Indie in Jerusalem

Singer-songwriter Riff Cohen will help kick off the fun on November 5.

Malox (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It can’t be a good time to put on a mass outdoor entertainment event at different spots around Jerusalem, can it? Then again, last year’s free Indie City Live Festival didn’t exactly take place when all was sweetness and light in the Middle East, either.
“Last summer we had just had Operation Protective Edge, and I was really worried that maybe no one would come out for the festival,” recalls artistic director Betina Feinstein. Happily, those concerns proved unfounded.
“We had 10,000 people at all the shows,” Feinstein continues. “It was amazing.”
So, political-security situation notwithstanding, Feinstein is looking forward to a similarly enthusiastic response for the fifth edition of Indie City Live on November 5.
She has pulled out all the stops to attract as wide a range of music fans as possible, with numerous styles and genres on the artist roster, which takes in veteran acts alongside some up-and-coming stuff. Long-standing rap and hip-hop group Shabak Samech needs no introduction, while prog rock-fusion trio Tatran has graced some of the country’s biggest events over the past couple of years, such as the Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat. Indie vocalist Zohara may not be as well known as the aforementioned acts, but her vocal gifts should make the Jerusalem audience happy, while the effervescent duo of Malox, with the feral output of saxophonist, clarinetist and bagpiper Eyal Talmudi and drummer Aviv Bonen, should send the Jerusalem evening energy level through the roof.
Red Axes.(photo credit: Courtesy)
“I intentionally went for a variety of bands and performers because I want to have something from all parts of the scene,” Feinstein explains. “We have bands that have put albums out, and there are youngsters in there, too.”
Indie City Live, which is supported by the Young Authority of the Jerusalem Municipality, is a quintessential Jerusalem event. While most Tel Avivians may believe that the Israeli cultural scene begins and ends in the coastal metropolis, the fact of the matter is that the underground and indie scene in the capital offers an impressively broad swath of creativity across a range of artistic avenues.
“So much has developed in Jerusalem over the last few years,” notes Tel Aviv resident, Jerusalem-born Feinstein. “There is so much going in the city.”
Feinstein says that Jerusalemites have taken the festival to their hearts.
“We get such a warm reception at the festival. We opened the event on Facebook this year and received 4,000 attending responses within 24 hours.
That’s unprecedented. That’s so moving,” she says.
The festival is, of course, about entertaining the Jerusalemites and out-oftowners who make it over to the four venues in the city center on Heleni Hamalka Street, Hahavatzelet Street and around the corner on Horkanos Street.
The street-level ethos is further enhanced by a slew of video clips shot at all manner of spots around Jerusalem.
When, for example, you see the Bucharest rock band playing at the Monster children’s play structure in Kiryat Hayovel, with haredi kids looking on with broad smiles, you get a sense of the vibe of the neighborhood and the natural curiosity of the youngsters.
The clips take viewers on a whirlwind tour of the city and take in some locations that one might not see in the normal course of everyday life. Tatran, for instance, does its thing in the waterless expanse of the Mamilla Pool, while Zohara plays a number called “Amplify Me” at the Piano monument dedicated to Arthur Rubinstein at a scenic spot next to Moshav Aminadav, just beyond the city boundary.
And if the video of Hamasach Halavan (The White Screen) post-punk gang is anything to go by, the crowd at the 9 p.m. show at the upper stage along Heleni Hamalka Street should have a wild time. Feinstein and the other video producers went for an oxymoronic line, shooting the wild and wacky all-male band members doing their thing in makeup and untailored attire, with the Knesset as a tongue-in-cheek backdrop.
Nice touch.
The general feel of Jerusalem and its environs is stretched even further by a clip of indie trio Isaiah performing in a ruin in the abandoned Arab village of Lifta, while Riff Cohen charms some locals with her Arabesque ivory tickling and vocals at the Beit Canada community center in Musrara, and Shabak Samech mixes it in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.
Riff Cohen.(photo credit: Courtesy)
“I put a lot into the documentary clips this year. That’s the field I come from,” says Feinstein. “The situation in Kiryat Menahem, for example [with hip-hop band Lucille Crew] was amazing, and I think it conveyed a sense of acceptance of ‘the other.’” And there’s Shabak Samech, which might have ruffled a few religious feathers.
“Their song talks about the Messiah and wonders where we’ll all hide when he comes,” says Feinstein. “It’s a protest song.”
The clips serve to set the scene but, of course, it is what happens in downtown Jerusalem on November 5 that really matters.
“I made the documentary clips to bond the city with the music and vice versa,” the artistic director explains, adding that each year’s festival offers her and the public new vistas. “I always choose new locations and try to take in more of the city. There is an endless supply of great locations all over Jerusalem.”
A diverse spread of quality sounds, hosted at aesthetically and funky (in the uniquely Jerusalem sense of the term) venues, makes for a successful marriage which has proven its worth for the last four years, security situation notwithstanding.
Shabak Samech.(photo credit: Courtesy)
The fun starts at the Heleni Hamalka compound site with Hila Ruach at 8:30 p.m., followed by Riff Cohen and Malox, while over on Horkanos Street the 8 p.m., 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. slots feature Bucharest, Isaiah and Tatran, respectively. The Hahavatzelet Street shows start at 7:40 p.m., with cellist-guitarist twosome The Jamshid Sisters, followed by rocker Alon Eder. And then there’s the decibel-heavy antics of the Cain and Abel 902010 gang, and Lucille Crew, closing with Shabak Samech at 10:30 p.m. Zohara gets the upper Heleni Hamalka Street program under way at 8 p.m., followed by Hamasach Halavan and indie rock band Red Axes.
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