Hi there! The last few weeks have been jam packed with music, prayer, and good times in so many different places. Thanks for checking out this little update and please remember to head over to our “Tour Dates” tab and see if I’ll be in your area. I would love to pray and sing with you. I’ll talk more further down on how to bring me out to your community if you’re interested in having me over!
We kicked everything off with a show on Harmony in Unison, a new Facebook group that brings together folks from all over to hear free, streaming concerts Sunday through Thursday. It’s a great community and some pretty amazing folks have held full shows on there so if you get the chance to check it out, please do! You can follow this link and request an invite: HARMONY IN UNISON . You can find my broadcast along with many, many others.
Next up, the tour bus (my old Nissan Altima) rolled on over to Temple Sinai in Houston to join the AMAZING Beth Hamon for a Havdalah concert. Beth is based out of Portland, OR, and came down to do a full weekend with the good folks there and they were kind enough to let me join in. If you haven’t already gotten a copy of Beth’s Album “Ten Miles”, get yourself a copy at her website HERE. She is hands down one of the best songwriters I’ve met and if you get the chance to catch her live, don’t miss it. Here is some video of “Hear” from that show…
Then it was off to one of my favorite places in the whole world – Songleader Boot Camp! Now that name is pretty misleading because it isn’t just for songleaders! It’s a several day event for anyone who works in the Jewish world and wants to make their fire a little bigger. SLBC taught me so much and continues to fill me up every single time I go. The best part was that this year, I got to bring my family with me! Last year on Facebook, a friend of mine challenged my good buddy, Rob Aronson, and I to co-write a song in time to perform it at SLBC. Who were we to back down from a challenge? Rob has a new baby and my son is 17, so we wrote a song about being a parent and the hopes we have for our children. It’s amazing how similar those hopes are for a child first coming into the world and one about to go out into it. Here’s some video that the amazing Susan Shane Linder captured.
Almost as soon as the plane touched down in Houston, the guitar case was back in the air and headed to Florida for a weekend with the good folks at Ramat Shalom and Limmud Miami! Once those wheels were down, it was off Plantation Florida to meet with the incredible Cantor Debbie Hafetz to go over the service for that night. Well, things got interesting fast. We had no power! Thieves had stolen a whole mess of copper wiring from the Synagogue and there was no juice which meant no AC, lights, etc. Some folks were working hard to get it on in time but it wasn’t looking good. We started setting out led-candles for folks and getting set for a candle-lit Shabbat service when suddenly, just as we were about to start – LIGHT! Right on time. We sang, we prayed, we had a great time together welcoming in the beauty of Shabbat with joyful noise. Also, we could see each other and the AC was wonderful. I really loved every minute with these beautiful folks. They’ve really built a singing community there and the energy was amazing!
Saturday was for the always wonderful, Susan Shane Linder. I added some vocals to a track on her upcoming album at the studio of Latin Grammy winner, Paul Hoyle. So much fun! Plus – it’s a Susan Shane Linder song. Look for “Make a Good Choice” on her next album.
Now my host for this entire weekend was an awesome fella names Jason Wasser. Jason and I met at Limmud Fest at Ramah Darom and have been good buddies ever since. That night, I came back to his apartment and walked in to the sound of guitars and singing. Jason had his door wide open and folks were gathering for Havdalah! We sang away Shabbat together with a room full of folks and had a ton of laughs. There that night was a young singer/songwriter named Etty Black, who was visiting from Brooklyn with her sister Esther. Etty shared a song with us and we were floored! You have got to hear this. It’s a home recording of Etty’s Song “We Had a Good Run”. Watch out for her – She’s a rockstar.
Finally, the Florida leg of the trip wrapped up with a visit to Limmud Miami! I’ve only taught at one other Limmud (Limmud Fest at Ramah Darom) and was so honored to be invited to this one. MANY cities host a day of learning and if you’ve never been – get there! They are amazing and the Limmud communities are fantastic. This was a full day of learning on every topic under the sun. I taught my workshop, Choosing to be Chosen, and also gave a concert for the community there. I can’t thank the good folks at Limmud enough for bringing me down to Florida! While you are checking all these things out – check out my good friend Jason Wasser’s website. That man is a healer and a half – http://thefamilyroomsfl.com/
Coming home is always wonderful and having the opportunity to lead services in your home town is such a joy. I have a special Americana Shabbat service full of original melodies that I lead when I visit communities out of town but it is rare that I have the opportunity to do that in Houston. I’m very thankful for the trust that Rabbi Lobel and the good folks at Beth El in Missouri City placed in me. It was a blast to spend Friday night with them. Also, big thanks to Jeff for this review on our Facebook Page!
