Confessions of a frum music junky

The more and more I descend into the world of music and as I become more addicted to a variety of genre’s, the harder I find it to find fellow frum folks to accompany to shows, festivals and record shops.

It all began with the BMG Columbia House craze of the early to 90s. Every kid in my class was doing it, so naturally I had to as well. Since we were all of 11 or 12 years old no one could do anything to us for what we did, foolish as it was. The deal was that for 1 penny you could get 5 cd’s and then get 1 for whole price and 5 more after that- of course these companies made their killings from the shipping. Mamish ginaiva if you think of what we did. Get the first five then dont pay at all. So it went the children of the 5th grade class of MDS stole tons of cd’s from these two companies.

This was about the same time that I discovered MTV. Oh the joys of watching scantily clad women shake their booties to rump shaker or the beautiful Liv Tyler and Alicia Silverstone in the Aerosmith Videos of the day, oh how my little horny 11 year old mind wandered. Even more daring was the fact that my father, strictly only when he was home, forbade me and my brother from watching any MTV what so ever. “Its drek” he used to say, as well as any music by black artists from unless it was oldies. Of course at those ages your interest in listening to the Temptations was about as high as hanging out with your folks at the mall.

I dont know how it happened, but soon after my MTV days of pre-pubescence ended I did in fact discover oldies. I love du-op, I di not philosophize about it then but it worked for me.

Entering 9th grade at the end of the grunge era thrust me into the beginings of hmm what shall we call it? The modern rock era- which eventually became sucidal, rage induced, off the derech rock. Yes all the kids who for some reason only liked Mettalica- other 80s bands besides Ozzy and GnR were unheard of- the frummy rebels all went by this Mettalica code.

Well in 9th grade I entered Yeshiva high school and was cast down into loving in a dorm with a bunch of people I didnt know and thought to be extremely orthodox.

Well besides these woes Yeshiva introduced me to the #1 greatest lesson of all- good music is rarely played on the radio, one must search for years to amass a collection of goodness, one must also be willing to think outside the box, and be willing to experiment.

When I was 16 I was in a car driving to a Queensryche concert that we didnt end up getting tickets to, blaring to headache inducing decibles was some of the wierdest music I have ever heard. The band was switching from soft melodies utilizing synthaiszers and Saxophone to insanely fast drum beats and 15 minute long guitar solos. I was thoroughly impressed.

Dream Theater opened me up to a whole new world of music, for the first two years of high school, I had found that I loved all the hair bands of the 80’s, you know Warrant, Quiot Riot, Firehouse, Whitesnake, yes all those bands that you may not admit to once liking- but once upon a time drove down main street wearing fishnets, mascara, and wanted to be C.C. Deville. Anyway after sampling these bands I went to country- maybe it was the hick in me peaking out for the first time, but I gravitated to white trash music. I also for some reason became addicted to the Beatles- yeh I know every kid likes them- but they are just so wholesome.

Back to Dream Theater- progressive rock as they call it, The early pioneers of this were the infamous Yardbyrds, Yes, King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Rush, early Genisis, and even some of the lengthier Zeplin tunes that utilize the harmonica and crazy drum solos. Progressive rock combines multiple music genre’s and brings them to one diverse frenzy. Some bands have 45 minute long songs- usually the music will have metal undertones, with jazz and classical music thrown in. Not very popular due to its technicality, progressive rock forces you to think about the flow and composition of the music, similar to jazz but on a much lower scale of course.

True cultural diversity exists in a good used record and cd shop. The array of music ranging from jazz to show tunes will attract, pink mohawked punk rockers, refined black business men looking for early cuts recordings of Coltrane in the jazz section, UberWaspy types searching for an array of digitaly remastered philarmonic recordings, mean looking men with dog collars round their necks, long black hair, combat boots, and chain wallets perusing the death metal rows, normal socor moms finding that latest country cd, and a wide array of every day types like myself. The conversation can also get heated and philosphical music debates arise. Did Goerge Harrison really excel at playing the 12 string guitar in Octipuss’s Garden? Did Ozzy really bite off bat heads at early Black Sabbath shows? When did Elton John come out of the closet? Yes many important life threatening matters are discussed and disected at the famed record shop.

