The year before I moved to Israel, I worked at a restaurant in my neighborhood. I would walk to work through Seattle’s leafy Ravenna neighborhood listening to Meir Ariel’s 1997 record Bernard VeLouise, generally arriving at the restaurant somewhere in the middle of the fourth track.
Meir Ariel was an Israeli singer-songwriter often referred to as the Israeli Bob Dylan. On top of that, his ability to create words and turn phrases in Hebrew is heralded as somewhat Shakespearean. A supremely talented lyricist, he never enjoyed the fame in life that he found in death. He fought in the Six Day War (and the Yom Kippur and First Lebanon Wars), and he initially gained a following after he wrote a parody of a nationalistic song circulating in 1967 called Jerusalem of Gold, by Naomi Shemer. Ariel’s version was called Jerusalem of Iron, and speaks of the horrors he saw fighting in the city. In Shemer’s version the chorus is, “Jerusalem of gold, and of bronze and of light.” In Ariel’s: “Jerusalem of iron, and of lead and of darkness.”
Bernard VeLouise isn’t his best known record, but for some reason it was the first of his that I picked up. And when I say picked up, I mean listened to on Spotify. Seattle’s Easy Street Records doesn’t exactly have a well stocked Israeli music section. It was the last record the Israeli folk troubadour would release before his death at 57 in 1999, caused by an infected tick bite.
Before I learned how to speak Hebrew, I had no idea what the record’s opening track, “Etzel Zion”, was about. With an upbeat, meandering, Eastern European melody, and the word “Zion” (biblical Israel) in the title, I thought the subject matter must be some pretty heavy shit.
Later, once my Hebrew had improved, I learned that Ariel had in fact penned an ode to the fast food chicken schnitzel shop across from his apartment in Tel Aviv.
At Zion’s on the corner of Hayarkon and Trumpeldor
Between the post office and the Dan cinema
They put a lot of heart onto your plate
For just a little pocket change
They put a lot of love into your pita
And they don’t make you wait.
In August, 2014, in the midst of Operation Protective Edge, I was outside a hotel in Jerusalem, in a cloud of cigarette smoke surrounded by a circle of Israelis, listening to Meir Ariel on a shitty iPhone speaker. A string of military helicopters buzzed overhead and someone said it was the ceasefire team returning to the Knesset from discussions in Cairo. Then the rocket sirens started wailing and we had to scramble to the bomb shelter, with Meir’s music still coming out of the phone.
Six months later, I had two suitcases, and an apartment with a lease in my name waiting for me in Jerusalem. Everything else was up in the air. As my flight dropped below the clouds and the lights of Tel Aviv came into view, I noticed that the Israeli guy next to me had started sobbing, and I could tell it had something to do with the music he was listening to. I peeked over at his iPod. Annie’s Song by John Denver. Weird. I put on Bernard VeLouise. By that point, Meir’s music was no longer foreign to me. It was a comfort, a constant, when moving halfway across the world was full of so many variables.
A few years ago, an Israeli winery put out a limited edition Meir Ariel series of wines that featured illustrations found in his notebooks on the label. I wrote the song “The One Who Shines, The Lion of God” on a hot July evening in Jerusalem after polishing off a bottle. In English, the name Meir Ariel can be translated to “The One Who Shines, The Lion of God.”
Keep up with Ben Fisher – and keep your eyes peeled for the release of Does The Land Remember Me? – here.
It’s back. More than 20,000 music and camping lovers from 41 states and 3 countries are expected for the fourth annual Hinterland Music Festival in St. Charles, Iowa, on Friday, August 3 and Saturday, August 4.
Grammy Award-winning country music and roots rock singer-songwriter Sturgill Simpson and South Carolina-based indie-rock band Band of Horses will headline the festival at Avenue of the Saints Amphitheater, just 30 miles south of Des Moines.
The 2018 event also features Scottish synth-pop band CHVRCHES, Denver folk artist Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, classic Southern rockers Blackberry Smoke and up-and-coming country star Margo Price. R&B musician Anderson East, independent Melbourne busker turned singer-songwriter Tash Sultana, the energetic, piano-driven roots rock of J Roddy Walston and The Business, country singers Tyler Childers and Joshua Hedley will also perform. Completing the lineup are Iowa acts The Nadas, celebrating their 25th anniversary, and R&B synth gaze group Ancient Posse.
Hinterland enhances the unique atmosphere of Iowa’s beautiful rural landscape with music, camping and activities ranging from children’s crafts to after-hours campfire performances.
