't you "protect the Jewish consumer" by getting the cost of Matzoh down from $18 a pound so people who cannot afford to make Pesach can have a little peace of mind before Yom Tov? Or how about getting all the Kosher Brand Food Companies to lower their prices instead of ripping off all the frum Yidden who they know have to buy from them? Then again, its not exciting to go on your Blog Loshon Hora & bring up a valid point about Kosher food or Human hair shaitels that are $3000. Perhaps you may be someone who makes his living in the Kosher Food Market or your wife (if you are married) is a Shaitel Macher.
Just for that comment, I'm raising the price of macaroons, as well.

- [ Sunday, May 09, 2004 ] -
Blog Loshon Hora Email
Hate mail is a brand new thing for me. Oh sure, I've been involved in my share of flamewars in comment sections and bulletin boards, but this is something really special to me. Especially, because I think I'm right. And writing hate-mail to a blogger is a lose-lose situation for the hater. If you proved me wrong, I can ignore it. If you proved me right, I can publish it, and present it however I want. So here are some goodies, enjoy.
From: Moish JMfan
To: Velvel, SklarO, MOChassid

You should all be ashamed of yourselves!!!
Taking people to pieces as you bloggers have done - might be the reason there is so much tzuris in today's world. Will something really bad have to happen to you to make you think about your actions and words?
I cannot believe that Jews (religious Jews?) can be so disgusting!!!
You can post this message on your blog site - let's see you do that!!!
MoishJMfan, I shouldn't really give you so much attention, because your e-mail was the weakest. Intelligence is usually inversely proportional to the number of exclamation points in the e-mail. As far as I heard. The correlation between events that occur in this world, and our sins is loose, at best. Ever heard of bad things happening to good people? You should hope to repay your sinning debts in this world, rather than the world-to-come. But the point is, advertising with lies is taking advantage of people who don't know any better (I believe it's called "gneivat da'at"). I'm doing a public service. I critique the advertising to save the Jewish music fans from wasting their money on crap. They should know what they are buying. And if people only buy albums because they are best-sellers (Hashem yirachem), then they have a right to know if they are hearing accurate sales figures. Any published material (including blogs) are open to criticism. Jewish Music is not exempt, no matter how observant the people involved.
From: monro888@...
To: Velvel

I finally found the Dedi-Dachs story you maliciously posted in the Blog Loshon Hora Email [his emphasis]. Are you nuts or simply bored? First of all, the Loshon Hora & Richilus you are creating doesn't bother you? A guy Yumi is trying to make a simple living & you guys just bash him because you are bored & have nothing better to do with your lives? And by the way, I'm close with Dedi & decided to make a few calls & find out what really happened on that "terrible day of airline theft" as you call it. You ever hear of knowing the entire story before blabbing or being Don L'kaf Z'chus before posting something that can destroy a persons reputation let alone his Parnassah? The story was a little different than you say it & even how the story was printed. Dedi & Dachs were both supposed to fly first class. For some strange reason, when they got to the gate, Dachs' upgrade was not in the computer but only Dedi's. Since they both have thousands of frequent miles they were both entitled to the upgrade. Dedi arrived at First class only to find 9 seats around him EMPTY. Being that it was a holiday for the rest of the world (Christmas) Dedi did his thing & convinced the lady to let Dachs sit with him! What A big Aveira! You must be a Chofetz Chaim if you tell me straight out you've never done anything like this in your life! I'll tell you one thing. Dachs, Dedi & even Yumi do infact have a part of the world to come. You, Mr. Velvel (or whatever your name is) lost it when you decided to embarrass them B'rabim, over the Internet of all places! "Penny wise, pound foolish"! You should be ashamed of yourself! Get a life!
The background for this is that an anonymous commenter on MOChassid's blog brought up an old issue covered by BlogInDm and The Village Idiots a while ago. I merely clarified the source. I also mentioned that they were "defrauding flight attendants to sit in first class with Dedi." I responded with this letter.
From: Velvel
To: monro888@...

Monro888 (or whatever your name is),

Your complaint about the story is with the person who posted it on the internet: Shloime Dachs. Maybe you should be telling the story on Dachs' site instead. I simply stated how I saw the story written. As it's written, it looks very bad. Call Shloime.

Here is a newsflash for you: you don't have to make up outrageous lies in order to sell CDs to Jews. I will point out all lies in advertising as I see them. No Jew has a right to lie in order to advertise. Yumi is perfectly capable of making a living without lying. If not, then he should find another business. I'm protecting Jewish consumers and allowing them to make better choices for themselves.

Choose your language more appropriately when giving mussar. You certainly don't sound like anyone I need to take advice from.

