Klezmer Festival, Day 3

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Thursday night, the third and final night of the Klezmer festival seemed a little less crowded than the previous two nights. Mark and I had spent the day touring art galleries in town, and so we were both well rested for the concerts of the evening. We started out at the stage near Rebecca and Avraham's house. The first act of the evening was very talented solo violinist. It was exactly what I was looking for in this festival, since I'd heard relatively little violin music so far, whether because there were fewer violinists this year or simply because of bad luck. Although this violinist was technically excellent, she didn't project a very charismatic stage presence so the crowd didn't seem as engaged as it could have been. She simply walked on stage after her introduction, played some songs wonderfully, and walked off.

This was a stark contrast with the next act, which was a brass band with at least half a dozen members. They prefaced their playing with a friendly introduction to the band to reveal some its character beforehand. Their boisterous playing expressed a style much closer to Louisiana Dixie than Klezmer, though they did include a good bit of singing in Yiddish. The real character of the band was a Californian who sang in English and played a washboard, a honky-horn, a kazoo, and a teapot (not all at once, but almost). Though they were good, it was too loud and brassy for me to enjoy for more than a few songs, and Mark was more interested in hearing Klezmer than Dixie anyway.

Further up the street was a big stage where a mother and son pair were playing accordion and clarinet, respectively. Mark had heard them last year and had liked them very much. It was hard for me to judge for myself, though, because either the sound engineer or the sound equipment for that stage was rather sub-par, and so you could hardly hear the accordion at all over the tinny interference. Despite this, the stage was still packed so tightly that there was no place to sit, and so we stood till the end of their performance. When the next band came onstage to prepare, I noticed an electric violin among the group. As interesting as that might have been, I had a bit of a lingering headache from the past day's heat and wanted to go someplace where I could sit down.

So we went even further up the street, where I heard a good violin performance playing on the speakers of a boom box set behind a CD vendor. The player turned out to be Ayal Shiloach, who is apparently famous enough to have his posters pasted up all over the place at the festival. The man selling CDs behind the table told us that he was currently playing on the stage up the street, so we hurried over to catch it. But we were a little too late, as Mark spotted him packing up when we got there, so we continued on to the next stage. There were no seats set up directly in front of the stage that night, but there were some seats to be had in front of the restaurants in the square in which the stage was set. After bumping into Avraham and Rebecca and giving Ashira a kiss-attack, we managed to grab a couple seats on the side of the square opposite the stage. The music playing was something that made a pleasant background for a light dining experience, and featured a mandolin. Mark treated me to a milkshake, forbidding me from paying because I was giving him a place to stay.

The top of the next hour rolled around, and my program guide told me that Ayal Shiloach would be playing again at the earlier stage. We were more successful in catching him this time. The tiny amphitheater was fully packed, but I resourcefully found seating with a good view in a small tree. Mark managed to follow me up with a bit of athleticism that was impressive for a 48-year-old. The show took its sweet time to get started, and while we waited a young lady asked me to take advantage of my position to snap a few pictures of the performers preparing on stage. More than a couple people also found our arboreal perch amusing enough to snap a few shots of us. The music was good when it finally started, and the musicians certainly knew how to please an audience. They played some original music, but more of the songs were popular tunes that everyone would sing along with. There was also a medley of the score from "Fiddler on the Roof". It was fun, but I preferred more technically challenging material over the popular ditties, so after the first hour of the show, I was ready to go home. Mark wanted to hear more, so he stayed on for another hour while I sat in bed and read.

All in all, I had more fun at this year's Klezmer festival than I'd had in previous years. Since I was living in town this year, I felt like I could browse and pick through the available performances with more leisure and more freedom to simply drop out and go home whenever I felt like I'd had enough.