Gates open Friday at 3 pm and the music starts at 5:15 pm.On Saturday, gates open at 11 am and music starts at 11:45 am. Tickets run from $49 to $65, depending on the day and whether you get them in advance or day of. Two-day tickets run $95 to $110. Tent camping is available for $25 to $35 per person, and RV camping spots may still be available. Campers get exclusive access to watch more performers at the Campfire Stage both nights after the headliners.
It starts with a simple song and summertime in Michigan. The Apple TV is a brand new invention, and Dad is experimenting with playing music through his newest gadget from Best Buy. After several minutes of futzing, the silhouette of a giant mango tree against a backdrop of mustard yellow appears on the screen. The descending bass line of “Better Together” invites me to take a deep breath. I do. I sink deeper into the cushions of the living room couch and unwind for the first time Jack Johnson serves me a little slice of life. I stole the entirety of In Between Dreams from my dad’s computer. This was pre- streaming. Buying entire albums used up Grandma’s gift cards pretty quickly, so you learned how to be handy with other peoples libraries and the “Burn to CD” function in iTunes. Soon after I downloaded the album, it became the soundtrack of my life. Even when I wasn’t really listening, I’d just have it playing somewhere in the background. I’d find new music and start listening to some other stuff, but eventually find myself putting it on again and again. Every few months or so I’d claim a new favorite song, discovering something I hadn’t noticed before.
Jack Johnson was one of the first songwriters I heard that tackled abstract concepts in a way that really resonated with me. The songs everyone knows him by – “Better Together” and “Banana Pancakes” – were definitely the gateway drugs. But as I listened more, things started to change. Songs like “Never Know,” “Breakdown,” or “If I Could” introduced some really rich lyrical content and difficult life questions that I’d yet to be exposed to. For example, “If I Could” starts with the verse, “A brand new baby was born yesterday just in time / Papa cried, baby cried, said ‘Your tears are like mine’ / I heard some words from a friend on the phone that didn’t sound so good / The doctor gave him two weeks to live / I’d give him more if I could”. He unpacks messy aspects of life like death, love or even mundanity with such gentleness and keen observation – it really sets the stage for listeners to empathize, which I love. Beyond that, the succinct storytelling in songs like “Do You Remember” or “Constellations” inspired me to capture that same kind specificity of imagery in my own writing.
I must’ve been around fourteen when I’d listened to the record for the first time. I grew up listening to mainstream pop, The Beatles, and a whole lotta country radio, mostly because it was easy access. In Between Dreams was the first record I digested as a whole. The first record I felt I could claim as my own. It became part of my identity, in a way. Whenever I come back to his music, it brings back all these different versions of myself – almost like a musical reminder of who I am and where I came from.
I grew up in a small town surrounded by a lot of green open space. Living in LA – getting used to a desert climate and the over-development of land – has been a somewhat difficult adjustment for me. Jack Johnson’s music and especially In Between Dreams utilize a lot
of nature imagery and metaphor in the lyric. I listen to his songs, and I feel the way being in nature makes me feel – centered and more myself. I can always count on a little Jack Johnson to bring me back to Earth, both literally and figuratively. It’s my own little musical state park, so to speak – no matter where I am.
I’ve heard a lot of people refer to Jack Johnson as being “easy listening,” usually with a certain amount of disdain in their voices. Honestly, I get it. For the average touch-and-go listener, he’s this soft-spoken, happy-go-lucky dude from Hawaii who plays acoustic guitar and sings about banana pancakes. But for me, he’s a modest voice, pioneer of asking difficult questions, and vigilant observer of the most important simple things. Like Papa’s translations of the stories across the sky. Or sepia-tone lovin. Or resolve is just a concept that’s as dead as the leaves. I could go on for days. He’s the most underrated lyricist of our time (in my own very humble opinion, of course). And that’s my first record story.
When I was doing freelance work for a company in New York City from my home in Kansas City, we started doing more list and humorous pieces for their content department. AKA, I tried to get more people to go to their site. They were clearly news-based and I think my writing was some of the only comedy on the site, save for one podcast a week. It was really sad, and my ideas became almost desperate to bring them into this century.
Good news! They approved “Best Viral Videos of 2012.” Since I’m guessing none of you saw it, I’m going to post it here as my Throwback Thursday. It will make you laugh. And probably reminisce. So enjoy these videos and my little blurbs about them!
2012: A year of ups and downs. Intense elections (though, compared to now…), more comedy television to love, Amanda Bynes and Lindsay Lohan (how often can a young girl be arrested?). It’s a miracle that the viewing public had any time to get acquainted with their computers! But, as it is, we have compiled a list of the Best Viral Videos of 2012—otherwise known as the best things we saw while we were supposed to be working or paying attention in a lecture.
