We’re going to set sail in the desert, torn sails knotted onto the branches of an uprooted tree, nothing but sand all around; who knows where we might travel. People have the power to transform a place, and a place has the power to transform people. In this time and place we become, not other than ourselves, but reveal that part of ourselves imagination sets free.
InDNegev 2012, a three day music festival, took place from October 18 – 21 in Mitzpeh Gvulot. InDNegev takes alternative music out of the back alleys and crowded underground venues of the city, to play before an audience of thousands, and marks the end of summer with the biggest and best party ever; a creative oasis, InDNegev is an image of alternative existence, a reflection of who we are, and who we might choose to be.
Founded six years ago by Asaf Ben David, Asaf Kazado, and Matan Neufeld, the event has grown from a small gathering of music lovers to a happening five thousand strong, yet retains an integrity of vision. Artistic and production choices are guided by a sense of purpose, resisting the push to increase in size, popularity and profits. Musically, there is an emphasis on renewal and discovery, in other words: a band can’t come to InDNegev year after year with the same material, and there is always an effort to seek out new voices. Ticket sales are limited in number (4,000 this year) and advance sales only, usually selling out, as they did this year, a couple of weeks before the event.
The set-up is simple, and amazing: a stage area is set up with a large stage – the Kof, or Monkey Stage – and a smaller, more intimate stage – the Pil, or Elephant Stage – both with a large net overhead for shade. Taking advantage of the wide open spaces, beverage and merchandise booths help provide a sound barrier between the two spaces. Beyond the performance area is a separate campground. People start arriving Thursday afternoon and within a few hours, the space is transformed from a barren plain to a friendly tent city, where people hang out in the shade, laughing, talking, sharing food and making music.
Music is everywhere at InDNegev, with the two stages active from late Thursday afternoon until after sunset on Saturday, with just a few quiet hours between 2am and 9am on Thursday and Friday nights. A third, smaller fringe stage hosts the more alternative alternative bands, and from their vantage point on a small hill inside the performance space, KZRadio (Hakatze) broadcast live from the festival.
The atmosphere is one of “live and let live” with people of all ages and persuasions living together as a temporary community for three days. Imagine, if you dare, Israelis standing quietly waiting their turn in line. I’ve seen it, sisters and brothers, it is possible. Is it a perfect world? No, that’s not the point, but in this three-day alternative world, people are tolerant and kind.
The live and let-live attitude embraces the guy with waist-length dreadlocks cascading down his bare torso who turned to his friend and said wistfully, “There aren’t any hard drugs here,” the families with children, and those who wanted to observe the Sabbath. The recycling stand initiated by Kibbutz Gvulot members last year, brought joy to the merry drinkers unsteadily weaving their way through the grounds, collecting plastics to exchange for free beer. There were art installations, balloons, bouncing balls tossed from hand to hand among the audience during performances, bubbles, hula hoops, costumes, painted faces, and on Friday evening, a particularly lively and athletic group jumping rope between performances, with one guy jumping rope while doing push-ups, and one confident guy who walked around wearing a glittery paper tiara.
I come to InDNegev for the people as much as the music. The people I camp with, sharing food and conversations, my music-loving friends , and the fellowship of strangers who make up this community.
I come to InDNegev for the music, the music, the music.
I come to hear the music I love, I come to hear the music I will come to love.
Lucille, Lucille, where have you been all my life? This amazing band has been working together for about half a year now, I heard them for the first time at InDNegev and thought my heart might break through my rib cage and fly. Vocalist Naama Chetrit is a powerful woman and she’s got soul; the entire ensemble – Isgav Dotan/guitar; Roey Paradny/bass; Yossi Adi/drums; Barak Hener/trumpet; Ilan Adiri/sax – will, as “Rhythm n’ Rhymes” guy Rebel Sun said, take you to “a whole ‘nother place.”
Malox – that perverse peripatetic Pied Piper Eyal Talmudi and wild drummer Aviv Bonen launched their new album, “Polka for Punks” with crazed virtuoso abandon, taking drum and bagpipe down to play among the people for an intensely fun finale. Is all that power really coming from just two people? You have to come hear them live in concert.
