Second annual Jerusalem Community Woodstock to take place this weekend

This Thursday and Friday will see the aforesaid vegetarian café-restaurant host the second annual Jerusalem Community Woodstock festival with a bunch of afternoon Anglo and Israeli bands.

(photo credit: AVITAR NISAN)
Ever fantasize about getting into a time machine and popping back to some bygone halcyon era you missed simply because you were born at the wrong time and/or in the wrong place? My temporal warping bucket list includes being around when the likes of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie et al were introducing the world – albeit, initially, to miniscule audiences – to the intoxicating sounds and rhythms of modern jazz, and catching pre-world fame The Beatles in Hamburg. I would also have loved to spend three or four days in Upstate New York when hundreds of thousands were turning on, tuning in and dropping out as they caught a galaxy of now iconic pop, rock and folkie acts doing their thing in the unparalleled cool vibes that abounded Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel exactly 51 years ago.
Well, it may not exactly be the wide lush open spaces of rural eastern United States, and that fleeting age of innocence is sadly largely dead and buried, but the Silo eatery in Jerusalem, just down the road from the First Station, ain’t a bad choice for generating at least some of that relaxed and insouciant ambiance.
This Thursday and Friday will see the aforesaid vegetarian café-restaurant host the second annual Jerusalem Community Woodstock festival with a bunch of afternoon Anglo and Israeli bands doffing their derby to such legendary artists as Santana, Jefferson Airplane, Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead.
The event, with electric slots on Thursday and acoustic shows on Friday, is the brainchild of Tracey Shipley, whose daytime endeavor includes working as a youth and family counselor and an addictions counselor and creative therapist. Shipley, whose impressive health-affirming CV includes founding the now late lamented Sobar Music Center in downtown Jerusalem, which provided a safe drug-free, alcohol-free environment for youth, is still very much involved in ensuring as many of the younger generation as possible keep their body and spirit in good shape.
Last year’s curtain-raiser set the template for what Shipley hopes will take place in a few days’ time too. “We had about 350 people who came over the two days last year,” she recalls. “We had some really remarkable musicians – Israelis and Anglos – and some people came with tents and spent the night. We are going to do the same this year, starting in the afternoon, staying over, sitting around a campfire. Last year people sang around the campfire until like 4 in the morning. It was great.”
Shipley has put together a finger-licking roster this time round too, with the likes of popular covers band Pritzat Disc, long running Jon Hock Blues Band, seminal local rock guitarist Shlomo Mizrachi – aka the Jimi Hendrix of the Middle East – and one of the few out-of-towners in the two-dayer program, singer Roni Dot’s band, which will join forces with the Fine Marten band to pay tribute to Country Joe and the Fish and Jefferson Airplane as the final act on Thursday night. “Roni sings [Jefferson Airplane vocalist] Grace Slick like no one I have heard before,” exclaims Shipley.
The Woodstock lineup also offers an opportunity for Shipley to strut some of the fruits of her latest budding young musician-oriented vehicle, the Jerusalem School of Rock, which came into being and has already produced four bands. Some of the 13-22-year-old singers and instrumentalists will, Shipley says, “astound the concertgoers with their renditions of Joan Baez, the Beatles and Bob Dylan.”
Gershon Fischer comes from the far more seasoned side of the performing tracks. The US-born singer, who made aliyah with his family in 1981, at the age of five, has been front man of the cover band for over a decade, building up a steady nationwide following over the years. The group will be the star attraction on Friday when it offers its polished fervent readings of a medley of numbers performed at the original 1969 mega-event.
Fischer says he got into the classic rock scene as a youngster, with a little help from the generation that experienced the music in generational situ. “For me, music begins in childhood, with my parents’ turntable. “We had an extensive collection of the classics. My mother was, and still is, a big fan of The Beatles, The Who and Dylan etc., and my father is all Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Steely Dan.”
That sounds much like the current Pritzat Disc playlist, with a couple of exceptions. “We don’t do any Steely Dan, and we don’t do any Bob Dylan. But I have a whole bunch of tapes from my parents, and the same goes for Shachar [Cohen] our guitarist. He is Israeli-born and his parents are Israelis but that is the music he grew up with.”
