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

- [ Tuesday, August 31, 2004 ] -
Yushkie vs. Dylan
Here is an old comic book from a May 1974 National Lampoon that was revealed to me today. It wavers somewhere between mildly offensive and hysterical.

Son-O'-God Meets Zimmerman

Showtunes are Jewish
I'm on the verge of getting kicked off the Jewish Music Yahoo Group.

I took offense at someone's description of two concerts, in which he claimed that Blue Fringe and Yidcore were decidedly not Jewish music.
"a heavy metal Jewish punk rock band (there's an oxymoron)"
"It wasn';t very Jewish and I have no idea how they wound up at the cocnert."
"...sometimes you need to laugh at psychos such as these."
Later in his review, he fawned over Dudu Fisher and his performance of Broadway showtunes "in a Jewish way."
"He sang ... of course, show tunes from Les Miserables (he played the lead character Jean Valjean)..."
"The whole evening was VERY Jewish, even the show tunes were sung with words from Davening..."
After a back-and-forth about who considers what kind of music to be Jewish, I was told to shut up. Then I offered the "sharp" reply,
"I feel bad for you. You will never get to hear more kinds of Jewish music."
I'm pretty sure they all hate me there.

Enjoy the thread.

UPDATE (9/1/04): Showtunes are Jewish and kosher. (c/o BlogInDm)

- [ Thursday, August 26, 2004 ] -
Funny Narc
We had Farbrengiton practice last night.

SN was giving me a ride and on our way, his brother, YN, called to let him know that through some kind of paperwork mix-up/misunderstanding with his car registration and a license which may or may not be suspended, he was arrested and in the custody of the Evanston police. We went to go bail him out. It wasn't too far out of our way, and a similar thing happened last week.

In the cop station, we were a little amused by things and we were trying to be friendly to the officers behind the desk. They would have none of our amusement and kept their cop faces on. SN put up the cash and signed the forms. They said it would take 15 minutes (it was more like 45) to bring YN up from the holding place.

The waiting area was clean enough, but really not the place we wanted to hang out, so we went outside to have a little bit of band practice on our own. We were working on a song, and we needed the nail down the timing. I took out my guitar and we just started playing there on the street in front of the cop station.

We played for a while and got looks from civilians as well as cops. Most of the looks were of mild interest and more smiles than frowns.

I spotted a guy coming out of the police station. He looked like a thug. He was a big tough-guy. He walked like a tough-guy and had a tough-guy face on. He was wearing jeans and his T-shirt had a jolly-roger on it. He was carrying two bulky gym bags. Definitely a narc.

We were still playing and tough-guy came over to us. He got up real close and looked me in the eyes. He was wearing a badge around his neck.

"Do you see my shirt?" he said. He pulled the badge aside to reveal the words, "TUNE OR DIE!"

"You're out of tune!" he said. Then he walked away.

I was out of tune, but not that much. I think he was more concerned with enforcing his clever T-shirt. Either way, I couldn't play much longer without feeling guilty. I tuned up.

After this whole mess, we had an excellent practice.

- [ Wednesday, August 25, 2004 ] -
Matisyahu on Kimmel
I stayed up to watch the famous Hasidic, reggae superstar on Kimmel last night. He certainly rocked the house. He put on a great performance and the crowd loved it. I couldn't understand a word, but I'm hoping to purchase the CD and look at the liner notes.

Matisyahu did very well on the couch. Kevin Nealon, another guest from last night, started hassling Matisyahu like an ignorant, gentile co-worker, asking him if he would play a gig on Shabbos for a million dollars. Matisyahu performed a kiddush HaShem (sanctification of G-d's name) by dismissing the hypothetical offer, and saying that he would never even consider a gig on Shabbos for $4 million.

I would love to get my hands on a CD, but I think I'm going to wait a bit. Since it took the site so long to be past the under-construction phase, and the product plugs on the show sounded iffy, I'm a little wary about "pre-ordering" the CD. Not helping to ease my mind, I tried to use the contact form for the page and I got errors. JDub, the label, also has no links for contacting them.

If someone has some contact info, and a real release date, sending me the info would be greatly appreciated.

- [ Tuesday, August 24, 2004 ] -
Al Dvorin, z"l

Baruch Dayan Emet.

Al Dvorin, z"l, just got killed in a car wreck in California on Sunday. He was a rock'n'roll Jew. He was 81 years old.

Al Dvorin, z"l, is most famous for coining the phrase, "Elvis has left the building" in 1954. He was a road manager, band leader and talent agent to various degrees for Elvis until his final tour in 1977.

I've never met the man, but I know his family. The Dvorins are a very nice family and longtime members of the Chicago Jewish community. My blessings go out to the Dvorins.
HaMakom yenachem et'chem b'toch sh'ar av'lay Tzion v'Yerushalayim.

