Jewish Music Fest Brings Wild Klezmers, Absurdist Humor, Mediterranean Hip-Hop to SF

Categories: Music Festivals

Sarah Small
Kitka performs Sunday at the Jewish Music Festival
To celebrate its 25th anniversary, the Bay Area's Jewish Music Festival has lined up a wide-ranging set of performances that illustrate the striking diversity of voices in contemporary Jewish-identified art. From the a capella beauty of Kitka to the absurdist humor of Dan Plonsey to Watcha Clan's Mediterranean hip-hop grooves, there's indeed something in this year's program for all ages, races, and degrees of orthodoxy. In short, this event is a celebration of the Diaspora writ very large -- by, of, and for the community.

The fun kicks off on Sunday with a free show in Yerba Buena Gardens. Must-see combos include Kitka, the scene's preeminent vocal group, whose haunting updates on traditional folk songs send shivers up and down the spine, and Red Hot Chachkas, a fun-loving klezmer band that will make you want to smash glasses in the street, though such behavior might not set the best example for the kids, who will no doubt thrill to the hands-on novelty of the Instrument Petting Zoo. Youthful adults are allowed to play as well in the musicmaking workshops and informal jam sessions. Other acts at this open-air fete include Kugelplex, Vocolot, Qadim, Eprhyme, Glenn Hartman and the Klezmer Playboys, Peter Jacques, Elana Jagoda, Joe Nguyen, Kat Parra, Dror Sinai, Gerry Tenney and California Klezmer, and Joshua Walters.

If you fancy a more refined, sit-down affair, then you should make your way across the street to the Contemporary Jewish Museum to witness Dan Plonsey's Bar Mitzvah with Dandelion Dance Theater. Plonsey is arguably the wackiest serious saxophonist-composer in San Francisco's avant-garde jazz community. His latest large-scale piece aims to help him reconcile his juvenile-adult duality while trying to make sense of socio-religious ritual in an increasingly digitized-secular world.

At some point during the day, be sure to stop inside Yerba Buena Center for the Arts to peep "The Bowls Project," an installation piece based on ancient Babylonian "demon bowls" by Jewlia Eisenberg, founder of Charming Hostess, veteran East Bay freak-scenesters who mashup soulful folk melodies with altrock tunefulness and Gypsy-tribal rhythms. You can hear their sex-magic live on stage at YBCA the following Sunday when the Hostesses pair up with Watcha Clan for what promises to be an exotic cap to an ear-opening silver anniversary.

Check out the full schedule of performances at the festival's web site

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