Yes, folks, it’s that time of year again, when we head off for the northwestern tip of the Kinneret to groove, shake a leg, sing along or just chill out to the folkie, bluesy, Celtic, country, pop and several other musical genres at the Jacob’s Ladder Festival.
This year’s three-day spring bash takes place from May 3 to May 5 at its regular berth of Nof Ginnosar, with an artistic lineup that features many of the usual suspects plus some stellar imports from the US. The latter include country, bluegrass and gospel vocalist Mike Scott and his five-piece Nashville Band; country multi-instrumentalist “Totem Pole” Rik Palieri; and folk-pop singer-songwriter Mikey Pauker.
While festival patrons are always happy to see familiar acts on stage, such as guitarist-vocalist Shay Tochner, Scottish folk threesome Jug O’ Punch and 1960s and ’70s pop revival duo Larry & Mindy, Jacob’s Ladder organizers Yehudit and Menahem Vinegrad often shuffle the pack as well. Among the acts making their debut is the 10-member Shmemel cross-genre group. The band’s output is described as “funk-groove-hasidorock,” although according to Shmemel frontman Dror Waidman, even that does not fully cover it.
“You could say the essence of what we do is groovy, but we do other things, too,” says Waidman, who acts as lead vocalist and adds some occasional saxophone ornamentation to the general groove.
Although Shmemel may be new to Jacob’s Ladder, the group was formed about started five years ago, says 29- year-old Waidman. All the members originate from Ness Ziona, although Waidman and most of the others have relocated to Tel Aviv since then, and he and guitarist Yaniv Raveh first began making music together long before Shmemel was a twinkle in any of their eyes.
“Yaniv and I were together at school, and we attended the Ness Ziona Music Conservatory together. We started playing around with the idea of doing something, and we were in all sorts of bands that didn’t work out before Shmemel started,” he says.
Shmemel’s shows always include some covers, but the band’s repertoire is increasingly based on self-penned products in Hebrew. “I write a lot of the stuff,” says Waidman. “I have written songs in English, but today I write in Hebrew because I feel more comfortable with it. There are also Jewish colors and inflections in there.
You have to feel comfortable with the material you perform.”
The non-Hebrew songs tend be of a high-energy nature and include African-American music. “We do James Brown and Blues Brothers, soul and stuff,” Waidman continues, adding that he and his cohorts feed off music and energies, and even technologies, that had been around for some time before they were born.
“Our first album was based on the spirit of the 1970s – groovy, soul and funk. That’s what turned us on. There is something warmer about the sound from that time, before computers took over the industry,” he says.
Elsewhere in the Jacob’s Ladder Festival program there artists who started their careers when analog recording technology still ruled the roost, as well as young performers such as folk-rock singer-songwriter Maya Isacowitz, who sings mainly in English, and guitarist-vocalist Gilad Hesseg, who fronts a seven-piece band that puts words of famous writers of the 19th- and 20th-century to music, such as Hemingway, Poe and Kipling.
The returnee side of the festival agenda includes country music-classic rock outfit Red Meadow, American-born bluesy singer-songwriter Delmark Goldfarb, and rhythm and groove band TRiAD.
As always, there will be hands-on stuff to get into over the three days, such as tap dancing, the Tedarim B’Tnua body and soul movement workshop, tai chi, Irish dancing and yoga. And for those who want to give their vocal chords a guided workout, there’s a singing and harmony workshop with mother-and-son team Diane and Edan Kaplan. Outside the hotel building there will be a crafts fair, and various forms of holistic treatment will be on offer in the southern campsite area.
And there’s always the gently lapping waters of the lake behind the main stage. And, thanks to the winter’s relatively plentiful wet offering, this year’s festival goers won’t have so far to walk to get their feet wet.
For tickets and more information about Jacob’s Ladder Festival: (04) 685- 0403; firstname.lastname@example.org and www.jlfestival.com