May the Omnipresent comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

- [ Monday, August 23, 2004 ] -
Matisyahu Samples, Finally
As I previously mentioned, here, there has been a dearth of Matisyahu material on the web. His site has been up for a while with very limited info for someone who doesn't get to attend concerts in the New York area.

Now we have two ways for Matisyahu to prove that he is worthy of the buzz:
I listened to the clips. Sounds like regular reggae to me. It's not bad reggae, but it doesn't stand out. I'm not a connoisseur and I will point these samples in the direction of some of my reggae-enthusiast friends, to seek their opinions.

I'm looking forward to seeing him on TV. I know it'll be a lot more entertaining to see this coming out of a hassidic-looking guy's mouth. I also hope he plays with a band. I hate playback (think karaoke).

Although this doesn't strike me as outstanding, musically, I love the fact that this is another step of Jewish music venturing out into more musical territories, especially those outside chazzanut and bubble-gum pop. And for this, I congratulate Matisyahu and all his fans.

Lively up yourself, Hassidic Reggae-man.

- [ Thursday, August 19, 2004 ] -
Bands vs. Producers
Psycho Toddler discussed the concept of studio musicians.
BlogInDm brought it to a wider audience and entertained some comments.
Psycho Toddler responded to these comments, and gave some examples.

I figured it out. I know the key difference between shiny-shoe and JFR (Jewish folk-rock).

The difference is not motivation, as MOChassid first thought.

The difference is more about studio musicians, but not entirely in the way that Psycho Toddler says.

The key difference is in the focus of the music. There are four basic creative elements that make up professional music: singers, instrument-playing musicians, writers and producers.

The shiny-shoe genre is centered around the singer/producer, and the JFR genre is centered around the band/writer.

The "singer-songwriter" genre is a little different, and I will get back to it.

A "band" is a group of people who have a committed musical relationship that involve creating music with instruments. Bands' best moments come when they communicate and interact musically, one playing off the next. There isn't a single shiny-shoe band. The Chevra aren't a band, they're a singing group. Neginah are an orchestra. They are people on a list of play-for-hire musicians that read music off a chart. Maybe they understand the words of their songs, maybe they don't.

Between the band and the song-writer, the band rules the song. Usually, the song is written by one or more of the band-members.

In the singer/producer world, a singer is coupled together with a producer. Aside from the mandatory one or two songs per album written by the singer, all songs are bought or commisioned from a song-writer and arranger. After this transaction, the song-writer is out of the picture forever. The producer rules the song.

The best producers are the ones who let the talent of the musicians shine through. The producer should be all but unnoticable when listening to the music. A heavy-handed production is like a great dish smothered with too much ketchup. Spice is nice, but it should bring out the flavor of the food.

Studio musicians, tools of the producer, are excellent musicians by nature. But studio musicians can only be as good as the orders they follow. On some occasions, they are allowed to be creative. Often times in the JM world, they are not. They will be limited by the producer who has the ultimate authority.

Bands may seek a studio musician for a track every now and then, but the original band members usually carry the song.

There are some excellent producers out there, but often I find their albums to be lacking unless they are working with a band. Brian Eno's stuff is boring, artsy crap. But when he works with U2, the end result is brilliant.

An exception to the "band vs. producer" debate is the singer-songwriter. Members of this genre are usually found to be with the JFR scene, as opposed to shiny-shoe. A singer-songwriter is a singer and songwriter who is also a one-man show who also plays an instrument. While Eli Gerstner is both a singer and a songwriter, he is mostly a producer. Gerstner is capable of being a singer-songwriter but that's clearly not his market. Your average JM singer may write a song or two, but the lion's share on any given album is from an outside writer. Big production is the antithesis of "singer-songwriter." Some examples of JM singer-songwriters are Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, Chaim Dovid, Yosef Karduner, and more recently, Avraham Rosenblum.

Unless produced with a light touch, singer-songwriters can fall victim to everything that is wrong with shiny-shoe music. The only thing they have going for them is that they also play an instrument.

Bring in too many session players and an outside producer, you're looking for trouble. Bring in an outside arranger, you might be creating a well-polished turd.

If you think what I just wrote is a bunch of ignorant garbage, you can ignore it. The real difference between shiny-shoe and JFR is preferred instruments. Keyboard/horns vs. guitar.

- [ Wednesday, August 18, 2004 ] -
The Rebbe of Oakley
Make your very own "Rebbe of Oakley" mask! Follow the link to the big version of this picture and print it. Cut out the face and paste it on some cardboard. Tape it to a stick. Presto! You have a "Rebbe of Oakley" mask!

Use it in good health.

Warning: if you see him on the street, don't challenge him to a mandolin-duel. You will lose. He will grind you up, pack you in his bowl and smoke you. Then he'll probably drink some Stroh's.

