A Moment With Musician Jerry Joseph in Israel
The past few weeks in Tel Aviv, Israel have been extra-eventful to say the least. To set the scene for our American readers, a weeklong war was fought in Gaza and for the first time in over 20 years, missile sirens were sounded in the Westernized city of Tel Aviv. No big deal, right? Earlier in the week I had gotten word that an American musician Jerry Joseph was to play at a basement bar I’ve previously written about, Levontin 7. I was already looking forward to seeing something familiar from home and as the show hadn’t been canceled due to any impending doom, I decided to check it out. The dark, windowless basement bar resembled a bomb shelter and I felt safer there than my own apartment anyway. I figured some live music would be good for the nerves too.
The usually bustling streets of downtown Tel Aviv were eerily empty as I walked toward the basement bar. The streets were hushed as if the entire city was holding its breath, listening and waiting. The bar wasn’t as crowded as usual, but there was still a nice group of people. You could sense a thick tension filled the air. Locals refused to let the war stop them and came out to see Jerry, who has put out a number of albums over the years and has written songs for jam giants Widespread Panic.
As I sat down and looked toward the stage, I felt somewhat nostalgic as the rich chords struck out across the sparse audience. His first song was called “War at the End of the World” and struck extremely close to home given our surroundings. I didn’t take my eyes off of Jerry to look around, but I’m sure everyone in the audience had the same thing on their minds.
After playing his first two songs without a break or introduction, Jerry took the microphone, and said, “I’m not just going to sit here and pretend there isn’t a war going on outside. But it’s all good man. That’s one of those ridiculous things we say in the US… It’s all good.”
I think that was the first time all night– all week– that I actually felt relieved, and laughed out loud. In such a dark place, in such a serious moment, his blatant recognition of what was going on broke the tension and sent a wave of relief and laughter over the crowd. It was a moment of camaraderie and powerful understanding. In both his music and his on-stage demeanor, Jerry Joseph gets it.
Jerry has been traveling all over the world spreading his music and gaining new experiences to write about. In early 2013 you can view a documentary series called “Nicaragua” of his travels. I spoke with videographer Justin Benoliel of Ramble West Productions about the series;
“Been shooting Jerry all over the world for almost 2 years now, in 10 countries. We are about to release Vol 1 of the DVD series “Nicaragua”. The objective was to not just shoot Jerry’s documentary with any real sense of urgency, just always be shooting and that is what we did. Close to 100 shows have been filmed, some multicam, many single cam, close to 300 songs will be on film at the end of this project, and after every run of shows we end up with some footage that is unique to regular documentaries and it inspires us to continue filming and playing music around the world.”
Check out this preview of “Nicaragua” and go see Jerry Joseph live if you can. Although albums and videos can come close, there is nothing as real as the emotions evoked by live music.