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Oyhoo wrapup

The Oyhoo festival is up and done. Success?
I only made it to two and a half shows of the whole thing, and the range of successes vs. failures is striking.
There’s a mystical principle I picked up from Yaakov Sack in Jerusalem sometime ago: the less expensive a version of something is, the better the quality. It’s as true about lovers as it is about vegetables.
Jake Marmer’s Mimaamikim event was super fun, Bowery Poetry club stuffed to the gills with the beautiful souled, my experience is very spoiled by how much I love(d) just seeing certain people, certainly, but I was really impressed at how big a setup Basya Schecter got together for what was ostensibly “just a side project.”
I got there too late to catch much more than that.
On the other hand, I didn’t get there late enough for Thursday night’s show at Irving Plaza– the music was all great and fine, though the musicians were certainly trying hard not to be de-inspired by the surprisingly low turnout, despite big name bands (at least as far as Jewish youth culture goes) and performers like Blue Fringe, Y-love (hardest working guy of the festival week) and Moshav.
To blame for this low turnout is certainly the initially high ticket prices, justifiable theoretically had the event gone on on a weekend, or were there not a bigger show happening for free on sunday. The ticket prices dropped from 54 dollars to eighteen, rather too late for the teeming masses of NYC Jewish high schoolers to notice.
Which is chaval, a pity, because it was some good performances. I missed R Shmuel’s breakout-at-Irving-Plaza, because who gets out to a club before eight o’clock? Michelle Citrin was sweet, mellower than anyone to follow, and I wonder how appreciated she was in the context.
REALLY small crowd, more than two thirds of whom were comped. Y-love tore it up as best as he could, but it was hard for him to be as enthusiastic as he had been the night before by Hip Hop Sulha, the best performance of his career he says. Jew Reggae veteran Benny Bwoy came on stage with Y-love, backed on by real authentic carribean black gentiles for a solid five or ten minutes of explosive dancehall frenzy. Blue Fringe played funly too, one of the musicians from the band expressing a certain surrender to doing the random-different-bands showcase that hardly make sense together, as they don’t have a new album coming out or anything: “but still any of our bands could have filled up the venue on our own, why throw us all together, and ask so much for it?”
The why is that it’s expensive to ship out Moshav from L.A., presumeably an easy sell, but again: 54 dollars is alot of money for a high school senior to lay out, especially when the show is being hyped as almost sold out, who want to drive in from Jersey or Long Island for a show that might not be get-inable?
Moshav is hot off their new album, sony production quality at full blast, and the simultaneously widest and deepest single i’ve heard in along time. I really hope it gets on the radio, though I wonder how receptive American radio is to the word “salaam” being chanted, no matter how rocking it sounds. It was really nice to see them, but their set was cut short, only half an hour. WTF?
Contrast this to sunday’s Jewsapalooza in Riverside Park, a free show, with cheap drinks, wine and beer, two of either free with the simple signing up for a credit card. Big Family Crowd, surrendering as the sun gets low to leftish Israeli expatriots and Jam Band devoted Yeshiva kids, as Pharoah Daughter gently and danceably leads us out of the enthusiastic calm of David Broza into the looser and wonderfully weirder than ever Yossi Piamenta, finally backed up by a band willing to explore with him. And the Jam Joy energy was not dispersed, instead rallied up into anarchic and concious yet dirty and unifying Dag Nachash, blowing our legs into hip-hop madness, bridging Tel Aviv with Jerusalem, and accomplishing, shockingly to me, the rare unification of Jews with Israelis, of relgious with secular, and it’s OK to sing about Hashish smoking around straight religious families uninterrupted, as long as you do it in Hebrew, apparently, much to my pride.
So what’s the Oyhoo festival trying to do, I wonder? Just showcase already living cultures? Ok, cool, that’s appreciated, though little sense of anything unifying the different Oyhoo related events did I feel, often even within the same event. Just what is Jewish culture trying to do for itself?

11 thoughts on “Oyhoo wrapup

  1. I think “why was the festival so poorly attended” will be discussed for weeks. I’m putting together my own opinions…but the turnout for the Jewish Music Awards was particularly appalling…looking forward to seeing other people’s responses…

  2. “Appalling”implies that that the non-attendees are to blame. I find that if the show is compelling enough, people attend. Plenty of huge Arena shows get sold out (Like half of Springsteen’s shows on the Rising tour).

