Jacob’s Ladder, the Friendly 'Festival for Everyone’

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Jacob’s Ladder, the Anglo-friendly, kid-friendly, and just generally friendly
biannual live music festival, which is the highlight of many an Israeli folk music fan’s springtime calendar, is upon us.

The festival will take place May 2-4 along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, with a hodgepodge of folk performers from Israel and the United States, newcomers and old-timers alike, on hand to jam and rock away the weekend.

The line-up this year, says Yehudit Vinegrad who, together with her husband Menachem, has been running the festival since its inception 37 years ago, includes 11 new acts never before seen at Jacob’s Ladder. Among them: Lolamarch, an indie folk band from Tel Aviv featuring The Voice’s Yael Shoshana Cohen; The Nava Tehila band, which will do a musical Kabbalat Shabbat on Friday evening featuring “Moroccan and Klezmer” influenced melodies; Woodstock’s award winning folk rocker Marc Black, who has performed with the likes of Pete Seeger and Art Garfunkel; solo acoustic singer Freebo, famous for the funkified precision and fluid soul of his bass playing for Bonnie Raitt; Randall Williams, another popular U.S.-based artist from the “thoughtful folk” genre; Jokers and Thieves, an Israeli acoustic folk and rock band performing 60s and 70s hits; and Carlie and Yosi, a husband and wife “hypnotic rhythm and groove” team.

World music, indeed

A long list of returning artists, meanwhile, will be up on the stage as well, performing everything from bluegrass to world music to Irish jigs to country rock and the blues.

Among them will be Los Angeles-based Jewish crossover musician Mikey Pauker, who writes his own music to ancient Jewish texts; Jason Feddy, also based in L.A. and originally, like the Vinegrads, from Leeds, and who creates music from Shakespearean texts; and blast from the past rocker Libi, who last performed at Jacob’s Ladder in the 1970s as Libi and the Flash, and is now returning as Libi and the Flashback.

“The condition for artists to be asked back is that they have to be creating new things,” says Vinegrad, an English teacher by profession who manages the festival with her husband, a fellow English teacher, and with the help of their three grown-up children and an army of volunteers. “The musicians we have performing have to be dynamic,” she says.

The festival began in 1978 at Kibbutz Mahanayim in the Upper Galilee as something of an experimental extension of the monthly folk club Menachem Vinegrad started together with two friends, all of them homesick for the folk and protest music of their youth back in England.

They kicked off that year with fewer than a dozen artists, one rickety stage, holes in the ground for toilets, and a few hundred Anglo ticket-holders camping out in a nearby olive grove.

These days the festival, which has taken place at Nof Ginosar since 2003, includes a crafts fair, a food fair, a story-telling tent, activities for children, swimming, yoga, tai chi and drum circles. It attracts upwards of 3,000 participants, and features six stages and marathon music sets that take place over the course of two nights and two days.

And the crowd that shows up, while still predominantly Anglo, is increasingly more of a mix of Israelis.

“You can’t possibly have the same people every year,” says Vinegrad. “First of all, there is always somebody from the ‘regulars’ who can’t make it − they have a bar mitzvah in the family or are overseas. But secondly, we do lot of our work to get new crowds too. This is really a festival for everyone.

The Genosar beach, where the festival has been held since 2003.Credit: Eyal Toueg

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