Woodstock on my mind

Jerusalem Woodstock Revival the seventh edition is set to take place at the Kraft Stadium on Thursday.

Aryeh Naftaly (photo credit: J. BORODETSKY)
Aryeh Naftaly
(photo credit: J. BORODETSKY)
Not everyone gets to share their admiration and love for their musical idols with the world, but next week Aryeh Naftaly will get to do that.
Well, not quite with the entire world but at least with the faithfuls who will attend the Jerusalem Woodstock Revival, the seventh edition of which takes place at the Kraft Stadium on Thursday. The 50something San Francisco-born Mevo Modi’im resident will share the stage with his Elevators band when he returns to the festival for a second Woodstock tribute to the Grateful Dead.
Naftaly and the Dead have been an item for quite some time, even though the guitarist had to overcome some powerful emotions to get a handle on the music.
“When I was about 13, a friend of mine said, ‘You would really love this music.’ I’d seen the record covers [of Grateful Dead] with the scary skulls and things. I thought it was something like acid rock, something really frightening and not something I would be interested in at all. My friend said I should ignore the pictures and listen to the music,” he recounts.
Naftaly decided to take the plunge.
“I went to my local record store and picked up a copy of [1970 album] Workingman’s Dead, and I never looked back,” he says. “It is still one of my favorite records of all time.”
The teenager was well and truly hooked.
“I started collecting backwards and forwards with their records as the records came out. I was too young to go to their concerts, but I really loved their music,” he adds.
By then, Naftaly had managed to conquer his fear of the band’s somewhat morbid artwork.
“I think I started to get a positive take on death,” he observes.
That more favorable attitude to the end of our time on terra firma was subsequently boosted by some research the young man conducted on the group’s moniker.
“I read that they were looking for a name and they looked in a dictionary and they found this thing that was called ‘grateful dead,’ which is a story form, meaning that it is a standard form of a story in which someone comes back from the dead to help someone who helped them while they were still alive. Someone who is grateful and dead comes back and helps someone who is alive. So it isn’t anything scary at all,” he explains.
Toning down the fear factor smoothed Naftaly’s way to other Dead creations.
“The first album of theirs I bought when it actually came out was Blues for Allah (from 1975), which has one of the scariest covers. It has a figure with white hair and a red cloak and he is playing a violin. That is really scary!” he says.
While the Grateful Dead may have had strong waves across the States, it took quite a while for their music to cross the pond, and even longer to get over here.
“No one in Israel really knew the Grateful Dead when I made aliya [in the early 1980s],” says Naftaly, adding that initially the Dead’s sounds even struggled to make it out of California.
“Growing up on the West Coast, we’d hear stuff by groups like Santana [from San Francisco], the [San Jose-based] Doobie Brothers, The Tower of Power [from Oakland, California] and the Steve Miller Band, which came from San Francisco, and the Grateful Dead. There was a lot of cross-pollination between black and white music. Bands like the Grateful Dead and the Doobie Brothers just didn’t make it over to Israel.”
Of course, that was back in the day, long before the Internet and MTV, and the possibilities of hearing new stuff from the US and Britain were limited to what you got on a couple of radio stations.
“There was [Reshet Gimmel radio pop and rock show presenter] Tony Fine and the Voice of Peace, and that’s all you got,” explains Naftaly, adding that someone had to assume the responsibility of introducing the locals to the Dead.
“You could say I did that,” says Naftaly. “Back in the 1990s I had a band called Ein Safek (No Doubt), and we did a lot of Grateful Dead stuff. But there was an influx of Deadheads coming over from the States, to Jerusalem, and Dead music became an important part of our repertoire.”
After Ein Safek disbanded, Naftaly spent around a decade performing original material, including songs in Hebrew until, in 2007, someone came up with the idea of putting together a Grateful Dead cover act. Naftaly was the natural choice to lead the venture.
“I put together a band, which was a reunion of Ein Safek with the addition of [US-born hassidic rocker and blues man] Lazer Lloyd. We did two shows – one in Jerusalem and one at Barby in Tel Aviv – and they were both very successful.
That was just when my old best friend, keyboardist Rob Steiner made aliya, and we put together the Elevators. That was in 2007, and we have continued playing the Grateful Dead, as well as our own music, and we also do dedicated shows.
What we will be doing at Woodstock is a dedicated set,” he says.
And there will plenty more of 1960s and ’70s love and groovy vibe-era fare on offer at the Kraft Stadium through the day as all kinds of American-born and Sabra acts do their love-infused thing on stage. The festival returnees include Geva Alon, who recently released his first album in Hebrew, who will do a tribute to Neil Young. And it is difficult of think of the capital’s Woodstock bash without the let-it-all-hang turn of American-born rock singer Libi. The hippest 60something grandma around, who is currently gaining national fame on the Israeli X-Factor TV show, will be rocking out well-known hits of The Who, Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Band with her celebrated The Flashback band.
Other get-up-and-dance spots to look out for include high-energy funk and soul outfit Funk ‘N’ Stein, with their tribute to Sly & The Family Stone, fronted by Israeli-born singer Elran Dekel. The newcomer Woodstock contingent includes Gal Nisman – of Jacob’s Ladder fame – and his popular young blues band Full Trunk, who will be playing the hits of Eric Clapton and Cream.
In addition to the musical vibes, there will be the regular arts and crafts stalls, a juggling workshop, face painting and other activities for the whole family, with the now traditional festival slot of the Best Dressed Hippie competition sponsored by the Nahlaot-based Trumpeldor vintage store.
“I missed the original festival of 1969,” remarks Steve Leibowitz, president of American Football in Israel and director of the Kraft Family Stadium. “But this is our seventh summer where we bring a little bit of Woodstock to Jerusalem, and it has proven highly popular with Anglos and Sabras of all ages. Although it’s our shmita year, we refuse to take a break and promise to provide a festival that’ll blow everyone’s bell bottoms off!”
The Woodstock Revival takes place on July 30 at the Kraft Stadium, from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. For tickets and more information: www.woodstockrevival.com or www.goshow.co.il; ladidah2000@ gmail.com or *6226.