Would you mind if I posted this e-mail exchange on my "Blog Loshon Hora Email"?
Monro888, I decided to post this without waiting for your permission. I'm a blogger and you sent me hate-mail. That's how it goes. Another point against this letter was brought up to me by the Hassidic Musician (BlogInDm):
I'll just note that even this guy admits that Dedi lied. His argument is essentially that since Dachs "was entitled" to an upgrade, it was ok to be dishonest in order to receive it. I believe that this is a worldview that is all too prevalent in that community, is totally wrong, and that they ought to be called on it. The fact that they not only did it, but used it for PR only compounds the situation.
Go ask your Rabbi if what they did was okay. If I would have heard the story on my own, I wouldn't have repeated it, or at least I would have hidden the names. But what's most disturbing, is that this story is being promoted by the artist as a Kiddush Hashem.

To all the haters. Don't waste my time with your shtuyot. Everyone has a right to create a decent product and to advertise it in an honest manner. Consumers have a right to honest reviews of said products. My opinion on products only count as much as the consumers' respect for my opinions. A bad review is not loshon hora. It's a public service.

Lag B'Omer, Band #2:
The Moshe Skier Band

First, recall this statement from the last time I saw them.

Now that we're a little more familiar, let me tell you that I was not let down. These guys rocked hard. Yossi Piamenta came out of the side room when these guys started to play. After listening to them for a couple minutes, he looked at me and said, "These guys are good." At the end of the set, right after the unbelievable Carlebach/Jeff Beck jam, the question came up, "can we do one more?" Yossi was standing right in front, and he was into hearing another one before his set.

The band, as a whole, performed great. They were much more intense in this club setting. Last time, at the shul, it was a lot more laid back. It felt like they were in your living room, just telling stories and singing songs. This time, they were there to rock. Every song gripped me and would not let go. The Moshe Skier Band played one good song after another.

The band's name is "Moshe Skier." There would be no band without him. They certainly jammed as one. But I have to say, that the star of last night's show was Mendel Appel. I don't think anyone came to that venue prepared to hear such an awesome display of guitar prowess (at least not from him). Living in Chicago, I have never really had the opportunity to go to a nice rock venue and witness a man with nice black pants, a nice white, button-down shirt, and a huge black velvet kippah rock so hard.

Go to their website. Get on their mailing list. Go see the Moshe Skier Band.

Set List:
  1. Ashrei
  2. Shoshanas Yaakov
  3. Sh'ma Yisroel
  4. Yonah
  5. Light Up
  6. Hafachta
  7. Ani Ma'amin
  8. Shiru Lo
  9. Tzama
  10. Kol Ha'olam Kulo
  11. Shlomo Carlebach/Jeff Beck Jam
  12. Yismechu
I recorded the show and I'm in the process of transferring the recording off my MiniDisc so I can upload it. There was another taper there with better equipment, and he should also have his up very soon.

Lag B'Omer, Band #1:
Somewhere between Black Sabbath and the Indigo Girls. They're definitely better live than they are in the studio. Not exactly my thing, but some of the heavier parts were very intense (in a good way). And it's always interesting to hear a unique-sounding Jewish act. We weren't always able to see these new kinds of things in Chicago.

"My sheitel smells like smoke!"
... might be a unique phrase heard in some homes this morning.

I'm, of course, talking about last night's Lag B'Omer event at The Note, the likes of which Chicago has never seen. Amazing.

Details to come...


All in all, a great night to see hassidic guitar genius.

- [ Thursday, May 06, 2004 ] -
I'm actually excited about going to see a musical
I'm not a fan of live theater in general. I hate musicals. I hate the music and you know how I feel about live theater.

I saw one musical that I liked. It was a small production at The Improv Olympic called The Roof is on Fiddler. The play was Fiddler on the Roof except all the songs were sung to the tunes of '80s songs. "Tevia's Dream" was "Thriller." "Anatevka" was "Life in a Northern Town." "Matchmaker" was "Like a Virgin." It was very clever. I liked the story and it was fun to guess what songs they would transform next. And the whole thing was done very, very well.

Over Pesach, my in-laws' family had a weekend getaway at a hotel, where they had an active in-house community theater. We all saw West Side Story. Let's just say it wasn't really my thing. I had already seen so many TV show knock-offs (the Goodfeathers, from The Animaniacs, did it best) that I was already familiar with this Shakespeare knock-off. I could have gone either way with the story. But I have to apologize to everybody, especially my wife, I can't stand the soundtrack.

The soundtrack always gets in the way. There are very few big-time, show-tunes soundtracks that I can stomach. I suppose I could listen to Fiddler. And I know every word to the Joseph soundtrack. But I only like that one for nostalgic reasons. We used to listen to it when I was younger on family road trips. I think I'm pretty much incapable of liking any new big-time, show-tunes soundtrack.