Weirdness in the Universe
I got this e-mail today:
This is weird. I came across your website whilst browsing jewishmusic.com. Whereas your band plays Lubavitch/nü-Carlebach/jazz/jam-band/punk, my band (White Shabbos) plays Lubavitch/Carlebach/reggae/dixeland/country/punk (otherwise known as Jew-maican Punk-try). I guess great minds think alike.

I enjoyed "I am a Jew". You can hear White Shabbos at

Maybe we can do a show sometime with Farbrengiton, White Shabbos and Goin' Chassidish (www.goinchassidish.com)

Michael Wagner
White Shabbos
Sweet. I love their song, "White Donkey (Ki Va Moed)."

- [ Saturday, August 14, 2004 ] -
Ambassadors for peace.

- [ Wednesday, August 11, 2004 ] -
Boring Moving Details
Please allow me to get very local for a moment, in this global forum.

My wife and I are moving into our first condo. The closing of our condo took less than two months after we had our first conversation about moving. I did very little to facilitate this enormous financial, pain-in-the-butt, transaction. It was all my wife, and she did a great job.

We are very psyched about our new digs. More details to come: kitchen mural, porch, condo-board, etc.

Our move from the hip Chicago neighborhood to the Chicago shtetl will be complete at the end of our current lease, August 31. The movers are moving on August 22.

Our old phone number will be disconnected on August 20, and the new one will be connected on August 23. The new number is 664,926 less than our old one. It's already on the Do Not Call Registry, so no direct marketing, please.

I'm a big nerd.

- [ Friday, August 06, 2004 ] -
Here are some notes on the last Young Israel of West Rogers Park (Chicago) Melave Malka, on motzei Shabbat Nachamu, as previously mentioned here. I was unable to secure a written statement from anyone who was there but Evën Sh'siyah bassist, David Margulis, who played that night, offered some notes over the phone.
It sounds a lot like what happened during the first ever YIWRPMM that occurred one year ago on the same evening, motzei Shabbat Nachamu.

Farbrengiton Blog
I just made a blog to keep the notes for all past and future Farbrengiton shows.

Fabrengiton Concert Blog:

This is mostly for setlists, venue notes and band line-ups. Of course, the juicy notes will still appear over here.

- [ Wednesday, August 04, 2004 ] -
Psyched about Netflix
I can't stand cable T.V. I'm what you would call a T.V. addict. I hate when it's on, but I waste hours of my life most days watching it. My wife, however, enjoys it in moderation.

I'm sure that it's a struggle with addicts everywhere. We want to avoid situations which could lead us to lapse, but we don't want to impose our restrictions on our friends. Still, I couldn't justify having cable in our new condo.

With this in mind, I came upon a compromise offer to my wife. We would not get cable, but we would get a subscription to Netflix. She has been after me for while to join Netflix, but I couldn't justify the monthly cost considering we rarely rent movies. She jumped at the offer.

My beef with cable, is that it gives too many options of what to watch, and most of the choices stink, most of the time. If there's nothing on, and I want to watch something, I will spend the whole 30-minute time-slot cycling through the channels. On the other hand, my wife will watch something that even she admits is crappy. Neither of us get a particularly satisfying experience. With less choice on broadcast, we can each come to this conclusion sooner, and find something better to do... or put in a movie. Either way, it forces an active decision, instead of a passive one.

So we're both really psyched about this and have loaded up our lists. Now we'll have to figure out how to enjoy each other's picks.

"C'mon honey, how come you don't want to watch Deathrace 2000 with me?"

UPDATE (8/5): Here are a couple Netflix blogs I started following...

- [ Tuesday, August 03, 2004 ] -
Amir's Party
On Saturday night, our friend, Amir, threw himself a going away party. He's going to Israel for at least a year, trying out aliyah for size. He's also going into the IDF. The party was for all his well-wishers to get together, as well as a going-away party for several other friends, who are also going away to Israel for various vacation and learning time.

He threw the party at a brilliant location, an empty warehouse in Lakeview with lots of parking. It was a large warehouse, a month away from being turned into high-priced condominiums, that was on loan from a shul-member and friend of Amir.

Amir is very crafty and was able to put together a party room, with a stage, lighting, and music for almost no money. It was a great stage, made of found plywood panels and palettes stacked three-high, with good lighting that he rigged himself.

The plan was to have Farbrengiton play whatever it can, and then a DJ would "spin" some Israeli-style-techno for the rest of the evening. I wasn't sure if this was an ideal venue for FBIO, especially if the crowd was going to be the type that looks forward to Israeli-style-techno. I always get nervous about "proper venue."

I finally justified it in my head by saying that our music is Jewish and the people at the party are Jewish. We play with soul and have a good time. That kind of thing is reflected by us having a good time on stage. Worst case scenario - even if they don't like us, our set would be short (our repertoire is currently very limited).