  3. I was at Sunday’s big event. It was lightly attended, except for HaDag-Nachash. There were folks of all ages. The name “oy!hoo” is horrible, “Jewzapalooza” even worse. They’re embarassing names to say out loud in a room full of people. If I was in high-school I wouldn’t have gone just because of the dorky name. Michael Dorf was praised to high heaven, despite his reputation with artists. I have my own personal negative experience with him.
    The review is true, it was a bonding experience between Am-Jews and Israelis. Mostly I think it’s that the creative, cool and liberal aspects of the Israeli artists that creates a bond with lefty Jews. It has for me. Many of my Jewish American friends know nothing of Israelis except for soldiers or settlers. To see that Israelis can do awesome hip-hop, and rhyme about domestic violence, is a wake up call to American Jews. It tells that there’s more to going to Israel than Yeshivah or Kibbutz. It tells them that there’s more to Hebrew than the prayers. It tells them that Israelis are a lot like us, once we break down our nebish alienated exterior, and that we don’t have to become right wing extremists to do so.
    We need more of this. We need more Hebrew in American Jewish life so we can participate in Israeli culture.
    Ha-Am im Tel Aviv.

  4. if this festival had taken place in california (more LA than the bay) it would have been packed. new york jews are spoiled by cultural ubiquity and lazy as a result. (i know, i’ve been one.) here, there is a dearth of this sort of thing, and people make an effort.

  5. While I have nothing against dorky/punny names for Jewish stuff (and admit to being guilty of it myself), I’ve never fully understood why this festival needs to have so MANY names. “The 2006 Oy!hoo Festival,” “The Jewish Music and Arts Festival,” “Jewzapalooza…” Which one is it?
    Kvetching aside, I sincerely appreciate that we’re able to get this blast of diverse Jewish music each year. While I too am too lazy/busy to make it to more than one or two shows each year (this year it was Zornfest and Jewzapalooza), I think it’s great that it exists.
    I agree with others that ticket prices need to be made a bit more reasonable if they’re going to draw young people to anything but the free shows, however, and it probably wouldn’t hurt to try to have a few more shows that aren’t on weeknights. Are there sponsors blocking performances on Shabbat or something?
    Oh, and if possible, next time try not to schedule the big AJWS Darfur rally in Central Park (with its own music) at the same time as Jewzapalooza on the west side.

  6. I think that a large part of the problem was over-programming. Many nights had multiple events competing against each other for similar audiences. Also, as others have noted, price is a big concern. I think it was totally nuts for them to charge 30 bucks to go to the Jewish Music Awards. It’s just not enough of a draw yet to get people to shell out that kind of money *especially* when there is very little assurance that award winners will actually be in attendance (I’m still waiting for Bob Dylan to pick up his Best Singer Songwriter award. barf)
    I’m probably the biggest jewish music/fan girl around, and even I wouldn’t have gone had I not been comped in. Oyhoo definitely suffers from its own ambitiousness. I would have much rather seen a better edited festival, with some type of thematic cohesiveness, and less frenetic orgy style programming and with everything AFFORDABLE.

  7. Also, it’s worth noting (for those of you who were unaware), that the JMAs happened on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, just a few blocks from Ground Zero–I’m not sure the city was “in the mood” for JMAs.

  8. I’m sorry I missed it all this year. I was leading a group at the Darfur rally, and then I had rehearsal…. I’m glad to hear that there was bonding between Israelis and AmJews. That’s a nice thing! AmJews should unmythologize Israel, and Israelis should have some nice liberal Judaism in thier lives…..
    I’ll do my best to attend next year, promise. Thank you to everyone who helps enliven our cultural and religious options. Sorry to be cheerful in the morning, but I love being Jewish in America in 2006.

  9. I interviewed organizer Michael Dorf on the event. It sounded so interesting. There is more Jewish music available today, more variety of Jewish music, more quality in terms of production and content and wider distribution then ever before. I don’t even have to like the music. The fact that such an event took place is significant. Yosef, glad to know you had a good time there. I know you were doing that crazy dance where you get down on the ground and raise your arms in the air with yoru eyes closed. I’ll catch you when you return to Israel. I

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