Upcoming Shows

Hey everyone!

Just a reminder about a couple of shows coming up!  We’ll be playing at the Unitarian Universalist Felllowship’s Courtyard Concert Series on Monday at 7:00pm.  Admission costs $8.

Also, if you haven’t dusted your camping gear off yet, you may want to get on that and join us up in the beautiful town of Atlanta, Idaho for the third annual Mountain Music Sleepover.  Not only is it a great, family-fun event, but money raised will go to help the local firefighters!

And the summer is nowhere near done!

Here’s a YouTube playlist of our Folklife set, in order.  In editing and watching these videos, I can say that I am as proud of this set as I am of anything else I’ve ever done musically.  The crowd singing along with “Di Mashke” was especially cool, even though the video camera changed hands during the song.


Roma Advocacy and Education

In our ongoing effort to increase awareness of the real people known as Roma (more commonly known by the perjorative “Gypsies”) and to dispel centuries of misrepresentation, we will also be posting resources here for those who might be interested in learning more.  At the moment, this will probably be links to books, movies, and websites, but if we become aware of other opportunities for this page, we will certainly take advantage of them!

Northwest Folklife Festival 2015

We had an amazing time at the Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle!  Given the number of acts involved, it’s always impressive how smoothly the event runs “behind the scenes” and this year was definitely the smoothest yet!  The weather threatened rain, but folks in Seattle are used to being threatened with rain, and all went beautifully.  A most sincere thanks to the city of Seattle for putting on this amazing event, the event organizers for having us, Matt’s sister and her husband for their hospitality, but most of all, to our lovely audience for singing and dancing with us!  (Videos coming soon!)

Upcoming Shows

Hey everybody!

We’ve just updated our calendar with a bunch of dates over the summer.  We will continue to add shows as they get booked, but this is where we know we’ll be through the first week in July.

5/25 Northwest Folklife Festival, Seattle Center

6/19 Idaho Jewish Festival (Deli Days), Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel

6/26 National Oldtime Fiddlers Contest & Festival, Weiser, Idaho

7/6 Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

7/11 Mountain Music Sleepover, Atlanta, Idaho

Again, more dates will trickle in and we’ll keep you posted.  Hope to see you at one (or more) of these fine events!


Boise International Market Grand Opening

We had a great time playing at the grand opening of the Boise International Market!  Such a beautiful place, with such wonderful people!  Look forward to playing there again in the future!

A yor geyt, a yor kumt… (Onward 2014)

Well, 2013 was certainly an amazing year!  A lot of firsts took place, from our first forays outside of Boise, which included our first trip to the Northwest Folklife Festival, to releasing our first CD, it was really the start of lot of things that we hope to continue in the future.  Looking back, one of the most gratifying things about 2013 was the number of excellent artists that we had the opportunity to play with.  For years we’ve listened and looked up to acts like Vagabond Opera, Hawk and a Hacksaw, and Nu Klezmer Army.  To not only share venues with them, but to also gain their respect and friendship (and that of many other wonderful people as well!) really has meant a lot to us this past year.

Although some people have moved on, we’re also extremely grateful for the band members and friends that have stayed with us over the years.  It always amazes me what our bandmates bring to the mix, and it is very humbling and gratifying that they continue to work with us month after month, year after year.  We would not be able to do what we do without them.

This has also been an extremely challenging year, as it’s been the first full year that both Victoria and I have been going back to school full time.  Doing our best in our classes, raising four children, dealing with life well below the poverty line, *and* keeping the band moving forward has been an immense workload.  We were very fortunate that a lot of forward momentum (and some measure of our musicianship) carried us through 2013, as we were much less aggressive about developing material and finding gigs than we have been in the past.  And for what it’s worth, none of it is going to get any easier any time soon – we’re still both in school, still have all four kids, and we’re still poor.

