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

- [ Tuesday, December 28, 2004 ] -
Oh, shoot!
This photo was taken in the parking lot across the street from Tel Aviv Pizza in Chicago. I think two advertisers need to get their money back.

- [ Monday, December 27, 2004 ] -
A Cappella?
Can someone tell me why you wouldn't just add an instrument to an a cappella group? Any a cappella song I've ever heard would sound better with an instrument somewhere. There may be spans up to two minutes in a regular song that may be cool for a cappella. An entire (short) song if it's clever enough. But certainly not as a rule to base a band around.

I understand there are some people that like it. I understand that some of my own tastes in music may be a little weird. But I just want to point out, that a cappella isn't as universal as some fans would have you believe. In fact, there is a religious practice to use a cappella as a replacement for regular music because it's not liable to make you happy in times of mourning.

And I'm not bitter at all that an a cappella group with four singers needs an hour to soundcheck, at the expense of another band's time, while the band with four singers and seven instruments has to make due with a soundcheck on the fly at the expense of their own set. It was mostly getting to the venue early and having to listen to their soundcheck.

- [ Thursday, December 23, 2004 ] -

Saturday night is the big show--Knishmas. It'll be our biggest show, yet. Just like our last show, but bigger... Please visit Kfar's website to get info and pre-order tickets. The show is mentioned a couple times in the Reader, so it's possible that the place will be swamped.

It's an especially big show for me, because I'm in two of the bands.

It's at HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo in Chicago. (If you are away from this page and want to look at their website without my link, please remember that the web address is http://HotHouse.net. HotHouse.com is something entirely different, and I would advise most people to stay away.)

HotHouse is a classy/artsy bar, so it's only open to ages 21 and over. Admission is $20 at the door.

Tentative Schedule:

Our big write-up
Farbrengiton just got a big write-up in the Chicago Reader. Apparently they find us interesting. Unfortunately, it's not interesting enough to put in the online paper. Fortunately, I have a scanner. If you live in the Chicago area, pick up a Reader and check it out on page 31 of Section 1. I would like to thank Ted McClelland, the guy who wrote it, and Marty Perez, the guy who took the picture.

A Mash-up that I like
I usually don't care for mash-ups, but this mashup is blowing my mind pretty good...

The Beastles

Download it before it goes away.

- [ Tuesday, December 21, 2004 ] -
e-Bay goldmine?

Do you think this could be worth something on e-Bay? It's foam from my coffee that formed the shape of the US. Absolutely no touching up was done to either the foam or the picture.

UPDATE (12/23): It appears that some people don't respect the permanence of my mug foam. Here is another picture, next to the Reader with today's date, showing the foam to be unmoved after two days.

- [ Wednesday, December 15, 2004 ] -
Ok, I'll bite...
Dear Reader-of-the-Hasidic-Musician (shiny-shoe musician and proponent),

I'm not in Pey Daled, but I am in a crappy, Carlebachy, jam-band. It's clear that your judgment on these crappy, Carlebachy, jam-bands is biased from the start, so I can easily dismiss most of what you have to say against the genre. There is nothing wrong with the genre. There are good and bad bands that play every kind of music. Pey Daled is not one of the bad ones.

The problem isn't your clients. The problem isn't your competition, especially since you easily control the lion's share of the market. The problem is you. You need to find another profession if it bothers you to be unappreciated by your clients--especially the ones who don't find it necessary to hire you. You have a professional standard far above most of your market. They don't care to pay your large, "what takanot?" performance fees. No one cares about your years of training. No one cares about how often you practice. No one cares about your perfect pitch and ability to keep perfect time. Ninety-percent of the time, there are going to be old people yelling at the band with their hands over their ears, anyway. For some people, the wedding isn't about the music any more than it's about the flowers or the shmorg. Why should someone spend on more than they can appreciate on a band? No one owes you anything. You can be replaced by a juggler and puppet-show. No one cares about people taking away your business. That's how life works. Most people have to try really hard and hustle in order to make a decent living. You're not special.

And you know what? A lot of people prefer to hire a crappy, Carlebachy, jam-band with loads of spirit over an uptight, cheesy band that plays God-awful, horn arrangements. You complained about the lack of music education in frum schools because it leads to a greater chance of the chatan being "tricked." That seems unlikely. My guess is that the chatan actually preferred that style of music, something you can't provide because it's not printed out on lead sheets. The deplorable Jewish-music education that you complain of, actually seems to be more advantageous to the Shiny-Shoe industry. The frum community keeps out secular music, limiting knowledge and taste. It seems that the genre most available to the frum world is Shiny-Shoe.

There is no halacha mandating disco-beats at a wedding. Try to adapt and deal with the changing marketplace instead of putting down your clients and your competition.

Love, Velvel

- [ Monday, December 13, 2004 ] -
Failed Interrogation
A staff-writer for the Chicago Reader just interviewed Farbrengiton last night after the show. He e-mailed me the other week after he saw our flier in a kosher bakery and thought we would make an interesting story.

As you can probably tell from my blog, I have a big mouth. At least with the blog, I can rely on flashes of common sense to hit me before I hit the "publish" key. Last night during the interview, I sang like a canary. Whether or not it's good for the band, I just hope it's good for the Jews.

I don't know how people give interviews to the press. I'm so nervous, anticipating the different angles he can be using to look at us and the stories we told him. I'm not going to get any peace until it's printed, and only then I can really start worrying.

