Tel Aviv is well known as Israel’s cultural capital and the focal point for every artist who wants to succeed. From this perspective, Jerusalem is theoretically overshadowed. But the cultural scene in Tel Aviv is organized, and with a clear divide between mainstream and fringe. In Jerusalem the scene is more chaotic, with no rules and no clear center, making it fertile ground for all kinds of alternative culture and an independent music scene. This is likely why the country’s conservative capital city offers a fresh cultural perspective unlike any other. Here, we bring you three unique underground music events happening in the City of Gold for August 2015.
One of the legendary sources of Jerusalem’s indie music is the now-defunct FACT label, which insisted on producing alternative, independent Jerusalem music at the beginning of the 21st century. One of the label’s most successful releases was Adi Gelbart’s experimental and very challenging album. He unfortunately left Israel for Berlin a few years ago. Yet those visiting Jerusalem in August will have a rare opportunity to attend a one-off performance by Gelbart for which he has re-arranged new and old material for six musicians. On August 19, 2015 Gelbart will be staging his first performance in Israel after a decade-long absence alongside the number one artist of the Israeli indie scene, Ohad Fishof, who will also be performing on the same night at the Khan Theatre.
This unique performance will take place in the framework of “Frontline”—the Jerusalem Season of Culture’s independent music festival. The festival, directed by Gilly Levy, will spread over five intensive days from August 17-21, 2015. As part of the festival, a temporary radio station will be set up broadcasting from noon-8:00 pm interviews, master classes and workshops that span a range of musical genres. Frontline will then continue on late into the night with concerts and parties throughout Jerusalem.
One of the most intriguing performances of the festival will be Al-Quds 2999—a daring experiment which takes independent music to the extreme in a unique performance. The event, on August 17, 2015, will take place in Tzidkiyahu Cave, a stone quarry that was used to build the Temple Mount and is the focus of Jerusalem’s urban folklore. Visitors can tour the cave, which will play host to some live performances including, as befits this event, some unconventional artists. The music will resonate throughout the underground spaces, surround the visitors to the depths of the earth, and create a tribal, ceremonial atmosphere.
Tzidkiyahu Cave, Beit HaDfus St. 12, Jerusalem, Israel, +972 02-6535854
The Frontline events will culminate on August 20 with a dance rave at the First Train Station, which will include concerts and DJ sets featuring musicians from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and around the world—all part of the attempt to turn Jerusalem’s independent music scene into a source of inspiration for musicians from outside the city as well. The performance, “Entrenched,” is staged in collaboration with Teder Radio and HEADZ. Participating artists will include: ex-Jerusalemite producer and DJ Yuval Goren under the pseudonym Yogg, who will perform a house, techno and acid set, and Etienne Jaumet & Cosmic Neman from the French electropop band Zombie Zombie who will play an electronic set which will, as expected, break through the boundaries of all known musical genres.
Anyone looking for more groundbreaking performances should move on to the “Mazkeka,” a Jerusalem institution that defines itself as a “home for Jerusalem’s multi-disciplinary arts” and which plays host to new media, video, sound art and music performances. This is one of the most interesting contemporary venues in Israel which offers, almost every night, the kind of underground culture that it is hard to find elsewhere. The Mazkeka is currently collaborating with Frontline but will continue after the festival, toward the end of August, with some excellent nighttime offerings including some independent bands from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and even from Petach Tikva. Another experimental space is Studio Strauss—a rehearsal room (also home to a tattoo studio) which is a stone’s throw from the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim and which has opened its doors to performances by alternative musicians from all over the country. Their scheduling is erratic; it is not easy to find out who is performing there or when, although they do give some advanced notice just before the event. For those interested in the Israeli indie scene, it is well worth checking out even if you don’t know the names of the performances.
The First Train Station, David Remez St. 4, Jerusalem, Israel, +972 02-6535854
By Aryeh Refaim