My wife has always wanted to go out with me to see a musical. It's something she really likes and would like to share with me. But we both don't want me to ruin her good time. That's why I'm so excited about this musical. I get to do something cool and at the same time, earn points with the wife.

I just bought a pair of tickets to see The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World, a musical about the Shaggs (there's a better bio here) at The Lookingglass Theatre and I'm really psyched to see it.

It's a really messed up story with messed up music. It's the true story of three sisters whose dad took them out of high school so they could practice full-time to be in a band. The dad saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and took that as a sign to fulfill his mother's prophecy. She said his girls would be his saviors by being in a rock band. He pushed them to practice, perform and record records till his death of a heart-attack in 1975. The catch is that they haven't one bit of musical talent among them. But that's all pretty subjective to our culture-worn ears. Who knows? Maybe in a hundred years, people will be laughing at the Beatles. Listen to their songs and it will blow your mind.

JM abuses of the words "classic," "selling fast" and "truth"
An excellent addition to the world of Shiny-Shoe clones was brought to my attention today [thanks to BlogInDm and also MO-C for more commentary on the subject]. When I say "excellent" I mean an excellent example of uninspired commercial conformity in a suit. I listened to his song samples and have found nothing special in them. They all sounded very familiar, like I heard every bit before. But it's the clear abuse of language, implying his lack of respect for his possible, future audience that bugs the crap out of me.

The original quote from the singer's website is, "As you probably have heard, my debut album hit the stores on Lag B'Omer and has B"H been selling fast."

Things wrong with this sentence:
  • "probably have heard" - from where exactly?
  • "hit the stores on Lag B'Omer" - it's not Lag B'Omer, yet. G-d only knows how long ago he wrote that.
  • "selling fast" - apparently so fast that the rules of time and space don't apply to him

  • But I'm sure he has the numbers to back him up...let's ask him!

    I submitted a comment to him this morning on his site that resulted in the following e-mail exchange:
    From: velvel@....
    To: Yumi@...

    When was Lag B'Omer?
    Your album must have sold out really fast, just like you said, because I can't find it.
    From: Yumi@....
    To: velvel@...

    Hi Velvel!
    Haha - thanks for you email!!
    Well - I guess I put the site up a few days early...
    But in [sic] will be in stores today/tomorrow.
    From: velvel@....
    To: Yumi@...

    In all seriousness, you don't feel any problem with lying about sales?
    From: Yumi@....
    To: velvel@...

    Truth is I have sold quite a few allready [sic] today in Australia!!
    So it's true!!
    From: velvel@....
    To: Yumi@...

    The "truth is" you wrote that sentence before Lag B'Omer and before you sold a single CD.
    I'm not sure what you think the "truth is" and the fact that you might have sold more than one CD in Australia (possibly to a bookstore?) isn't really the message you are saying on your website.
    From: Yumi@....
    To: velvel@...

    Oy Velvel....
    Let's just say... we'll leave it right here....
    iy"h it will sell well... yes I should have waited a few days to write that...
    "selling fast" is a very vague term anyway...
    Hope you actually buy one!!!
    Let me know what you think of it!!!
    "Selling fast" is indeed a "vague term." "Selling" implies that it's being sold at this moment. "Fast," a qualifier of speed, requires two things: an amount of something to be sold and some length of time in order to measure the rate.

    Another vague word might be "classic." Here is a quote on his site about his new (or about-to-be new) album:"Torah Harbeh - Yumi's Debut album - is a classic album with 10 original commercial songs."

    Things that are amusing in this sentence:
  • "classic" - I think this word is usually associated with time spent being appreciated.
  • "commercial" - commercial? That's supposed to be a selling point?

  • Yumi, congratulations on your classic, commercial album that is already a top-seller around the world, after being on sale for only a short time of negative three days.

    UPDATE: The Yumi website now has a couple unnoted, stealth corrections.

    On Friday, May 7th, this was noticed. The offending sentence:
    As you probably have heard, my debut album hit the stores on Lag B'Omer and has B"H been selling fast.
    has been replaced with
    As you probably have heard, my debut album hit the stores for Lag B'Omer and has B"H been selling fast. (In Australia at least - we are ahead in time you know!)
    Note the word "on" changed to "for" and the addition of a few hours padded by a timezone difference.

    The second change, I noticed on Sunday, May 9th. On the album page, the first sentence used to read:
    Torah Harbeh - Yumi's Debut album - is a classic album with 10 original commercial songs.
    This is the current, more tasteful edit:
    Torah Harbeh - Yumi's Debut album - features 10 original chassidic songs.
    I hope I'm not the only one proofreading that site.

    UPDATE (5/10): The content of the intro-letter on the front page is very dynamic and can change at any time. Especially when I write about it. I will post no more corrections here. However, if I see any more outrageous claims, I will let you know.