With the money raised in our successful kickstarter campaign, we went to Amsterdam. We were wowed by the number, quality, and variety of bands participating, which ranged from Sephardic divas to solo master percussionists to Jew-rock trios in tight harmony… to us! Each of the twenty-two bands performed a fifteen-minute preliminary set in the first two days, and half were asked to return for the semi-finals, which consisted of another fifteen-minute set the evening after the first. When we found we had been selected for the semi-finals, we slapped each other on the backs and told each other that now we had good news for our backers, and could rest easy knowing we had not let them down. That would have been enough for us! Daiyenu!
Little did we know that we, the scrappy underdog heroes, the Mighty Ducks of Jewish music, would be one of the six bands selected for the final concert, a no-expense-spared extravaganza with dramatic lighting, smoke machines, chandaliers, and eight TV cameras! We played second-to-last, between Capella de Ministrers (a Spanish early-Sephardic quintet) and Vira Lozinsky with the Emile Aybinder Ensemble (one of the world’s greatest Yiddish singers paired with Israel’s top accordionist). So we did what we do best: we played Lady Gaga on Dutch television. Hopefully there will be no legal ramifications.
After the jury had deliberated and the judges had voted, prizes were awarded one by one. We watched as one after another was delivered into extremely deserving hands… and then Hankus Netsky went to the stage to announce that the Jury had chosen us as Best Klezmer Band! In his short speech, he referred to us as a “true musical democracy,” and made special mention of Kirsten’s beautiful bowed bass solos. And then, just before the Grand Prize was awarded, the Audience Choice Award, by popular vote went to… US! But perhaps the biggest award of the night was when Hankus told us offstage that we reminded him of “the early KCB” (Klezmer Conservatory Band)! *swoon*
We’ve lost Kirsten in the Netherlands, but the rest of us are safely stateside and back to our quotidien routines. But the consequences of our trip are still unfolding: the klezmer prize came with booking offers at the City Wineries in New York and Chicago, and the Audience Choice came with some shiny Euros (which MAY go towards recording a full-length CD?) and a “publicity e-blast” by a professional agency. The wheels are turning, and only time will tell what may come next…
There are a lot of people and institutions that helped put us on the road to our delightful Amsterdam adventure. In particular, Joey Baron and the Boston Jewish Music Festival gave us the springboard we needed to make a recording and submit it with our application to the IJMF. And it was our pro-bono manager Margery Williams (and her devotion to putting us on a nicer stage than the Porter Square Inbound platform) that connected us to the BJMF in the first place. Finally, thanks to all our Kickstarter backers, without whom we would never have made the big trip. We hope we can repay you by taking our music to the next level and doing what we can to bolster the vitality of the Boston Jewish music scene!
Check out our facebook page for pictures and links to recordings from the festival. More to come soon!