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Shirim still putting on a great show, 25 years on

shirimI had big plans this past Sunday. I was going to catch Shirim here in Boston for their 25th Anniversary, and then hightail it down to NYC for the young Michael Winograd CD release party. I got into the car and turned the key and nothing happened. Dead battery. AAA came right out, charged me up, and the car seemed fine, but I felt a bit leery of running down to NYC and possibly coming out of the Workmen's Circle around midnight to discover the battery dead, again.

It was a good enough afternoon, anyway. Shirim were excellent, and the crowd was perfect—a very fine mix of folks my age and older, plus younger people and their kids. It was a very Sunday afternoon friendly-for-kids concert.

When Shirim play concerts these days, they focus more on the theatricality of the music. This can make for some great dancing, but it also means that as the band dips into Jewish jazz greats like Artie Shaw, or "klezzifies" the theme from "Psycho," what we're hearing is slightly transformed from plain dance music. This is music for the sheer fun of it.

I have known the band for only about half their tenure. Glenn and Dave have a few more lines on their faces, but otherwise look an awful lot as they did the first time I saw the band play at Club Passim back in '95 or '96. They are still amazing musicians. In particular, in a world filled with trombone players I could watch all night (and a very few I don't need to hear at all), Dave is still special. I know Eric's drumming better than I did then, and I appreciate it more. His hair has receded a bit. I enjoy watching him as he plays the drums closely, often back straight, just the wrists flashing; sometimes leaning into the kit as though playing percussion. Jim took a couple of years off somewhere in the middle. These days he looks like he's lost some significant weight. Doesn't affect his playing one bit. It still thumps amazingly along.

Michael plays these amazing keyboard and accordion riffs, and seems to be having a lot of fun while he does it. The youngster, and the newest member of the band, is Brandon Seabrook, on banjo. He's the big hair—the Lyle Lovett hair—guy. A keeper.

The band runs through some klezmerized classics, some jazz, lots of American klezmer … despite spinning off originally from the Klezmer Conservatory Band (is that true? Dave was in KCB. The others?), Shirim, in many ways, carries on the tradition of those loud, raucous, joyous guys who kicked off this whole revival in the first place, The Klezmorim.

After the Artie Shaw suite, the kids, dancing in the aisles, shout, "encore," so the band comes back with one of their signature oldies, "Oy tate, s'iz gut" (oh daddy, that's good). And, indeed, one could say that about the entire performance.

An excellent way to spend the afternoon, and still one of my favorite bands.