Which doesn’t mean that we’re coasting through 2014 – far from it!  Right now we’re working on a hefty amount of new material, and we already have a number of high profile shows and plans in the works.  Starting with the Big, Badass Bellydance Show in February. From there, hopefully this will be the year that we find a place in the Treefort Music Festival.  And we’re planning our return trip to the Northwest Folklife Festival.  We’re also well in the works of bringing some very special friends and mentors to Boise for the second annual Idaho Jewish Cultural Festival.  I believe that there’s also going to be a focus on playing shows in smaller, more family friendly environments – like the Shangri-La Tea Room and the High Note Cafe.  For the new material, I think it sounds more like a real traditional Klezmer band, and also more like ourselves than anything we’ve done before.  For various reasons, there’ll be more of me playing double bass on a lot of our songs, plus more of my own translations as opposed to us just performing songs verbatim in Yiddish/Romani/etc.

So there certainly is a lot to look forward to, and for us to get to work on!  An enormous, heartfelt thank you to everyone who has come with us this far.  May we make many more friends and have many more musical adventures in 2014 and beyond!

Curtis Stigers Xtreme Holiday Xtravaganza 2013

We were honored and delighted to take part in Curtis Stigers’ Xtreme Holiday Xtravaganza this year!  The crowd was very enthusiastic, and it’s always great to have so much fun supporting such a great cause.  Pictures were taken and kindly shared by Andy Lawless.

How Vodka and Pickles came to be…

It’s come up on occasion that people have asked what the title “Vodka and Pickles” means or why we chose it.  We talked about it a bit on a radio interview once, but I thought I’d take a few minutes to both answer that question and talk about the album generally.

Putting together an album was something that we had wanted to do for years, and for a fair number of reasons.  Mostly because we knew that we had something which could sound amazing, and we wanted to put together the finest example we could that showed what we were capable of at our best.  And there was also a bit of a problem with the fact that a lot of the festivals that we wanted to apply for required a professional sounding demo.

We tried recording an EP in 2011, but the problem that we had was that, while we had a recording engineer, I was still pretty much producing the recording myself, and with no experience.  So after months of tweaking and mixing, we had two songs that were unsalvageable, two that had drastically changed since being recorded, and two that we felt reasonably happy with.  However, in the meantime, our two percussionists left the band to do other things, so between the changes to the songs and to our lineup, we decided to scrap that project and start again from scratch.

The first time I encountered the idea of single-mic recording in a way that made me think about it was when I read about Hillfolk Noir using it on “Skinny Mammy’s Revenge”.  Of course, it is a vintage technique, and no doubt almost all of the dozens of tracks from 78’s that I’ve listened to were recorded that way, but I didn’t really think of it as even an option until then.  I remember when I read about it at the time, I thought it would be fantastic to have the kind of discipline that it would require to do that, but I didn’t think we could manage it.  Also, at that particular time, we still had our percussionists, and I couldn’t imagine trying to balance them against the rest of the group in that way.  However, after they left, and we decided to scrap the first project, it became an idea we could play with.  So we experimented with it, read a lot of equipment reviews, did some test recordings, and came up with a plan.

And about a full year later, this is what we got. It wasn’t easy. There were a lot of recording hours and many, many more hours just thinking things through, listening, fixing, listening again.  It’s like any kind of complex project.  Imagine building an armoire for instance, complete with shelves, curved legs, etc.  The more detailed that your plans are going into the project, the more you know about what you need from each part as you make it.  You do always have to adjust the plan to fit the parts you’re getting to some degree, but doing too much of it leads to something ugly and unsound.  And figuring it out from both ends as you go takes time.  For awhile, it bothered me that something like a single-mic project took a bit over a year to complete, but in retrospect, it was a feat of discipline to get it done at all, and it quite possibly could have taken longer.  Anyway, now that we’ve gone through the process once we now know that we can do it again.

Which brings me to the album title.  No, it’s not a statement about the condition of our livers.  In the first place, pickles are traditionally served with vodka – it’s kind of the Russian equivalent of pretzels and beer.  So this is what the host breaks out first when he has company.  For hardcore Russkis, it is what’s for breakfast.  Either way it has a connotation of being what starts thing off – a forshpil.  It’s what gets the party started.  Between the first recording project, and the various phases our recordings went through, I thought of a lot of names for what to call it (and not all are printable).  But as this project was coming to a close, I wanted something that suggested it was just the beginning.  Eleventh-hour apologetics?  Perhaps.  But there it was – Vodka and Pickles: a party unto itself that also suggests even greater things to come.