“Joe visited our congregation (Congregation Beth El in Missouri City, Texas) recently and comments herein do not do his music and energy justice. His melody and words really resonated, touching the soul and making it a Shabbat to remember. I look forward to hearing Joe perform in the future and encourage others to do so as well.” – Jeff in Missouri City, TX
Then came Austin, TX and one of the largest music festivals in the world – SXSW! Kosha Dillz invited me to join a great duo, Eric and Happie, in leading a Shabbat dinner and service at a bar called Dozen Street. So naturally, I called up my good friend and mighty string-slinger, Shamus Platt, to see if he would join me. Now, I don’t know if you know how far away McAllen, TX is but it’s far. It’s like, really far. Shamus drove all the way here with his amazing family just to rock out at SXSW with me. Let me tell you…this fella is one super holy brother. Just a great human being start to finish and I am so honored to know him and his amazing family.
So we got to the bar and it was jam packed! You couldn’t squeeze in there for nothing, so we went next door to a place called Full Circle Bar. It turns out – the owners are Jewish and one of them invented the games, Spinagogue and Major League Dreidel! Who woulda thunk it?! We chatted for a while and it looks like we’ll be seeing them again for some music in the future. Sounds good to me. What didn’t sound so good was the action next door. Police filled the streets in a flash and folks were pouring out of the bar we were set to be at in 45 minutes!
The streets were blocked off and we walked on over to Dozen Street to talk with the doorman. I wasn’t sure what to say or what to ask, so I went with what was easy. “Everyone ok?” He shrugged his shoulders. “Are you still open?” He nodded. “Can we load in our gear?” He nodded again – so we headed in. Setting up when the place is empty was a snap! By the time the sun was sinking in the sky, folks were filing back into the bar for the start of SXSHabbat Fest. Eric and Happie led the blessings over the challah and the wine – then James and I welcomed in the Angles with Shalom Aleichem. Here is the video.
Talk about a wild night! We ended up playing a five song set that included two brand new tunes, “Texas” and “Float”. We were also the opening act for Happie and Eric, who brought down the house with their incredible songwriting, harmonies, and chemistry. Can’t recommend them enough. You can find their album, “It’s Yours” on iTunes, Spotify, and more. Shabbat…at a bar…in Austin…during SXSW. Awesome.
James and his family stayed with us through the weekend and we finished out with a House Concert in Houston the next night. To my absolute delight, the awesome Greg Sherman was able to join us and brought the beat! Any day I get to play with Greg and James is a good day. So among all the food, cold drinks, and good folks – we made a little music. Here is one of the new tunes, called “Texas”. I wrote it because I always get asked if I’ve ever been to Israel. I haven’t and I would love to go someday. Maybe you know someone looking to bring some of this music to Israel!? Anywho – I hope this video makes you smile. The opening line is, “Well I’ve never been to Israel but I floated the Frio River.”
Here are a few dates coming up and I’m proud to say that I’ll be at the Cantor’s Assembly Conference in May. If you are going, come to the show on the 21st featuring Abbie Strauss, Eliana Light, and myself!
I hope we get the chance to pray and sing together this year. More (and more frequent) tour updates are on the way. Now for a little Q&A!
How can I get my community on the tour?
Great question! If you would like me to come to your community for Shabbat, a Havdalah Concert, Workshop, or even a full weekend of programming – just drop me a line! Let me know who I should send information to and I will happily send over a PR packet that includes all the info. It’s that easy!
How do I book a House Concert? Those look AWESOME!
They are! House concerts are HUGELY popular and your living room was made for live music…trust me. They are easy to organize and are so much fun. Drop me a line and I will send you everything you need to know! Let’s gather up in your (or someone else’s) home for a night of music and good times.
Are you taking bookings for 2018 yet?
YES! We are taking bookings beyond even that. Just drop me a line and let me know what you had in mind!
Do you play secular venues?
Yes. I believe that music is a bridge and who am I to say who can and can’t cross it? If you have a venue and want to talk – let’s talk.
Do you ever play Interfaith Events or share your music with folks who are not Jewish?
Absolutely! I believe that one of the biggest dangers we face is misunderstanding, misrepresentation, and miscommunication. I’m happy to share my music, my thoughts on Judaism, and even my story of conversion (and why) with anyone who is interested. Judaism was a powerful healing force for me and if the music I write can help someone else, I am more than happy to share it. I believe that there is a lot of room at the table and my goal is to add more chairs, not take them away.
What all can you do in a community?
A lot! Drop me a line and I’ll send you all kinds of good information.
Do you have dates left for 2017?
Absolutely! Check out our Tour Dates tab and let’s be in touch!
How do I contact you?
Easy peasy. Here you go!