I think it was 1996. AOL was brand new and all of a sudden we could communicate with people around the world. Readers today can hardly believe it, but it was an amazing window on life outside of where you lived. One of the first people I found online was Bob Cohen, a Jewish musician and bon vivant living in Budapest working with his group Di Naye Kapele. I mentioned that I had little access to the Balkan musics that influenced what is called "Klezmer" music. What I was hearing from modern bands just didn't ring true to me, it sounded "dead" frankly. Having lived in worked in living musical cultures I hard a hard time working with academics and school trained musicians who had never, ever, played a live music for live dancers. There must be a living music of today. And where are the recordings of the living masters and why are they so hard to find? I was perplexed as Mamonidies would say.
He said no problem, and look to mails.
Maybe two months later, a battered square box arrived at my home in Austin TX. He sent me literally every recording of Yiddish music he had, many of the recordings either collected by himself or ethnographers he encountered. Home recorded gems of fiddler Moische Nussbaum and vocalist Bronya Sakina. Belf 78's and Lautari classics, Moldovan brass bands and 1961 field recordings of Rroma fiddlers playing half remembered Jewish melodies. Bukovinan and Hutsul bands and Maramures singers. It was, and still is, my personal Yiddish Rosetta Stone. And all of it given freely, even enthusiastically, the absolute opposite of my experience with the Yiddishist I had encountered up to that point (which will get its own essay soon enough.)
I still go back and listen to them today. And if you're looking for the amazing Yiddish singer Bronya Sakina, I digitized that tape and put it up for all to hear. Along with video recorded around the same time. (Why was this so hard to find?)
Thank you Mr. Cohen. I am forever grateful.
Check out Bob's blog, always entertaining.
From Flipside magazine, 9/1994 edition. An interview with one of about a 100 touring bands who crashed at my house in Norman OK in the mid-80's Hardcore culture. The deal we had in Norman was we'd try and find a venue, have the Flaming Lips run the PA and open up (and believe me, back then they weren't what they are lately,) we'd buy 'em a pizza on Campus Corner and then they'd crash at my place.
When Touch and Go touring band Killdozer came through, we had secured an arrangement with a local business man who opened up and "all ages" club on the main drag, called "The Jailhouse" and served soft drinks and foosball. The Lips set up their ramshackle, patched together "PA" and then played the a medley of their favorite hard rock licks for 25 minutes. Then Killdozer played a ripping set in front of about 7 people, including the 4 piece Lips and the people who set up the show. Coming in and then being thrown out again for being way too tweeked on meth, was the town skinhead (who should get his own posting really.) On his last way out, he told me he was gonna come to my house and kill me. I wasn't worried too much because this was not a new threat and he usually passed out before he could do any real damage. That was to change profoundly this evening.
In this article the band is being interviewed fully 7 years after the "incident" after their show, and it seems to have lodged well into their touring "lore."
Every word is true:
He swung hard and wild with a ball peen hammer he found in my toolbox just outside on my porch. I just laughed at him lunged at me, seriously laughing my ass off. This totally wasn't what he expected and after he wore himself out flailing the hammer, he looked around, smashed a window and departed. The poor Killdozer dudes were so freaked out, they slipped out and I never saw them again. But here, years later, they relate the tale. And I lived another day :-)