Sometimes the best surprises come from the bands you think you know well. Sun Tailor’s intimate lyrics opened up to embrace the crowd, and the crowds embraced the music, singing along, then rising up with the beat and the volume, flying high. Sun Tailor and the band – Udi Naor/drums, percussion; Daniel Sapir/bass,vocals; Omri Barel/lap steel, electric guitars; Jackie Fay/cello, vocals – live these songs and can take them anywhere. Next year on the big stage!
Oy Division was another surprise for me, I’ve heard the band before, but felt as though I really heard them for the first time that day out in the desert. Irreverent and heartfelt, their arrangements of wedding songs, soldier’s laments and traditional songs in Yiddish and this dybbuk wants to dance! Equipped with “an accordion and a strong belief in our ethnic superiority” Assaf Talmudi kept up a steady stream of ironic commentary, from his inventive descriptions of songs – “this is a song about a guy in Amsterdam, he’s totally stoned and wondering whether he should extend his stay” – to his inspired cultural observations – “artificial happiness is the great innovation that we brought to the Middle East.” Gershon Leizersohn’s violin and vocals were beautiful and the band, which includes Eyal Talmudi/clarinet, vocals; Avichai Tuchman/double bass; and on days when HaBiluim do not have their first concert in five years – Noam Inbar/vocals, accordion, drum, had all the hipsters dancing just like good old days in the Shtetl.
Avi Adaki was sweet and sincere, with a deep warm voice and original songs in Hebrew. Nothing could be more timely than Adaki’s song “Kashe Lihiyot Moshe” (It’s hard to be Moses), calling for a leader who does more than talk the talk: “It’s time to shut up and do something.”
Wandering between the performance area and the campground, I enjoyed a wonderful moment of indie-Britney, hearing a group of guys in a tent playing “Hit Me Baby One More Time.”
Cain & Abel 90210 are hardcore, nasty, aggressive and everything I want in a metal band. Shaul Luria/bass,vocals; Jonathan Hasiloni/guitars, vocals; and Itamar Levi/drums, vocals, come on spewing provocation – “Are you enjoying the shit music here? Because I’m not…” – and have the music to back it up, taking risks, playing on the edge. In the haze, noise and loose focus of festival mode, I couldn’t follow everything they said or sang precisely, but I caught a reference to rape that I do not want to ignore. Cain & Abel, if you think rape is cool, then we have a lot to talk about; none of it nice.
Yemen Blues were mesmerizing. Ravid Kahalani gives himself over to the music, he is the music and it dances through his entire being.
HaBiluim performed their first live concert in five years at InDNegev, the much anticipated event drew such a crowd of fans that I found myself way at the back, behind thousands of people, and there was no way I could get any closer. So other than the warm welcome of the audience, and Noam Inbar’s witty banter – “Sorry we didn’t have time to translate our lyrics to English for InDNegev” – I experienced this one from a distance, and will have to wait for another opportunity to really hear the band.
Los Caparos were great, the Angelcy had a strong set, Daniel Zamir and his ensemble – Nitai Hershkowitz/keyboards; Gilad Abro/bass; Ofri Nehemia/drums played a wonderful jazz set the first night, I enjoyed hearing Ram Orion, Esther Rada knows how to rock the stage, and Lunacidal Tendencies are an amazing supergroup of talents.
Sometimes the question is: did you make me want to kick off my shoes, throw down my geeky reporter’s notebook and dance? Balkan BaMachsan – Asher Cohen/accordion; Gal Klein/clarinet; Nir Taieb/sax, Barak Hener/trumpet; Inon Peretz/trumpet; Tal Ben Rei/euphonium; Noam Nehemya/tuba; Moshe Grushka/percussion; Yoni Ben Dor/drums – with their Balkan/Klezmer/Middle Eastern groove made me do just that. Love you guys & can’t wait until we meet again in concert!
A carnival of sound and motion, Acollective is one of the most exhilarating bands around with more instruments onstage than I could ever count, crazed energy, and terrific songs. Their masked mania at InDNegev exceeded all bounds and expectations, the crowd went wild and just didn’t want to let them go.
As Avi Adaki said, “I want this to be the real life.”