Pardon the namedropping, but the way Fischer and Cohen hooked up, musically and then personally, sounds a lot similar to the way Mick Jagger and Keith Richards forged their musical confluence that, of course, eventually spawned The Rolling Stones. Jagger and Richards ran into each other at a suburban train station when, fatefully, Jagger was carrying some blues records and Richards had his guitar slung across his teenaged shoulder, and the rest is enduring rock and roll history.
While not quite in the same stellar or dollar-generating league, Fischer’s entry into the world of earnest professional gigging was sparked when he caught Cohen playing Led Zeppelin’s “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” at the now defunct Bayit Cham music rehearsal and social facility for youth in Jerusalem, on his guitar. The number, off Led Zeppelin III, is one of the fabled British rock band’s more obscure creations – far from the likes of “Stairway to Heaven,” which Fischer’s mother played for him when he was 12 – but Fischer knew it well and joined in with Cohen’s strumming. “It is such a rare tune. No one plays it,” he says. “I started singing along and he was like: ‘whoa! You actually know this song!’  That was it. That was the magic moment.”
Fischer had actually put in some stage time prior to that, including a flurry of shows with guitarist Dan Eilon. “We played together at restaurants. We did all that stuff,” Fischer notes. “Then Shachar joined in, and it was just great.”
The singer says he always wanted to play in a cover band, and lives, breathes and loves the music they perform. Even so, some allowances do have to be made. “We are sort in the middle between what is popular and what is good. There are some things we just can’t play in Israel, because so few Israelis know, for example, The Who.”
Can’t Fischer et al help to spread the word?
“It is no longer the musician’s job to educate the public, to make the music accessible,” he states. “Now you have to play what the public wants to hear.”
The paying public have been eager to hear Pritzat Disc for some time now as they offer their own considered takes on tried and tested material while staying close to the originals. “I love the music,” says Fischer, adding that it is not just a matter of churning it out as is. “You’ve got to hear other people doing covers. When you hear Clapton covering Dylan, he’s not doing it exactly the same. They bring their own personality into it but, at the same time, they don’t want to ruin the song. When you do a cover you’re being an artist. It’s an adaptation, but people pay to hear the song. I’ve been doing this for a long time now. Every so often I improvise and I like it.” A lot of other people do too.
For Steve Rodan, as time progresses, it’s a matter of paring down to the basics. The American-born guitarist-vocalist of the Jon Hock Blues Band, which has been around and about since 1998, began getting serious about the guitar at the age of 16. “I went through the whole rock, blues, jazz thing, and then I got serious about the blues again around the mid-90s,” he says. “Jazz became too technical and competitive, rock became boring and the blues spoke to me. For some reason, and I thank god for that, as I get older I get simpler. I like that. It means I have to ask myself what’s important. That goes for all aspect of life. So the blues speaks to me in that respect.”
Last year’s Woodstock festival had Rodan and the band playing a tribute to Country Joe & The Fish, which graced the stage at Yasgur’s farm half a century ago. This time round another Woodstock original, Carlos Santana, provides the bedrock for the Jon Hock Blues Band’s Silo gig. “I am very much looking forward to playing in front of a live audience,” says Rodan. “I really hope it happens.” Good point, with pandemic-related directives constantly zigzagging who knows?
Betwixt the Santana hits, Rodan also hopes to slot in some original material from the band’s own Blues for a Wandering Jew release. “Today, and for quite a few years, the music is no longer live,” he notes. “It’s a drum track, playbacks – it’s very much a solitary sort of work. But, live is people and chemistry. That’s good.”
As for Shipley, she’s looking for more of the same. “Last year over 300 music lovers, from all over Jerusalem, came out to find an atmosphere that felt like the original concert of 1969, only without the mayhem,” she says. There won’t be any mind-altering substances or cigarette smoking around either. “A drug-free Woodstock! What a concept?” Shipley laughs.
All shows will be made available online as well. For more information about show tickets, and Zoom tickets: (054) 810-8918 and [email protected]