Last night, Golem, a klezmer-rock band with a punk edge, played a free show at Penn Plaza in Midtown Manhattan. It was an approximately 10-minute walk from my office. When I lived in Virginia, I drove to DC, Arlington, and Richmond to see Golem. This was by far the most convenient Golem show I’ve attended!
I can list 26 Golem shows I’ve attended, but the actual number may be higher. I’ve seen Golem more than I’ve seen any other band in Oy Oy Oy Gevalt! Jews and Punk. Here is a recap, not in order.
My first Golem show was in December 2006, when I was in San Francisco covering an unrelated Hanukkah punk tour for the Forward. Golem happened to be playing at the Independent, which was near my hotel. “All hell broke loose when they played the hora, which got half the people in attendance to dance around the room while Golem’s ‘Hanukkah Horas,’ singer, fiddler, and drummer showed off underwear with Hebrew lettering,” I wrote on heebnvegan.
About a week after the San Francisco show, I saw Golem at Sixth & I Synagogue. I remember dancing in front of the bimah, but because of the seats in the sanctuary, not as many people were dancing as at the San Francisco show.
After I saw Golem open for The Walkmen at the 9:30 Club, a friend puked in my car.
I saw Golem at Art-o-matic in Arlington, which, conveniently, is where my brother lives. The art museum/gallery made for a peculiar but fun concert environment.
I went to Richmond to see Golem play an Oktoberfest show at Capital Ale House. One of the band members (I won’t name names) flirted with a friend of a friend and invited us to an after-party, but we didn’t go.
I crashed a wedding to see Golem! I didn’t know the bride or groom. Singer/accordionist Annette Ezekiel Kogan told me about the wedding, and it was part of my research for the book.
Golem played at Cameo Gallery right after gay marriage became legal in New York. Annette told the audience that their wedding business was about to go increase, so straight or gay, if you wanted Golem to play your wedding, you should book them now, far in advance, even if you haven’t found that special someone yet! I considered it, but seeing as how I was single, it seemed too hard to pick a wedding date!
Toward the end of Golem’s set at Glasslands Gallery, I called out to a friend, “We’re starting a hora!” We succeeded.
At BAM Cafe, that same friend was approached by a woman he didn’t know and they did a spectacular dance together on an otherwise empty dance floor.
I got my mom to go to her first Golem show for a holiday season concert at Pioneer Works.
Golem played a fundraiser for Punk Jews at Sixth Street Community Synagogue. “Golem’s highly danceable sound was the turning point that got the party rocking and got the audience enthused,” I wrote on heebnvegan. I added, “Toward the end of Golem’s set, multiple horas broke out in the middle of the pit. I have to admit that I enjoyed causing a bit of chaos when I tried to get a bunch of casually hora-dancing punks who’d been circling to the right to circle to the left instead. Somehow it all worked out.”
I saw Golem play with CAN!!CAN at Cake Shop. It was “the first time in three years that I’ve seen multiple Jewish punk bands at the same show,” I wrote on heebnvegan.
I went to the Tanz album release show at Joe’s Pub and got in on the press list. After all, it was research for the book!
I saw Golem at Joe’s Pub again as part of Kulturfest last summer, and I was sitting in the front row, adjacent to the stage.
Golem played a tree-lighting ceremony at Lincoln Plaza. Singer Aaron Diskin quipped that after the performance, it was customary to “eat the tree”! I definitely danced the hora, in the rain, in front of the stage at this show.
Golem played at a Beer + Latkes Chanukah Celebration at the 92nd Street Y this past December. I definitely danced the hora in front of the stage at this show.
I saw Golem play a mellower-than-usual concert at Hunter College for the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene. [Note: This show was added on 9/24/16 because I’d previously forgotten about it. The tally at the top of the post was updated to reflect the total.]
I got my girlfriend to go to her first Golem show at Drom.
At the Penn Plaza concert last night, Annette called me up to the stage and asked me to talk about my book. That was an unexpected highlight!
[Update 9/24/16] Golem played to a large crowd at the Accordions Around the World Festival at Bryant Park. I was one of three adults dancing in front of the stage for most of their set.
[Update 4/2/17] Golem played a fake wedding. Singer Aaron Diskin, in his role as fake rabbi, explained that the four sides of the chuppah were the right side, the dark side, the wrong side, and New Jersey.
[Update 7/23/17] Golem played my wedding! They played a varied set that was great whether the tempo was fast or slow, the songs familiar or unfamiliar, the language English, Yiddish, or other.
[Update 8/20/17] Golem headlined the Westchester Jewish Music & Arts Festival. From the stage, Annette noted that in addition to concerts and festivals, Golem plays weddings, and she acknowledged my wife and me. She then asked how many times I’d seen Golem. This was at least #23!
[Update 10/22/17] Last night Golem played at the “Golem in Brooklyn” art exhibit. This was one of their best shows because of the crowd energy. A lively, engaged, dancing group of artsy Jews in Brooklyn was the perfect audience. It didn’t hurt that the band and concertgoers were surrounded by visual artwork about golems in an intimate space.
[Update 6/16/18] Golem opened the Yiddish Under the Stars show at the Central Park SummerStage in Manhattan on Wednesday. At the end of the evening, Golem and the show’s other musicians came together for a rousing finale, with the Klezmatics’ Frank London seemingly at the helm. A closing medley began with “Ale Brider” and got people dancing. One woman initiated a hora-like dance in front of the stage. When I tried to join hands with both the leader in the front and the person in the back, the former waved me off. She didn’t want it to be a circle dance, so I’m not sure it technically counted as a hora. Regardless, it was fast-paced, frenzied, and wild. Dozens of people joined this fun, anarchic, would-be hora. At one point, people in different sections were high-fiving each other in the aisle. For a little while, the dance turned into a conga line!
[Update 12/31/18] Golem played a Hanukkah concert on the Lower East Side on December 5. As I wrote in a Hevria article published today, “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!”