Please Move the Deer Crossing
A woman with bad luck thinks that deer crossing signs are the culprit. We can’t tell if she’s for real or not. And we don’t care. This is hilarious.
Arrested Drunk Guys Singing Bohemian Rhapsody Posted to YouTube and then subsequently to College Humor in March, this video of a drunk guy singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” is like the grown-up version of “David After Dentist”. And we’re obsessed.
Kristen Bell’s Sloth Meltdown
Kristen Bell is stunningly gorgeous. Her hair is shiny and full, her voice is like wind chimes, and her face is so symmetrical she looks like a Barbie. And now we know her kryptonite: sloths.
Olympic Athletes Do “Call Me Maybe”
“Call Me Maybe” had so many re-makes and cover videos made that it kind of made our heads explode. But we did very much enjoy this version. Maybe because it shows us that Olympic athletes are just like everyone else.
“Call Your Girlfriend” SNL
Who knew Taran Killam would kill it with his dance moves? And we watched it over and over and over. We also kind of love his rendition of Brad Pitt’s Chanel No. 5 commercial.
In April, “Caine’s Arcade” was uploaded to YouTube. The story of a boy with an imagination the size of Texas is already incredible, but the way the internet made his dreams come true is extraordinary. This can be our “feel good” video of the year.
“Gangnam Style” has almost 1 billion views. We don’t think an explanation is necessary.
News Blooper And finally, this gem. Because apparently we all have dirty minds.
There are more than a few reasons to partake in Lawrence Field Day Festival this coming weekend. Now in its seventh installment, the 3-day annual event in Lawrence, Kansas continues to feature great live music from dozens of bands at a very affordable ticket price. The festival runs Thursday through Saturday.
Started by Cameron Hawk and Quinton Cheney in 2012, LFDF was envisioned as a live music showcase for Lawrence residents while University of Kansas was on summer break. Of course, students are welcome at LFDF, but the environment on Mass Avenue is different, in a good way, when there are about twenty-thousand fewer people clogging up the joint.
And, fewer students is the first reason you should attend. If you’ve had prior experiences in downtown Lawrence in which it took you five minutes to drive one block, or you’ve ended up parking 4 streets over, or you’ve had your shoes puked on by a drunken frat boy celebrating his 21st, then you really need to come to LFDF. You will finally be able to devote your attention to music.
Another perfect reason to attend is the cost. It sounds almost unbelievable, but you can get a wristband with 3-day access to five venues and sixty bands for only $15. So far this summer, I’ve heard of no festival offering so much music for such a low price. And the great music is the other best reason to attend.
Lawrence Field Day Fest has featured several genres of music, but there is an undeniable focus on rock, and secondarily on hip-hop. Although Lawrence and Kansas City are well-represented, this year’s fest is pulling in talent from Denver, St. Louis, Minneapolis, and other cities. Let’s do a look and listen on some of this year’s bands.
Truck Stop Love will make a visit from the past. The early-90s rockers are back after a 25-year hiatus and a couple of personnel changes. Known for their county fuzz rock, the Manhattan, KS band hits the Bottleneck for the Black Site Records Showcase on Saturday at 11 pm.
If you missed Bruiser Queen when they played the Riot Room in Kansas City back in March, you’ll have an opportunity to take in some good indie garage pop from the St. Louis two-piece. Just show up at Jackpot Music Hall at 9:15 pm on Friday.
The Ghoulies want to show you punk rock with a bluesy, garage feel. Adding an organ to the mix only amps up the excitement for this Denver band that’s been busy touring all summer. See them at the Replay Lounge on Saturday at 11:45 pm.
The Bottleneck has been involved in LFDF since the inception, and will have about 20 acts during the Fest. Don’t miss metal rockers Hyborian of Kansas City at 12:15 am Friday night. Bringing a mystical and sci-fi vibe to metal, Hyborian built their own studio in the West Bottoms.
The immutable laws of physics will prevent you from seeing the complete sets of all 60+ bands at LFDF, but some of the other acts that I’ll make a point to see this weekend are The Uncouth, Westerners, Momma’s Boy, Headlight Rivals, The Sluts, The Goodbye Sort, Vigil and Thieves, and Stiff Middle Fingers.
