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(photo credit: Courtesy)
There is never any shortage of entertainment variety at Jacob's Ladder. This year is no different. For three days, festival faithful and newcomers both can hop to the insouciant sounds of country music, jig to joyous Irish airs, happily surf waves of sixties musical nostalgia and get on down to some adrenalin-inducing rock vibes from both indoor and outdoor stages around the site.
In addition to the usual mix of local acts, there will be folks putting out folk, blues, Celtic, klezmer, pop, rock and bluegrass sounds, plus the regular handful of imports from abroad. The latter include the intriguingly named Foggy Hogtown Boys (FHB) bluegrass band from Canada and compatriot singer-songwriter Howard Gladstone, with California-based Brit singer-songwriter Jason Feddy completing the foreign lineup.
FHB should certainly have the festival patrons jiving on the grass with their high energy mix of bluegrass liberally seasoned with heady blues roots, ballads and gospel tunes, performed with virtuosic instrumental work. The five-man band hails from Toronto, and over the last five years has built up a reputation as one of the hardest driving acts in the genre. If the latest FHB release, The Golden West, is anything to go by, then fun and games are afoot at their two planned gigs.
One of the returning local acts is Holler! The trio consists of vocalist/percussionist Barak Cohen, guitarist Jason Reich and vocalist/guitarist Ami Yares. According to Yares, the Holler! repertoire covers a wide expanse of musical terrain, fueled by a high-energy ethos.
"I grew up with grunge - bands like Pearl Jam - but the music Holler! plays mostly comes from earlier times," says the 29-year-old US-born Yares, adding that the vibes of previous generations better suit him as well as the other band members. "There wasn't really any storytelling in the music I heard on the radio as a kid," he continues. "I felt it came from a negative place. Our songwriting, and the other folk, blues, rock and other music we play are more artistic and come from a happier place."
Isn't there a danger, however, of simply regurgitating material from the past, even if Yares and his pals are hip to the contemporary flow?
"Drawing on the past doesn't mean it's going to be the same as back then," Yares explains. "We're doing what we love, but we also need to create something new. I think we manage to do that." Holler! arrives at Jacob's Ladder fresh from the recording studio with its debut CD.
Elsewhere on the Jacob's Ladder agenda there are the familiar, and popular, names and voices of Galilean outfit Ada and Diane, backed by percussionist Salem Darwish, and cellists Eyal Malkinson and Rami Bonen. Then there is percussionist Abe Doron, formerly of River Dance fame, who has appeared at several Jacob's Ladder shindigs but probably never with such an eclectic, and environmentally friendly, program as the self-explanatory named Groovy Junkyard Duo.
Doron and Gil Bohadana will play all manner of instrument created from recycled junk, including plastic tubing, planks of wood with wiring pulled across them and flutes made from discarded metal piping. Bohadana recently brought a smile to the faces of a bunch of children in Sderot when he showed them how to play music on the remains of a Kassam rocket.
Elsewhere in the 3-day program you'll find the likes of: the Cunla quartet with, as the festival program puts it, "an optimistic, funny and touching show of traditional and contemporary music from Ireland and Quebec," a heady mix of Balkan rhythms and Celtic tunes from the Elki-Palki foursome, and Just Married, featuring new immigrant couple Lilach and Gary Bonanni New Yorker acoustic bass player Rene Hart percussionist Jamie Aelgre and singer Orly Perlstein with a wide-ranging repertoire of bluegrass, country, jazz and Indie music.
Add to that the staple Irish, tap and square dance workshops, yoga and tai chi sessions, impromptu jam sessions and a dip in the quickly disappearing lake and you end up with a well tailored and entertaining three-dayer.
Jacob's Ladder Festival runs from May 7-9. For schedule, tickets and all other related information, visit jlfestival.com or call (04) 685-0403.