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Belated Shout Out to "Jewltide"--Shtreiml, Golem, SoCalled, the Leevees in Boston

I don't make it to so many gigs these days, but this past month or so I have caught several excellent shows. Time to get the word out and offer shout outs to the folks who brought the music.

Back in December, Heeb Magazine and JDub Records co-sponsored a tour called "Jewltide" that caught several east coast venues (there was a different tour on the West Coast. This follows a trend in recent years of filling that December time of alienness—the awareness that the great Jewish holidays do not include Hanukah, which is not a Jewish excuse for consumer potlatches (Christians often say the same about Christmas, but they're the majority culture, so if it bothers them, it will change.) So, there is Jewmongous, Jewltide, the "Nice Jewish Girls Gone Bad" tour and more. Of them all, the Jewltide show in Boston seemed most like a "here's what's new and edgy in Jewish music" review. Of course, not even four bands can represent the breadth of cool stuff happening, but if you had to pick four bands, Shtreiml, SoCalled, The Levees, and Golem are an excellent set.

I have to say that the relevation of the evening was Shtreiml. I have heard their CDs, including the new one, the Turkish-Klezmer fusion, "Fenci's Blues", and long been a fan. I've seen the band perform their traditional sides at KlezKanada. But here, at TT the Bear's in Cambridge's Central Square, they demonstrated their rockier side, and rock they did. I finally get the comparison to "Blues Traveler". One song, that I did not recognize, but thoroughly enjoyed, felt like "Bo Diddley meets klezmer." I was a Shtreiml fan before the concert. I am even more of a fan now.

SoCalled, who was part of Shtreiml in its earlier years, sat in for a reprise of "Halevai," one of my favorites. His own set featured familiar beats. He didn't seem to connect with the audience in the between-songs patter, and something was not happening between him and the bass player from Shtreiml who, along with Khevre clarinetist Michael Winograd (also touring as part of Shtreiml). Towards the end of the concert he brought on the bass player from Golem. For all of that, the music was just fine. His hip hop deconstruction of "Ikh bin a border bei mein vaib" is near-classic.

At this point, we got "the LeeVees," two pop artists who have toured the past two Hanukah seasons with "Jewish" songs. I had been looking forward to seeing what the duo sound like in concert and was not disappointed, although it's just as well that the band appears only in that season. Fluff, playing on our "Jewy" (the band's term) feelings about "Apple sauce vs. sour cream" or "My goyim friends" is fun at the solstice, but it would be hard to make a year out of it. Apparently the band usually appears with a fuller band. To allay any concerns about hearing just the two of them, the Leevees distributed several boxes of donuts prior to the set.

Finally, Golem rocked out, and I gotta say that any evening of music where half of the performing bands include trombones, has to be good. I am a major fan of the intensity of Annette Ezekiel (accordion, vocals) and Alicia Jo Rabins on fiddle, with an equally intense mix of trombone, bass, and ferocious drumming. I find the theatrics and lounge stylings of vocalist Aaron Diskin distracting, but I seem to be unique in this regard. Besides, there are other punk bands playing Yiddish and Balkan music. How many punk-lounge bands are there?

The dance floor at TT the Bears was quite crowded, as was the rest of the building. There was a nice mix of people, including several kippoth—it wasn't just secular Jews coming out for a touch of "feeling Jewy". This was the sort of audience that wanted to hear interesting music and was happy to come out on a cold night to hear it. Jewish music revues may be a new December "tradition," but I'm looking forward to removing the quote marks as this becomes a real tradition.

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