(photo credit: MATAN LEWI)
In a way, the inDnegev Festival is a reflection of Israel’s future. That may sound like an overstatement, but it’s hard not to think of this music festival in a broader context. As we drove towards Mitzpe Gvulot, I saw a road sign that read “[to] Rafah Crossing.”
Images of media coverage of Operation Protective Edge flashed through my mind as we drove towards the western part of the Negev.
Just this summer, that area was an actual war zone. While most of the world may think of this country in that context, inDnegev is able to prove them wrong. It’s still a relatively small phenomenon, only about 6,000 attendees, but it makes a very positive statement.
At the site, streams of cars were parking on a kilometer-long strip of desert sand, patient but excited people were waiting in lines to get their pre-paid tickets (entrance bracelets), hundreds of tents were huddled together adjacent to the festival venue, and music was blasting across the desert horizon.
On Thursday night, Acollective was the first big name to perform on the main Monkey Stage. The six-piece band was energetic and charismatic as always, but when I heard a young teenager say, “Did you see what the guitarist just did with his hair?” I had to make a change of scene.
At the smaller Elephant Stage, there were about 100 people in the audience, but I Was a Bastard played a raucous set of heavy melancholy rock, notwithstanding a dangerous edge.
These guys, plus the female on bass, poured their guts out.
When Berry Sakharoff took the stage for his first official performance at inDnegev, it felt like a monumental moment. In a way, his performance was a bridge between the music of the past and the music of the future. And that perhaps is the story of inDnegev in a nutshell – a new generation taking over by doing it their way, while not ignoring the past.
On the second day, Efrat Ben-Tzur put on a terrific show, presenting her quirkiness and self-assuredness in an effortless manner. And she wasn’t shy to share her thoughts with the crowd: “I am nobody. If you’re nobody too, let’s be a couple.”
For me, the biggest surprise came moments later with Illy, a powerful trio of 18-year-olds who were completely comfortable on stage. The lead singer and guitarist seethed electrifying licks and solos, and his huge curly hair elicited nostalgic images of the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin.
The crowd loved them, and I heard one girl say, “I want to see The Angelcy, but this is really good.”
And speaking of The Angelcy, they were unquestionably the biggest act of the festival. By the time their set came up, the place was packed. After a few songs with the large crowd chanting along with every word, I wanted to see if there was anything else going on.
And, to my pleasant surprise, there was. Hila Ruah and her new band were performing for a few hundred people that had come to see her, and she made sure to show her appreciation.
Her performance was loud, heavy and gripping. Her new material was excellent, and she seems to have found a sound that suits her well.
Saturday morning had the audience swinging to the beats and harmonies of the three-woman vocal group The Hazelnuts. Isaiah, which performed after, is a band to keep a close eye on, with its blend of Greek music and American folk of the likes of Fleet Foxes.
And it wasn’t all about the music. It was very evident that the average age of the attendees had dropped considerably.
In my camping area there was a group of 17-year-olds who had come from Tel Aviv on an organized bus. Most of the time they stayed in the camping zone, occasionally going inside to see their favorite bands.
Which is understandable, as inDnegev has a special atmosphere about it. It’s more about the colorful people (teenagers and families with young kids) who come from all over the country looking to have a good time.
The festival may still be relatively small, but inDnegev has managed to break into the Israeli mainstream while staying true to itself. It is uncertain what it will look like in the future, but its impact keeps increasing every year.