I write this, now, in the early morning, mere hours after Hayley Williams, Taylor York, Zac Farro, and their cohorts in Paramore walked off the stage at Kansas City’s picturesque Starlight Theatre. I have always – since I was blessed enough to go to my first show at age 9 – preached the importance of live music in all of our lives. I took many of my friends to their first concerts growing up, have had some stellar moments myself, and have had the joyous opportunity to experience live performance consistently in my life. I won’t go more in depth into it all, but I think you get the picture. I’ve been around this block once or twice.
I’ve even seen Paramore before. Albeit, it’s been years since I was able to introduce the magic of Hayley Williams to a handful of my friends at Warped Tour 2007. And perhaps that magic wore off a bit, as I became slightly more jaded by my experiences, and didn’t feel the need to pursue Paramore’s musicianship as they climbed in popularity. It was never out of disdain for the band, or even a dislike of the music. In fact, as singles like “The Only Exception”, “Still Into You”, “Ain’t It Fun”, and others surfaced, I found myself enjoying them insanely in rotation on the radio. Because Paramore has that pop appeal, their songs incredibly catchy and produced to perfection.
But the words are what really get me. At the core of it all, I am a big believer in lyricism. If you miss the mark instrumentally, but you have a mellifluous chorus full of double entendre, intelligent verbiage, or raw emotion, then I’m likely to listen. Hayley Williams does that.
Hayley Williams did that last night. Songs the band had written at differing points in life, songs that others have been into since the moment the album dropped in 2017, those songs reached my ears last night. Perhaps I’ve heard them once or twice, perhaps more. But last night, I was prepared. Last night, I listened.
Hayley explained that After Laughter is her favorite work of theirs to date, as long as they’ve been enchanting fans around the world. This struck me as odd, as the synthy, 80s-influenced work followed a current mainstream pattern that hit me wrong to begin with. But she explained that the album was about something deeper, their individual struggles – including her divorce and struggle with mental health – masked with this upbeat, insatiable soundscape. But she said she enjoyed that aspect, because it wasn’t fooling anyone but they could still have fun on stage during tour.
And, really, that was such an inspiring sentiment. Increasingly, people are coming out of the woodwork, detailing their struggles with their health, whatever form that may take. I, myself, have struggled immensely with diagnosed anxiety and other health issues, and find it so incredibly refreshing when an artist who has experienced success becomes vulnerable for the benefit of the world around them. If only everyone could be that courageous.
The band slowed their set down for “26”, Hayley’s ode to her 26th year that she wrote for After Laughter. I focused on the lyrics. And I identified with them. This song was me when I was 26. I was scared, I felt limited creatively and emotionally, and I felt alone. Hayley’s inability to hold it all completely together during this song increased its vulnerability, deepened her connection with the audience. Because, after all, I believe everyone can relate to that song on some level, and it made for a beautiful moment during the show.
You best believe Paramore rallied into the evening, bringing out fan favorites like “Misery Business”, “crushcrushcrush”, “Hard Times”, and “Ignorance”, and – though they chose not to regale us with my personal favorite, “For a Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic” – I realized that I’m on a very similar journey in my life. If we take time to open our eyes, we really all are. We are all “fake happy” sometimes. We go out of our way to please others, allowing ourselves to stay in dark places. We fall and we want to cry and we feel unsupported. We feel like there is no space for success in our lives. We have bad days.
But it’s live music, it’s that connection we all have to one another – enjoying musicianship and life in what can only be described as a sacred space – that keeps us all floating. We’ll all hit “26”. We’ll all have that “Still Into You” love. (I’m lucky. That’s the Paramore song I have been living out lately.) We all want “Ignorance” to be our best friends. We just need to be open to being vulnerable. And – without worshipping the artist themselves – we can find inspiration in what these musicians create.
I know I did. Since last night, I can’t stop writing. I had a dance party this morning to my two new vinyls (After Laughter, Riot!) already. And I feel awake.
Local band YOU MONSTER YOU opened the evening around 6pm, with a performance at the Applause Club inside the venue. As Paramore fans streamed in, they welcomed them with their fun and upbeat brand of alt punk rock. “This is a song that sounds like it’s about leaving a small town behind and moving somewhere else, but really it’s about crippling depression,” frontman Trent Munsinger explained to the crowd about their track “Dodge”, which perhaps opened up the mental health theme of the evening.
The band was full of quips, quite the entertainment to get the crowd ready for an evening of Jay Som, Foster The People, and Paramore. A couple of songs into their set, You Monster You performed one of their original songs for the first time in front of a crowd, with a stand-in guitarist. They hit all the right spots with it, and at the end Trent confessed he was happy it wasn’t a train wreck, while the band noted it was “a solid B+.”