(photo credit: Courtesy)
Two years ago, Yaniv Tsaidi was enjoying a budding Chicago-based career as a Hassidic pop performer. But with two successful studio albums under his belt and rising status as a concert draw, the Israeli-born musician decided on a change of direction, dropping his schmaltzy musical act to explore the potential of Heedoosh, a rock project that had already been incubating for six years.
The band, which mixes meditations on the "Holy Self" with tunes reminiscent of Alice in Chains, seemed more exciting than following sheet music while wearing polished shoes.
Along with his brother Yahav, Tsaidi joined forces with Brooklyn producer and session man Eli Massias, as well as with drummer Ari Leichtberg, who'd previously worked with a pair of Jerusalem-based jam bands. With Yahav Tsaidi writing much of Heedoosh's material, basing it on original, poetic lyrics in Hebrew, the band was finally underway.
Following the release of a critically acclaimed album and almost two years of club gigs around New York, Heedoosh is now heading further east, performing several shows in Israel over the coming week. The band's manager had booked two Succot club shows in Poland - both of which sold out - but they were cancelled to allow the concerts in Israel.
The last time the half-Yemenite, half-Moroccan Tsaidi played a concert series here, it was the summer of 2004 and he was a solo artist, performing as part of the Am Yisrael Chai tour alongside Reva L'Sheva, Sinai Tor and Adi Ran. But performing with Heedoosh should be "a whole other beast," he says. With a band behind him, he has the potential to rock harder and reach a more varied audience.
Both Tsaidi and his drummer, Leichtberg, plan to relocate to Israel in the coming months - so this, their first tour here, is laying the groundwork for many gigs to come. There's already talk, Tsaidi says, of performing more concerts as early as February.
Heedoosh has undergone a number of personnel overhauls over the past two years, so the core duo - Tsaidi and Leichtberg - is the key.
"He's not like a wedding band guy who plays with the band as a side project," Tsaidi of his drummer. "This is his band."
Joining the group for this week's shows is guitarist Avi Hoffman of Blue Fringe, who has been playing onstage with Heedoosh for about a year.
The tour kicks off Saturday night at Jerusalem club The Lab, in a co-headlining concert with Soulfarm. Next, Heedoosh expects to play to its largest audience to date as one of the marquee acts at the Beit Shemesh Festival, taking place admission-free at the city's amphitheater. Acts joining Heedoosh on the main stage Sunday are scheduled to include power rock trio Yood, Hamakor, Soulfarm, Adi Ran and Sinai Tor.
On Monday, Heedoosh and Hamakor will head back to Jerusalem for a show at the Yellow Submarine. The concert will be something of a role reversal: the last time Hamakor played at the Submarine, it had just completed a US tour that included sets opening for Heedoosh in New York. Hamakor now returns to the Submarine having completed its second American tour, where this time members of Heedoosh are the guests.