Turns out the party was a grand ol' time.

This was our first gig with our bassist, Neer Spinner. This was also our first gig with our brand-new drummer, Mike Levin. They both very good musicians. Every time I play with them, I would question my own musical worthiness if it wasn't for the fact that they are both so enthusiastic about this band.

While Neer has been practicing with us since the end of April, we were able to score Mike, just days before the gig and had only one practice together.

While we didn't perform as tightly as we have in previous practices, we still rocked. We also didn't chase people out of the room. Overall, I got the feeling that people were impressed. Aside from that, we also got some helpful criticism from the "in" people. We have some recordings from the show and after studying them for mistakes, all records will remain buried in the vault, ready for future generations to listen and cringe.

So, veitur. We didn't make jackasses out of ourselves, learned a little bit about ourselves, and entertained some people. We are off to practice with our complete band. The next gig is tentatively scheduled for September 4, at the Young Israel of West Rogers Park Monthly Melave Malka, opening for Jewish rock legend, Ruby Harris.

UPDATE (8/6): The video of the event is ready. Not that you'll ever see it. Thanks to Photography By Frederic P. Eckhouse. I can't wait to see it, learn from it, and throw it in the lake.

Another Jewish Rocker Blog
Jewish rockers unite! Check out the PsychoToddler blog. He dishes out stories and musical, as well as, personal insight.

My wife usually has a difficult time surprising me. Not because she's not trying hard enough. It's just that I have a knack for finding things, whether I'm looking for them, or not.

For the past few weeks, she has been teasing me, telling me, "I've been working on something for you. Do you want to know what it is? What do you think it is?" It doesn't matter what I say because the answer is always, "Nope. I'm not telling....and don't go snooping!"

I was on my way out the door to shul on Shabbat morning, and I see the UPS package in the doorway. My wife was staying in that morning, and I had to stay and play twenty questions before she would let me leave. I wanted to go after a couple minutes and resume the game later, but she made me stay because she thought I would figure it out on the way, and she didn't want to miss my reaction.

As I'm sure you know from the title of this post, the box contained Farbrengiton stickers! She went on our computer at home, copied the whole Farbrengiton folder, mailed it to my uncle (who owns a company that puts corporate logos on corporate gifts and such) and worked out all the details with him and his artists. They're all shiny, and awesome, not like the kind you do yourself with a color printer. The stickers arrived just in time for distribution at the party.

I've been in several bands in my fun but anti-lucrative musical career. I've never been in a band with stickers. Evën Sh'siyah has (or had-I don't know how much inventory is left) T-shirts from two different silk-screening runs. T-shirts are cool, and it's weird to spot people all over the world wearing them. But eventually, T-shirts die. Stickers are forever.

Stickers will be available at gigs, and from the various band members. I can't be troubled at this point to mail them out for a dollar, but maybe we will have extensive merchandising on the site sometime in the future.

I encourage to people to stick them wherever band stickers are stuck. Guitars, guitar cases, skateboards, rock clubs, and especially the change-baskets on toll-booths. Deface a public surface today!

- [ Monday, August 02, 2004 ] -
Best Plectrums Ever

Graphite picks with skateboard-grip stickers on each side. The graphite pick is about $1. The grip stickers are about 10 or 15 cents, each. Each of these are sold seperately, and I was the one that figured out this particular combination. If you don't lose this pick, it will easily last longer than four nylon picks.

The graphite is very rigid so it doesn't bend or wear down. The graphite is also extremely smooth so the pick slides right off the strings and won't be as likely to break them. The grips won't slide around on your fingers.

Call your guitar store first, not everyone carries these items. If you're in Chicago, I'll save you the trouble of looking. Guitar Center doesn't have them. I got mine at:
Flatts & Sharpe Music Co.
6749 N Sheridan Rd
Chicago, IL 60626-4406

Another weekend of music
When it rains, it pours. It's been a very musical weekend. So much music that it's spilling over into Monday evening.

Saturday night was a going away party for a dear friend making aliyah. It was at a warehouse with a short set from Farbrengiton. It was also the debut of an amazingly talented new Farbrengiton drummer, and new Farbrengiton stickers (courtesy of the amazing wife).

Saturday night was also a packed-house, Young Israel of West Rogers Park Monthly Melave Malka that went until 1:30 am. I heard it was rockin'.

Sunday evening was a Kfar event. There was a spontaneous version of the planned drum circle as well as the main act, Rebbe Soul. It was also the debut of the new Kfar venue, "Club Menorah."

This evening, there is a special T"U B'Av farbrengen at Matt's place. A one-hour shiur on the sources of T"U B'Av, followed by mucho jamming of all sorts.

Individual reports to follow.

UPDATE (8/6): Amir's Party