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.

 

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!

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.

Appropriation, Advocacy, and the Road to Hell

Being a good friend can be a tricky business.  And it can get much trickier when you’re trying to be friend to other cultures, or to a culture in particular.  Assuming that you know I’m part of a Klezmer group that also branches out into related genres of music, it’s not difficult to see where this is going.  Pretty much from when we started this band, we knew we wanted to include Romani music in our set.  This was for a few reasons: 1. We love it and it’s fun.  2. We wanted to highlight the dialogue between Romani and Klezmer music – that since we see them as two sides of the same coin, we wanted to show both parts of that coin. 3. We wanted, in whatever measure we could, to promote Roma culture and bring something of fairly authentic Romani music to people who may not experience it otherwise.  Although I don’t think our conviction on all three points has ever wavered, we were also aware that we were treading on territory that wasn’t necessarily our own, and this did give us pause.

Because, let’s face it, there is something of a dark side to the new, multi-culti, global age of teh internetz.  There was a time when you actually had to engage in a culture to learn anything about it.  *Maybe* you could find a book or field recordings, but still.  Compared to the modern days of YouTube, when folk songs from Mongolia to Macedonia are a mouse click away, when do you get to decide what culture’s riches are yours to play with?  We could start throwing in half-ass versions of Uzbeki music and it’s not as if anyone could *stop* us.  With Roma culture in particular, the success of Gogol Bordello has brought some awareness, but with that it has made the term “gypsy”a very chic adjective to attach oneself to these days, and that’s something we’ve grown increasingly uncomfortable with, and would rather distance ourselves from.  You might ask, if we truly valued Romani culture, why would we even take the risk of being part of that bandwagon?  Because for us, it still comes down to the above three reasons – nothing about the mode du jour changes that.

Anyway, before all of that started getting hairy, what made me personally get over my own self-consciousness was actually a show that we played fairly early on, with a group that did (does) traditional African drumming and dance.  Now, half the drummers, and all of the dancers, involved were white.  But color aside, their authenticity was astounding – the precision, the energy, the exact flavor of the enthusiasm was so spot on that their emotional connection to what they were doing was without question, even though their heritage was apparently different.  So when someone that obviously dedicated feels a connection that deep to a culture, even one they weren’t born into, and can express it, who is *anyone* to slight them for it?  And then I thought about the issue from my own perspective as a Jew.  A number of non-Jews are involved in Klezmer, some as members of some of the most prominent Klezmer bands currently playing, others as complete non-Jewish ensembles playing in, say, Germany.  And certainly, it doesn’t take a foreigner to exploit a culture – a Jew could make a hash of his own heritage, as could a Rom.  Really, as a Jew, all I could ask would be that anyone who approached my culture (be they of it or not) to do so with respect.  So I at that point, I figured that, so long as we continued to study what we were doing, and did our best to represent well, we were doing okay.

But there’s also another consideration which occurred to me recently, while reading about another issue in advocacy.

I may or may not earn some looks of consternation for mentioning this movie (in retrospect, it was rather ridiculous), but I remember there was a line that stuck with me towards the end of “Soul Man”, when, after reviewing the disciplinary action against the main character for impersonating a black man, James Earl Jones’ character comments something to the effect that at least perhaps now he knows something of what it’s like to be black, and he replies, “No, I don’t.  Because if  I didn’t like it, I could always get out.”  This is the liability of those who advocate for others, and it’s one that’s often overlooked with the best of intentions.  When the effects of your advocacy don’t benefit or hurt you directly, you walk a fine line that the nobility you feel in your cause does not make any broader.  I could attend every “pro-something” rally and stir every pot to be stirred, but when I put my sign down and step away from the crowd, I go back to looking like your average white guy, no matter how “connected” I feel to the cause.  Thus, what I do in these realms affects others much more than myself, and nothing will ever change that.  Does this mean refraining from advocacy?  Some would argue that this is the safer and more respectful option.  While I see the sentiment and the logic in this (an incompetent ally can certainly be worse than an enemy!), it isn’t one that I can personally accept.  Because, aside from truncating our band’s set list, most of what I’m interested in doing professionally involves this kind of advocacy.  And with few imaginable exceptions, the best way to learn to do anything is to do it as best you can, AND to always look for ways to improve.  And in the meantime, to understand that intentions are no substitute for responsibility.

“Vodka and Pickles” is out!

We are excited to inform you that our new album “Vodka and Pickles” is out! It is currently available at CDBaby, iTunes, and of course, at all of our shows.

The official CD release party will be held on August 8th in the Social Hall of Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel at 7PM.

This family friendly event will include a meet the artist and art display by Danielle Demaray, who did the cover art for the album.

Special guest performances from the Starbelly Dancers and the junkerdashing madness of Hillfolk Noir!

Merchandise and CDs will be available for purchase as well.

If you plan on attending, bring a veggie or dairy potluck item to share!

Can’t wait to see you all there!

 

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“Vodka and Pickles” is now available, plus album release party details!

We are excited to inform you that our new album “Vodka and Pickles” is out! It is currently available at CDBaby, iTunes, and of course, at all of our shows.

The official album release party will be held on August 8th in the Social Hall of Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel at 7PM.

This family friendly event will include a meet the artist and art display by Danielle Demaray, who did the cover art for the album.

Special guest performances from the Starbelly Dancers and the junkerdashing madness of Hillfolk Noir!

Merchandise and CDs will be available for purchase as well.

If you plan on attending, bring a veggie or dairy potluck item to share!

Can’t wait to see you all there!

$5/person suggested donation

Address: 11 N. Latah Street Boise, Idaho 83706

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