It is at a now shuutered record shop in Rochester NY that I discovered Ska, Folk, Power Metal, and Bluegrass. Fantastic Records may it rest in peace, was a perfect record shop. Neatly lined rows with the largest sections being Metal, Punk and Jazz, filled this musty smelling building situated across from a Marshalls. Many rainy days were spent here trying to catch the eye of a girl I saw checking out the latest Reel Big Fish or talking to my fellow metal head about the redeaming qualities of hair bands. My method of picking cd’s ranged from sale rack cheapies, to seeing if I liked the artwork enough to sit down and listen to the album. Artwork by the way, is quite contextual, Jam Bands and hhippy types tend to have flowers, mushrooms, pot leafs and opther hippy emblems- signaling to the potential buyer that this music will sound great as long as you love waling blues guitar trying to immitate the great Jerry Garcia while improving on distortion and sound. Or the mystical cover beckoning the dungeons and dragon metal fan to stories of sorcerors and great wars fought in Scotland backed to the sound of pounding yet melodic guitar riffs and heavy bass drums. Or the simple album cover featuring a redneck in an old F150 shouldering a winchester while hunting from his cab- country music of course.

In I srael I met a lot of hippies and other drugged up folk who while smoking mad amounts of hydro could handle listening to hours of jam band style music. Here is where I discovered Phish, the Dead, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Allman Bro’s, Niel Young, Jethro Tull, and numerous other Woodtsock era bands along with the newer more progressive ones. Madeski Martin and Wood with their Jazz-Hop, pumped me up enough to explore jazz a bit.

The jam band cult hit me like slug to the chest- I began to see shows that blew me away. Addison Groove Project- $8 in Rochester for a 3 hour set of funky, groovin jazz infused with a dj’s turntables and an insane bassist. Jazz Mandolin Porject with the upright electric bass, mandolin and a quite technical percussionist taking bluegrass and forcing it into a jazz mode. Then came Steve Kimmock in Albany- a slide guitar maniac, providing listeners with the soft accoustic guitar and blues guitar solos for 4 hours, for a mere 15 bucks. 90% of this music is instrumental adding to the quality- full attention is paid to the instruments, and no vulgarity is accompanied with the soft sweet music. The vibe at these shows is phenominal I always go in tztzis and yamy and am constantly meeting folks curious or knowledgable aboutmy strings and cool hat. Music fans are always respectful of religion. Music like religion brings people together.

All this jam band fascination rocked my world and brought me fruther into the love of music. It finnally brought me to where I am today. JAZZ- yes in my ripe old age of 24 I discovered jazz. Being super technical yet fully groovable at the same time Jazz ebbs and flows fully yet makes no sense at all. Jazz takes the listener and forces new rules upon them. No longer do drum beats have to flow with the guitar, clarinet, or Saxophone. No longer can we simply pop a cd in and cast our attention elsewhere. No, Jazz brings brains and quality of music, and casts down all those who are not willing to open their minds to the infinite possibilities of the artist.

From the funk of Marcus Miller, to the smokiness of the organ bashing Jimmy Smith to the completely techical exhibitions of Dave Weckel to the attention needed to fully appreciate Chik Korea- jazz has forced thousands of dollars out of my pocket and caused the sneer of the typical jazz listener to look at my muddied car with me shirtless blarring bass induced sounds of jazz artists out of my steel cacoon. (Jazz is traditionaly listened to while driving a BMX 7-series down the long driveway to the WASPy country club that just started admitting Jews as members.

And so I am still 2 years later on the same music genre craving more and more. Furthermore of all music, Jazz second the classical could be considered the most clean, kosher and frum music of all.