walls come tumbling down

Israel Travel Blog

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Evgeni invites me in. It’s almost seven PM and I’ve been asked to join the Russian artists living next door for a night of downtown Jerusalem live music. Though their room is a mere fifty feet from my front door - it is as if I’m crossing into another reality, a fun, effortlessly cool artist’s reality - that just happens to be native to Russia as well.

I step in, then crouch on a floor cushion. “You want?” Alisa asks, handing me the an offer of a Tequila shot with lime. Eliah, another Russian friend, older, closer to my age, relaxing against the wall, asks me about my arrival, my plans. I sit back on the heels of my Chuck Taylor sneakers and appreciate how attractive both Alisa and Lydia appear tonight. They’re both beautiful, but in no way obnoxious or caught up in it - or perhaps they don’t even realize how sweet-natured and cute they are. I suppose it’s that combination of independence and humor, that underlying soulfulness, that sets them apart for me, too.

We catch a ride into town with Eliah and I see the Crusader walls of the old city lit up, looming, casting a spell (at least this time, this first glimpse after 12 years) on my passenger seat gazing.

The performance space, Dalia, is not ready: the musicians tuning, testing the sound system. We meet another Russian friend and kill the time with some store-bought beers, a walk through the alleys and parks nearby. At least half a dozen friends, acquaintances, have greeted my hipster neighbors: they seem to have a few key areas of the downtown scene laid out for weekend rendezvous, pub crawls.

The Dalia at last opens up - a mix of post-punk (retro 1979-1982 London look) teenagers and Uni-students linger outside and smoke, check text messages. We move in to the intimate space - a stage, a cement floor, an upstairs loft, and get a drink, relax.

First band: all hardcore, all the time; all Israeli. Actually extremely talented, too - dime-perfect stops, starts: pulverizing breaks, crunchy Gibson SG power chords (Black Sabbath meets Black Flag). Too bad the lead singer’s non-stop screaming vocal gets monotonous real fast.

Band Two takes on the White Stripes motif: Drums and bass, nothing else. They’re not quite hardcore, a little slower, but still finding a raw edge.

Earlier I’d noticed a woman of perhaps twenty, leaning on the loft’s railing, watching herself in the mirror, moving at an oddly sultry pace - as if she was already hearing some music that wasn’t there. I’d noticed her candy apple red tights, her retro-skirt, her cheap bangles and Sixties-era chic, her fashion sense reminding me of someone I knew from high school.

Band Three begins while we’re outside. From the first well-timed explosive downbeat I realize that there’s Really Something Going On Here. We head inside and I decide to get close to the stage. The guitarist has a tone completely unlike the other bands, something Hiwatt-ish, straight out of early Townshend. The female lead singer lunges, dives, hugs the mic between her breasts and begins a vocal delivery that literally freezes me to the spot. The lead singer? The same girl I was watching earlier upstairs - now deep into her first song. She sounds like a very young Patti Smith only so much more forceful, far more capable of hitting and holding outrageous Kurt-Cobain-like screams; and yet it’s also the way she knows she can captivate the audience - that true performer’s charisma - that also floors me. Unknown band, in an obscure, locals-only downtown Jerusalem performance space - and I’m beginning to get the first of several waves of goosebumps. It’s as if the best of Patti Smith’s passion has been reawakened in a skinny Russian-Israeli punk-psychedelic poet. I realize, at some point, that she is capable of giving the audience the feeling that not only would she sing, scream, plow confidently into total chaos - but she’d possibly light her self on fire, if the situation demanded it.

Total fucking abandon.

It is the greatest live music experience since catching the late Joe Strummer of The Clash back in 1999. I’m intoxicated, infatuated, dumb-struck. I’m seeing a 90 pound twenty-year-old waif knock the walls down, throw herself into the pogo-ing crowd, grab her crotch, roar like Patti on steroids, slither on the ground, mock, plead, and find that elusive rock and roll communal moment. It’s fucking Unbelievable.

* * * * *

We wait for the bus back, Evgeni and Lydia sitting together at the stop. Lydia humming to herself next to me, her hair in a kind of Bjork-double-bun thing, her stoner’s buzz still lingering in her smile. “Chahhhk,” Evgeni says, slowly, “This was a good night!”
reikunboy says:
great blog
Posted on: Apr 13, 2008
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