« KlezKanada Scholarship application now available | Main | The Sway Machinery - interview in the Forward »

The Sway Machinery and Balkan Beat Box stupendous

So, what is new Jewish music? Wednesday night a friend and I treated ourselves to one memorable, delightful, loud, rocking, beat-ful snapshot. Whilst I exchanged text messages with a friend who had seen BBB the night prior in DC, The Sway Machinery came onstage 45 minutes late, but proceeded to create an exciting aural explosion. I was unable to make out specific words, but I could catch familiar nusakh complemented exquisitely (that may be the wrong word for high-energy intense dance beats) by the hyperactive rhythm section. Featuring players from several of NYC's best-known underground bands, The Sway Machinery made clear what I had hitherto suspected from video and mp3. They rock. The energy was addictive and entrancing.

Ah, but that was just the warm-up. After a short break to set up for Balkan Beat Box, Lockwood was back with the beats and I was further blown away. Jumping around on stage, going through bottles of water as though they were drugs, pulling in beats, rap, and again, an incredibly tight rhythm section, BBB featured a lot of material new to me, presumably from the new CD, and many more pieces from their last two CDs.

The dance floor was incredibly crowded. It was hard to take my eyes off the performers on stage. It has been a long time since I have seen a band give so much, so intensely. But when I looked around me, I could see that I wasn't the only person in the nicely diverse audience enjoying myself and moving frenetically (okay, most people were in their 20s or 30s, but there were a few alte kakers like me—and even a few in between, like a friend from work—not Jewish, just very much into dancing and beats, and, as he put it later, "sweatier than you will likely see me ever again.").

I hope it isn't the kiss of death that people in my advanced middle ages can enjoy a band this loud and this young. I can't wait to see them again.

This period between Purim and Pesakh has been incredibly rich for Boston audiences. From Israeli traditional Ladino/Yiddish singer Betty Klein at Workmen's Circle (favorite moment: listening to Tufts University professor Gloria Asher read a poem that she had written in Ladino, and then hearing Betty's setting of the poem), to the Three Yiddish Divas (such a stupendous show, and so much new Yiddish music, along with the standards, and in a political statement that I wish more were listening to, closing with the Hebrew/Israel song, שיר השלום (Shir Ha-Shalom). Somewhere in there was Balkan Night, and just last week, Israeli/Ethiopian Idan Raichel with his rhythmic "Project," tighter even than the stupendous band they were a year ago and the year before that. Last weekend we were treated to KCB founder Hankus Netsky w/Dobe Ressler accompanying KCB former lead singer Judy Bresler teaching a crowded room Yiddish dance (co-sponsored by Workmen's Circle), with several of us running out after the music stopped to hear a revived and thoroughly exciting Shirim Klezmer Orchestra in Cambridge. From klezmer, to Satie, to Pakistani Brass music, Shirim at the LIlypad is one of the city's special treats. I am happy to report that this concert, like all of those I mentioned in this brief summary, was crowded, if not quite sold out. There is still room for you, dear reader—at least, a few of the more fortunate of you ;-).