Late Sunday afternoon, I touched down in Houston, Texas as a very tired, hungry, and spiritually full human being. When my amazing wife asked me how it was, I didn’t know where to start. The URJ Biennial was over and the time absolutely flew by. Days became nights and days again. Music was like a heartbeat and we prayed like children.
In the center of it all, was the Jewish Rock Radio stage. For three solid days, every 30 minutes a new artist took the stage and cranked it up to 18. Everyone from legendary Jewish artist to up and comers plugged in and showed everyone exactly who they were. It was…awesome. Many folks (myself included) stayed in the Kikkar to enjoy what was essentially a Jewish music festival inside the Biennial. Oy Songs had a booth right next to the stage for anyone who wanted to take the music home. A huge thank you goes out to Rick Recht and Josh Nelson for organizing the music that kept us all moving and for bringing so many musicians together.
For my own set, I had a dream team of a band! Saul Kaye produced my debut album and joined me on his lap steel. If you have never seen Saul Kaye hold space on stage, go to his website and find out where he is playing at so that you can experience it. Life changing, let me tell you. He’s a storyteller like you’ve never heard before. On percussion, I was joined by the one and only Sammy Rosenbaum. I met Sammy at South by Southwest and he blew me away with the intensity of intention in his music. We spent time next at NewCAJE during one of the showcase concerts and I am so proud to call him a friend. When he offered to play drums for me, how could I say no? Turns out – he’s just as amazing on percussion as he is at everything else. Sammy is bringing back the jam to Jewish music. I’m still singing “Alpha Lion”. Trust me.
To my right was the incredible Abbie Strauss on vocals and harmonies. Abbie and I met at SLBC and quickly became friends. A fellow Texan (now in Memphis), she has a voice like a southern shofar blast. It moves right through you and she really brought it on every single song. Her album, Spark, is an essential part of any Jewish music collection. Last but not least was Josh Goldberg, my roommate for the Biennial. I don’t know if there is an instrument he can’t play. He laid it down on the keys and left it all on the stage. Another fellow Texan (now in LA), Josh has a heart as big as the state he’s from. He’s raising funds for his first album of Jewish music (links below) and I cannot recommend him enough.
Outside that rockin’ room was the rest of the Biennial and the hallways of the Marriott were filled with Jews from all walks of life. Everywhere you looked, someone was meeting someone new or hugging someone they hadn’t seen in years. No matter where you came from or what you did, we were all attending this thing together. Everyone was with each other and that feeling is hard to describe. From late night jam sessions at the pool to deep conversations about the future and the challenges we all face, the URJ Bienniel did one thing better than anything else – it brought people together, no matter where they came from.
This was my first time attending this event and I would recommend it to everyone, no matter what branch of Judaism you follow. “Who is wise? The one who learns from everyone.” – Ben Zoma
If you have ever been to one of these conferences, you’re familiar with the feeling of closeness that comes from so many engaged people holding space together. We come together like a breath and then just as quickly go back out into the world wherever we came from, holding on to what we’ve learned from the time we were together. I’m grateful to have been part of it and look forward to every chance we have to come together again.
Click on the names below to hear the music of the folks I played with on the Jewish Rock Radio stage.
Find all the music from the artists above, and everyone else who rocked the JRR stage at Oy Songs!
Listen 24/7 to the home of Jewish Rock on Jewish Rock Radio!
For the total list of artists, click HERE