What's the angle? Why us? I don't think it's because of our raw musical prowess. We have a good energy, but we still aren't the tightest band in the world (getting better everyday). We don't have anything slick to download, and the website certainly doesn't give off a vibe that oozes professionalism (not yet). I think he must like our essence. I just hope we're not charming because we're crappy. During the interview, I was trying to get a feel for what he thought of us. He seemed to like us because he compared us to the Pogues (a folk-punk Irish band that dealt primarily in punked-up Irish drinking songs and has a pretty large mainstream/non-Irish following).

- [ Friday, December 10, 2004 ] -
The Disorganized Shul
A couple band-mates had a conversation with a Rabbi of a shul, and they decided that a concert at/for the shul would be cool. We all love the members of the shul and they have been our best fan base so far.

A few weeks later, someone from the shul office contacted our band to know what to put on the flier. I replied that we needed more information about the planned event and that we couldn't commit without settling a few details first.

Fliers went out without confirmation of details and without a contact from the shul committed to helping us produce the event.

A shul bulletin went out, also announcing the event.

After repeated pressing, we couldn't get the shul to commit even one person outside the band to coordinate the event. Also, we just had a major personnel change and had a lot of things on our plate already. The band contacted the shul office by phone to specify that we couldn't do the show.

Another shul bulletin went out, still announcing the event.

I e-mailed a reply to the bulletin, hoping to reach the person who puts it out. I also copied the Rabbi. In the e-mail, I politely and specifically informed the shul again that under the current conditions we couldn't play at this time. We would be happy to reschedule at a later date.

A band member, also a member of the shul, asked if they could please advertise a concert that we are doing elsewhere the day after our original time slot. Announcements in the shul bulletin often advertise Jewish events involving shul members.

The next shul bulletin went out. It said the concert was canceled. There was no mention of our other concert. And now the shul is putting on a competing musical event. The event is not scheduled for the empty space of time that they originally scheduled for us. This event is scheduled for the same time as our currently booked concert.

The next shul bulletin went out with all the same info. It still says our concert is canceled.

We asked the shul nicely to advertise our other show and to please rephrase the concert announcement to say "...is being rescheduled" instead of "canceled."

The next shul bulletin said the concert was canceled. It also advertised our other concert but with many caveats. And for this announcement, they misspelled our name. They also reformatted the name, capitalizing some letters in the middle, that were never meant to be capitalized. Keep in mind they always spell it correctly to say our concert is canceled. Even in the same bulletin.

What really bothers me about these events is that the shul had no right to assume this event would take place without their involvement. Then the shul had no right to publicize this event. They followed up very poorly.

The band branding is very important. The public image of the band reflects directly on whether people come and see us. Concert cancellations reflect very poorly on the band. People don't know why the concert was canceled and will probably assume it's because of some deficiency with the band. The shul announced our concert twice, and then announced the cancellation three times. They announced our real gig once, in a misspelled, incorrectly formatted, awkward way with caveats.

The shul messed up the concert. Then they messed up our name--a lot. It will be a while before I would want to involve this shul in anything I'm doing. And you can be sure I will execute more control and less trust.

Thank God for Shabbat
I thank God, I'm very busy these days. Between work and music, I've had very little time to sit. I've been extremely sleep-deprived the last week, and according to some, that's a good thing.

I can't wait for Shabbat, when I don't have to do a thing other than show up to eat and pray. No to-do lists. No e-mail, phone calls or calendars. Twenty-five hours of peace.

Shabbat Shalom.

- [ Wednesday, December 08, 2004 ] -
It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday
YUTopia has a great, detailed analysis of the Protocols phenomenon.

As for my opinion, it was an amazing concept and it was carried out very well. The j-blogosphere would not exist as we know it, without Protocols.

From my point of view, Protocols jumped the shark (became irrelevant) when SIW got hired at the Forward and all but abandoned his project. The blog descended into anarchy as a troll was appointed guest-blogger and never left. The few relevant posts were vastly outnumbered by random quotes of other blogs, highlighted merely for the purpose of being controversial. By the very end, Protocols had degenerated into another mouthpiece for an organization that specializes in defaming Jewish public figures, but with the added bonus of a comment area to facilitate rumor-mongering.

Thank you, Protocols, for coming. But most of all, thank you for leaving.

- [ Monday, December 06, 2004 ] -
People who buy cat-toys are idiots
Don't buy cat-toys for your cat. It's a "holiday-season" trick the establishment uses on its customers, while they're shopping for pet-food. I guarantee your cat won't care.

These are some great cat-toys:A toy that's good to buy for both you and your cat is a tiny remote-control car. Or a laser-pointer.

Blog slacker
In case you're wondering, I wrote the last post to let my friends and readers know that I still remember the username and password to my blog.

I wrote this post to tell you that I wasn't turning this into an outlet for advertising my bands and writing cutesy posts about cats. I'm working on a few projects that are taking up most of my on-line complaining time. I wanted to post something, and I guess I thought the cat-thing might be a good sign to my friends and readers that I still remembered the password to my blog.

I'm working very hard with my band, Farbrengiton. I'm also working on the FBIO mailing list, the new FBIO website, and my kitchen mural (which will also be an album cover). (join the mailing list)

Thank God, there are so many great opportunities coming my way. My bands have been getting booked a lot (sometimes two in the same evening), and it seems that I always have a show coming up. I love when I'm busy with music. Maybe eventually, some of it will make some money.

As long as I'm mentioning my activities, here's the inevitable self-promotion. These are the upcoming shows that I know about: