Hanukkah is a time when many Jewish artists and organizations have events, presumably because people will attend. That includes Jewish punk bands and klezmer groups with a punk edge. This year’s Hanukkah shows included veteran acts in New York City and Oakland, a debuting band in Chicago, and a somewhere-in-between band in Seattle. For those who couldn’t make it to any of those cities, punk Hanukkah songs could be heard over the radio and/or internet from stations based in San Francisco and Juneau, Alaska.
Golem headlined a Hanukkah concert on the Lower East Side on December 5. As I wrote in a Hevria article published today:
Golem opened with their “anthem,” “Odessa.” A spirited hora broke out during “Mazel.” Of course they played “Freydele,” which is about a meydele named Freydele who plays with a dreydele (dreidel). They had the “world premiere” of a Hanukkah song discussing miracles and eight days.
For the encore, Golem played the classic Yiddish song “Rumenye.” Singer Aaron Diskin always includes a manic rant in the middle of the song, where the first half ends with the word “minor” and the second half ends with “major.” In honor of Hanukkah, Diskin screamed about how darkness made him feel minor. Then he noticed “little Hanukkah candles”—there was a menorah on a monitor—that mesmerized him. He said they were destructive, as if they wanted to consume the whole world. The flames made him feel major!
Also on the bill were Zion80, which included guitarist Jon Madof, bassist Yoshie Fruchter (Pitom), trumpeter Frank London (Klezmatics), and saxophonist Greg Wall (Hasidic New Wave). Click here to read a 2015 article about Zion80 and Madof titled “The Orthodox Punk Rock–Loving Guitarist behind the Sounds of ‘Jewish Afrobeat.'”
For at least the second consecutive year, Jewdriver played a Hanukkah concert that included Hanukkah Harry and a human dreidel in the pit. This show was in Oakland, California, on December 7. The band members all wore shirts that said “Lit AF” and depicted a menorah.
In this video, front man Ian Stuarstein sings “Dreidel dreidel dreidel, turn the f*ck around” and someone in a dreidel costume gets spun. It’s essentially the same song you grew up with, just more brash.
The night before, I participated in a Hanukkah storytelling event in Astoria, New York. I read from Chapter 1 of Punk Rock Hora, recounting when I saw Jewdriver play on the first night of Hanukkah in San Francisco in 2006. It’s nice to know that all these years later, they’re still doing their thing!
For the seventh year in a row, Mai Li Pittard organized Bubbe’s Old-Fashioned Hanukkah Shindig. For the sixth consecutive year, The Debaucherauntes, the klezmer-fusion band she sings and plays violin in, performed at the show. The event was in Seattle on December 8.
I bumped into Pittard at the Yiddish New York Punk Showcase, and she was pleased with this year’s show. “This was the first year where we had the highest proportion of new acts and queer acts,” she said. Pittard said that the below photo, featuring the band members with their fists/hands raised in the air, was taken during the song “Ot Azoy.”
On the Radio
On Juneau, Alaska–based KRNN 102.7 FM, Johnny Negotiable hosted “A Musical Tribute to Hanukkah, with a bunch of unrelated songs thrown into the mix.” He included “The Punk Rock Chanukah Song” and other songs by Yidcore. This episode followed “Mosh Hashana: A Punk Tribute to the Jewish New Year” in September.
This post was updated on March 9, 2019, to include the Jewdriver photo.