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Purim today! Festivals coming to Boston, Berkeley

This is a big week coming up. But, first, today is Purim—if you take a look at the KlezmerShack Calendar you'll see a host of events (and not a few that were on for last night, the traditional reading of the megillah). This is not my favorite holiday. As a child, and still as an adult, I find Vashti the only character I admire, and all the rabbinic stories I have heard so far fail to change that. And the last few chapters of the megillah as we read about the revenge wrought by the Jews? I may understand it psychologically given our history, but it makes for grim reading.

Still, those of us lucky enough to live in Boston can celebrate today with a wonderful Purim Show created by Hankus Netsky. It will take place out in Waltham and features a Purimspiel—a Purim play in Yiddish and English—and some wonderful performers. Worth braving the cold rain and snow for, indeed.

Starting Thursday of this week, we have the preview of Boston's Jewish Music Festival, and this year is a killer. From the pairing of Cantor Isaac Helfgot and violinist Itzhak Perlman, to dance parties, kid events, Mizrahi and Sephardic music, and of course, lots of klezmer, I am going to find myself doing a lot more socializing than usual.

I have to give a special mention to Argentina's Lerner & Moguilevsky. For years I tried to champion their appearance here to no effect. But Joey and Jim made it happen. The duo will be appearing several times in the area, starting with the festival preview Thursday night in Newburyport. If you can physically make it, do. You will be blown away.

I also want to mention a special show Tuesday week: on Mar 5 one of my long-time guitar heroes, Tim Sparks, will appear at Club Passim with Noah Lubin. I don't know from Lubin, but I'd be inclined to trust the Festival. Sparks, however, is one of the best, warmest guitarists I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. His work with traditional Jewish music, from cantorial to klezmer to sephardic and other folk traditions, is just magical. Not to be missed.

Daniel Kahn

The night after Tim's and Noah's show, Daniel Kahn brings his "The Painted Bird" ensemble to one of our favorite holes in the wall: The Milky Way Lounge in Jamaica Plain. For those unfamiliar with Kahn's work, he has created a yiddish cabaret for the 20th century—topic songs for our times in the tradition of old world badchanim married to Woody Guthrie. His most recent album is "Bad Old Songs." This is music for the 99%. In keeping with the political dimension, Dan and long-time writer/activist Leonard Fein will discuss/enjoy "Pizza and the Progressives." Reserve your spot now.

And, finally, I have to mention the Klezmer bash next Saturday night. Lerner & Moguilevsky will be there. The Tarras Band (Michael Winograd, Pete Sokolow, Boston's own Jim Guttman, and others), and the amazing Shura Lipovsky, a European singer of wonderful, wonderful voice. If she has appeared in Boston, it hasn't been since I moved here 15 years ago. Again, not to be missed.

But, suppose you live on the left coast, my former home. In that case, you will be in different, if related ecstasy, as the 28th Jewish Music Festival kicks off there. Shura Lipovsky will be there, as will Daniel Kahn, as will an extensive cast of characters from Michael Alpert to the folks in Veretski Pass, and so much more. You'll find entries from the Festival on the Calendar, or, better yet, peruse the Festival website, yourself. Enjoy!