10 April 2006
HATH NOT A JEW RIFFS?
Shalhevet: Battle of the Bands
NYU Kimmel Center Room 914
8 April 2006
The Great Depression may well be underway here in Riff Town, but nothing could stop me from fucking my way to the top of the NYU Shalhevet Club's Battle of the Bands, being asked to judge the show, drinking all their Diet Coke backstage, then throwing the whole thing because the bassist from Brooklyn College's Except Saturday kept playing the bassline from Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Aeroplane" over and over until his band members insisted he stop. Don't get me wrong, this was no Excepter show. But at one point ES's guitarist launched into a solo so hard that his glasses nearly fell off his face, and while he struggled to finish up before they dropped completely, he made one of those scrunched-up 'ok guys, who farted on my face?' faces, and everyone in the room knew the answer.
So we're clear, Shalhevet is NYU's Orthodox Jewish Community, which means every band here--ones from Brandeis, Harvard, Columbia, Brooklyn College, and NYU--had 100% of the chosen blood in them, and more than 150% of the audience had read The Chosen (some read it twice). It was sabbath, which means the party got a late start cos nobody could take the subway until the sun came down--which means I, a gentile, really expected somebody, anybody, to play some Black Sabbath, and was very disappointed when the most we got was "My Guitar Gently Weeps." Bonus: This also means the handsome guitarist from Columbia's the Shake couldn't fix himself a "snake," the Hebrew word for a sandwich with cheese on it.
But goddamn did that guitar weep--the accompanying handclaps so spirited, however many times they fell on the 1s and 3s and numbers I didn't even know you could clap on. A moshpit started next to me only after careful deliberation, and stopped on the dime when one kid dropped his skull cap. The Shake played "My Sharona" and even though the lead singer couldn't hit the highs he had the new wave stiff leg bit down cold, and his groupies had theirs too. These guys had 12 minutes each to convince me they were the second coming of rock, and while I don't know why NYU's Mad Hatters dragged the shit out of "Suffragette City," I do know why they called themselves the Mad Hatters (they were all wearing hats).
The best band there, I'm obliged to say since the drummer's dad bought me dinner and paid for my ticket, was Red Heifer. "How can we play a hit, but also be Jewish?" Heifer's lead singer asked the crowd. My question is this: How many Jews, besides Marilyn Manson and the drummer from the Beatles, have asked the same? Heifer's answer came in the form of Matisyahu's reggae-rap-rocker "King Without a Crown," which is indeed both a hit and extremely Jewish. (There's some Fear of Music to it too, but 'jew' didn't hear it from me). They didn't win, sorry to say, but they got to play an Elvis medley at the end while the judges scores were tallied, and some of the older women auditioning in the room next door for the film about wifeswapping probably felt a little ashamed of themselves.