This weekend has got it all going on: Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, and Shavuot.
Memorial Day was originally observed to commemorate fallen Union soldiers following the Civil War. After World War I it was expanded to honor soldiers from all American wars and in 1971 was declared a national holiday.
Songstress Regina Spektor is releasing her new album, What We Saw From the Cheap Seats, on May 29. NPR is currently streaming it and if the album’s third track “Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)” doesn’t make you want to go outside and bounce around, I’m not sure what will.
There was a lot of hubub this week about how the National Mall is a disgrace. Like this blogger, we couldn’t disagree more. And with next week’s enormous Israel @ 60 Capital Celebration on the Mall featuring Regina Spektor, Mandy Patinkin, Mashina and characters from Sesame Street, we hope to restore the proud reputation of the Mall. Oh, and note to self, good choice not including Jackie Mason.
The news that Israel is in negotiations for a peace treaty with Syria adds an ironic postscript to President Bush’s comments to the Israeli Knesset last week about “appeasement” and make this guy look even dumber.
Rabbi Mordechai Rackover of Beth Shalom Congregation in Potomac begins a guest blogging gig at the Jew and the Carrot by lamenting the kosher dining scene in the area as “kosher culinary hell.” He’s on a quest for “deeper flavor profiles and ecstatic moments with well-crafted sausages and cheeses (just not at the same time) and really amazing wine.”
I had in my hands for a short little while today the final printer’s proof of the program for the 2008 Washington Jewish Music Festival. It is going to be awesome. The hard copy won’t be back for a couple of days, but you can check out the program on-line here.
The Festival’s opening day is June 1 and if you read regularly, then you already know about Regina Spektor headlining the main stage at the humongous (and free) Israel @ 60 Capital Celebration on the National Mall. Oh yeah, and it also includes Mandy Patinkin–I hear he can sing a little. And Mashina, Israel’s long-standing kings of rock. Oh, and Oscar the Grouch with his Israeli cousin Moishe Oofnik— and we all know that there’s nothing cooler than Sesame Street, and no one kicks it old school better than His Grouchiness.
It is sort of impossible to write an over-view post covering the entire festival, so for the moment I’ll focus on the performer who I think has the most in-common with Regina, and that would be Rachael Sage. She’ll be performing on Wednesday, June 4 at DC9 Nightclub. Both Regina and Rachael share roots in the New York folk (or anti-folk) scene and combine vivid lyrical styles with a musical adroitness that is at once accessible without sacrificing melodic ambition. What exactly do I mean by that? The music sounds as good as the smart lyrics that accompany it. While both are mainstream artists, neither has shied away from their Jewish identity, neither in their musical subjects (Spektor’s “Samson” and Sage’s “93 Maidens” being just two examples); nor in their public personaes, Spektor’s cover photo for Begin to Hope features her prominently wearing a Star of David necklace and Sage’s press materials describe her early musical efforts thusly: “When I started I was writing a lot of music that sounded like Elton John – if he’d been a nice Jewish girl from a long line of Russian cantors.” Rachael Sage is being presented in partnership with the 16th Street J’s Kurlander Program for Gay and Lesbian Outreach and Engagement (GLOE) and Regina Spektor will be back in DC later in June for the True Colors tour which raises awareness and funds for various GLBT organizations.
Take a listen for yourself and check back often for more information about the 2008 Washington Jewish Music Festival.
Did we mention how excited we are about Regina Spektor? She’ll be headlining the free concert celebrating Israel @ 60 on June 1 with the Israeli rock band Mashina. Regina and Mashina. Say it a couple of times. It’s fun.
DJ Handler at Jewlicious shares the news that Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley is Jewish. My first thought was that I can’t believe that members of my generation are behaving like my Great Aunt Helen. My second thought was, “Hey Jenny, whatcha doing June 1?”
InterfaithFamily.com is sponsoring a video contest looking for films that deal with anything from interesting interfaith wedding ceremonies to humorous shorts about the quirks of interfaith relationships. Top prize is $2500, which buys lot of gelt or stocking stuffers or Ganesh statues. Whatever you want.
We’ve been keeping this under our hat for a while now, but at last we can shout it to the world: Regina Spektor will be performing along with the seminal Israeli rock band Mashina on the National Mall as part of the community-wide celebration of Israel@60 on June 1. The concert is part of the opening day of the Washington Jewish Music Festival.
In many ways, Regina is the perfect performer for the occassion: Russian-born, she was part of the large emigration of Russian Jews to Israel and the United States when the Iron Curtain crumbled in the late 80s. Eventually settling in Brooklyn, Regina went to Jewish and public schools growing up with her musically-inclined family and practicing piano in the basement of her local synagogue. Appropriately enough, she first realized she could be a songwriter on a trip to Israel when she was a 16:
As she and her fellow travelers hiked in the desert, Regina would make up little songs and melodies to fill the time.
“I noticed that some kids would always try to hike next to me and ask me to sing particular songs that I had made up,” she recalls. “So I started trying to remember them. By the end of the trip, all these kids were telling me that I had to write songs!
“It had never occurred to me,” she continues. “To me, the mentality was you sit at the piano and play Bach or Mozart or Chopin. You didn’t ever improvise, so the idea of writing my own music was an intimidating one.”
“The way I got into music was totally backwards,” she says. “I’d write a song and someone would tell me, ‘That sounds like Joni Mitchell,’ and I’d go, ‘Who?'”
As part of the New York anti-folk scene (along with Beck, Ani DiFranco and Kimya Dawson), Regina’s songs have gained increasing popularity and have been used on the soundtracks of many television series including Weeds, Grey’s Anatomy and Brothers & Sisters. The video for her song Fidelity has been viewed over 4 million times on youtube. Heck, we’re gonna stop gushing and you can click below to help her on her way to 5 million.