Rocking tributes

Dylan, Cohen, Mitchell, Simon and Garfunkel all receive their dues through the Empty Chair project.

lev feinerman 88 298 (photo credit: )
lev feinerman 88 298
(photo credit: )
Great musicians have far reaching impact on the artists that follow them. Musicians like Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Leonard Cohen and the Rolling Stones have shaped a future generation of musicians, and one way to see their impact is by attending a tribute night produced by the Empty Chair project. The Empty Chair project has put on tribute nights in the past few months for Dylan and Cohen, which had such large turnouts that people were lined up outside to get in. Organized by Tali Stern and Shlomo Blass, the project was initiated as a way to have fun and introduce Jerusalemites to rock artists. "[The tributes] create a community of people who identify with this kind of music," said Stern, who grew up in Indianapolis and moved to Israel when she was 17. Stern and Blass created the idea for these nights and worked with other musicians to coordinate the events. After the initial success of the Dylan and Cohen nights, the duo decided to institutionalize the nights by using the same formula again with slight changes. The tributes started from a conversation Stern and Blass had about putting together a musical evening for Bob Dylan. They had originally set the date for Dylan's birthday but instead, it fell on Blass'. Since then, the project has thrived. At the Cohen tribute, the event had some Hebrew translations of his work. Stern, who hosts the events, provides background information on the artists and the songs performed in between musicians. "It changes a little every time," Stern says with a laugh. "[The musicians] choose a song quickly...I tell them it's a first come, first serve. There are a lot of auctions and competitions for songs." Stern and Blass, who work at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, have different attitudes about Empty Chair nights. Stern views them as a fun and educational vehicle, whereas Blass sees them as enjoyable, prepared events. "It's more of answering a need than trying to tell people something they didn't know they needed," says Blass, who also plays guitar. "I really do it for the fun….it's a fun atmosphere and I like the music." The musicians agree with Blass' sentiment. Lev Feinerman, a vocalist and guitarist, heard about the Bob Dylan night and immediately knew he wanted to take part. After the first two very successful events, he decided to stay a part of future events. He originally wasn't going to play in the Joni Mitchell night held March 1, but changed his mind after Stern gave him some music of hers to listen to. "It's actually fun getting together and paying tribute to the great influences," said Feinerman. "It's educational too because I didn't connect with certain artists, so it was a chance for me to interpret the music." Both Stern and Blass say the logistics of the events can be difficult to manage, especially because both don't want to lose the warm, friendly atmosphere of the tribute nights by moving to a larger venue. The smaller spaces can cause some problems with all the different musicians and their equipment. The Empty Chair held a tribute night to Mitchell at the beginning of the month with most of the tickets sold out in advance. The event, the first held in the Khan Theater instead of a pub or bar, had many local musicians participate. Another tribute to Simon and Garfunkel will take place tonight at the Syndrome.