First indie generation makes room for next at Israel's Yaarot Menashe festival
The Israeli indie scene began to consolidate about 10 years ago, and the music lovers who accompanied its first steps, and were then in their early twenties, are now married + one.
On Friday evening, in the children's area of the Yaarot Menashe festival complex, you could hear a young mother calling her child, "Geva, come, the show is starting soon." Since there aren't many 5-year-olds named Geva, and because Geva is the name of one of the stars of the Israeli indie scene, one could toy with the idea that little Geva was named after big Geva, singer Geva Alon. There's a good chance that isn't actually the case, but at that moment, in light of the large number of children running around in the festival area, and in light of the tightly knit communal atmosphere in the place, one might be tempted to fantasize about the small Israeli indie nation as a cultural body in which young parents name their children after the heroes of the scene ("Asaf, Yehu, stop fighting and go play with Uzi and Daniela" ).
Children are part of the landscape of the independent music festivals that have sprung up in recent years, but there seemed to be more of them than ever at the Yaarot Menashe festival, which took place this past weekend, in a forest in the north, somewhere between Megiddo and Yokne'am. If at the previous indie festivals the vast majority of the audience was composed of people aged 20-30 (an estimation, of course, not a fact ) who had not yet begun raising families, the 2012 Yaarot Menashe festival was a gathering of young people and families.
You don't have to be a rock sociologist in order to understand why that's the case: The Israeli indie scene began to consolidate about 10 years ago, and the music lovers who accompanied its first steps, and were then in their early twenties, are now in their early thirties; in other words, married + one. They are continuing to attend indie festivals because these festivals are part of their cultural identity (maybe they even met their partner at the first Indie Negev festival ). But their festival experiences today, holding a child in their arms, is by definition different from that of their single days.
There was a time when only the music interested them. They didn't miss a single band. Today, when they pass the children's complex and hear the person in charge shouting, "Now let's all be lions," they stop and think twice about whether to enter or to continue on to the performance of Drunk Machine, even if they took along earplugs in order to protect their child's eardrums.
In a word, a pleasure
Will this natural process of becoming bourgeois change the Israeli indie scene? Will it make it tamer than it was in its first years? (And for the record, it was too tame in the first place. ) Perhaps we must wait for future indie festivals before reaching conclusions about these issues. In any case, I'm not necessarily the person with the best insight, because I too, like many festival participants, came to Yaarot Menashe with my family. This meant that during the first evening of the festival I was less focused on music and more focused on atmosphere, which was wonderful. The forest where the festival was held is beautiful, the complex was crowded but not excessively so, the organization was superb, the people were delightful. In a word, it was a pleasure.
The only performer I saw on the main stage of the festival the first evening was Asaf Avidan. Avidan is about to issue his first album without the band that has accompanied him from the start, the Mojos, and his performance at Yaarot Menashe signaled a significant change in direction. He seems to have left behind the old-fashioned folk-rock that made him a star, and is now gambling on a fresher and more stylized sound, with a strong emphasis on the keyboard and low frequencies. It's hard to decide, based on one performance, whether this sound suits Avidan, but he must be complimented on his refreshing decision to change. Now all he has to do is switch to Hebrew and stop singing in a high voice, and he's on the right path. Just kidding. He has to remain who he is. We'll wait for the new album before making any judgments.
In addition to the main stage there was also a side stage, where less familiar artists performed. On the first evening I saw Drunk Machine there, and even if the band's music - punk with an edge of blues - wasn't the most original music I've ever heard, the unbridled energy and power of the three young musicians were very enjoyable. It was nice that, since there were already so many children at the festival, there was also "young," energetic music there.
The next morning, on that same side stage, totally different sounds were heard - artistic Mizrahi music, played by oud player Eran Zamir and his Sharkia trio. Beautiful and complicated melodies, patient and interesting development, an excellent rhythm section and a wonderful guest appearance by marimba player Nadav Rogel. A lovely start to the second day of the festival.
Not new but still refreshing
The Angelcy performed on the main stage that morning. At a festival where the main players are bands that are already very familiar to the indie audience from previous festivals, it was refreshing to meet a band that has begun to gain momentum only in recent months. The Angelcy aren't bringing anything particularly new to the scene. The music is a mixed bag of reverberating reggae, cabaret and indie-folk, which is based on non-rocker instruments. The tremolo in the voice of singer Rotem Bar Or is likely to make one recall Devendra Banhart or Antony Hegarty. Still, the Angelcy's music was colorful and energetic, the singing was sharp and incisive and the texts revealed an interesting obsession with death, children and mainly the death of children. This band, like many of its sister bands, sings in English, but its subjects seem to be very Israeli. It will be interesting to keep track of it after this festival.
The next performances on the main stage were by two familiar and beloved bands - Rutzi Buba played its fast and joyous rockabilly, causing one of the children in the audience to jump onto the stage and dance around in a way that entitled him to be dubbed the festival's outstanding rocker. Dondorma March filled every centimeter of the stage with its battery of wind instruments, playing a wonderful set of Mediterranean swing, mixed in with a little New Orleans, Istanbul, and Africa, including a heartwarming version of Alon Olearchik's "Ba Lashchuna Bachur Hadash" (A new guy came to the neighborhood ).
Daniela Spector attracted a larger audience than usual to the side stage, where she performed together with singer Shirley Kunis. Spector is an excellent singer, but the beauty of her songs relies among other things on meticulous and delicate arrangements, and her performance at the festival, with only an acoustic guitar, caused the songs to pale in their nakedness. She may have improved toward the end, but I was already at the rhythmic performance of the Kabako band, which brought the rhythms and sounds of West Africa to the forest, and also caused one of the more eccentric types in the audience to climb to the top of one of the trees, dozens of meters high, and to descend from there in one shot, to the delight, and concern, of the audience.
The tribute performance to Harvest, Neil Young's album, was supposed to be one of the highlights of the festival, but it was nothing special. There were almost no original interpretations, the narrative parts were very annoying, and even the vocal display of most of the singers did not rise above the satisfactory. Those who did stand out were Mika Sade, who sang the album's theme song like a country bird, and Amos Zimmerman, who brought a positive atmosphere to the stage, with an enjoyable banjo rendition of the wonderful "Old Man."
The second day ended with performances by Kol Hahatihim Etzli and the Mercedes Band, which I didn't see. The organizers said that about 5,000 people attended the festival altogether, and that the vast majority, if not all of them, will certainly agree with oud player Eran Zamir, who summed up this welcome event in a few apt words: "It's fun here."