Getting the band (that I don’t have) back together

Summer 1990

Recently I’ve been wanting to acquire two things.  Both are probably due to what is termed a “mid-life crisis” (my Hebrew birthday was the 21st of Kislev and will be falling out in a few days) and attempting to recapture my youth.  First, I am ready to start driving a “Smokey and the Bandit” Trans Am and I want to start sporting a goatee, instead of my short beard.  It’s high time that I shake things up with my image.

Just kidding. Now I’ll be serious.

Firstly I’ve been thinking about growing my bangs out.  I had rockin’ bangs in the late 80s and I think that it’d feel younger with something hanging down over my forehead.  It really won’t happen because I have no interest in that “in between” stage of waiting for bangs (been there, grown that).

Secondly, as I’ve jokingly told my wife and a few friends, been think of getting the band back together.  Of course, that would be the band that I never had.  Two days before Chanukka I felt an urge to buy a guitar and start taking lessons.  I, once upon at time, from first through fourth grade played guitar.  Due to a geographic move I wasn’t able to continue.  At the suggestion of a good friend I decided to sit on this urge and see if it’s a real desire or just a fleeting idea.  I’m still sitting.  However, the initial catalyst is that I know that it shows a lack of middos on my part to just sit and complain about not finding J-music that I like and I’d rather be pro-active and just make my own.  There are a nice amount of frum musicians in Chicago and if motivated I’m sure I could cold call a few and ask if they want to join my band that I don’t have.  Then we could play the music I have in my head and the seven odd songs that I haven’t written yet (but know the pasukim/phrases that would make up the lyrics).  I would convince my closest friend here to play drums and I would sing, maybe strum guitar (if I take lessons), or play my instrument of choice…the slide whistle.

It’s the perfect time in my life to start a band. My kids are still young enough that I can play for a while, get it out of my system and still not tarnish my family’s image when it comes to future shidduchim. I have a few ideas for band names:

Shelaymus (refering to perfection & a reference to mussar)
Vytair (Yiddish for continue)
The Noise Kloiz (a Klotz was another name for a shul/sheibel that like-minded people belonged to)
Husker Nu (a pun on Husker Du)
Hispa’alus (literally “with energy and passion”, a method of mussar study innovated by R Y Salanter invovling repeating phrases in a melody and invovling your whole body)
Oi Vaad (a play on words of the Canadian metal band named Voivod and also a reference to Mussar vaadim)
Derech Eretz (way of the world, good manners)
Novordorock (play on words of the Novordok school of mussar and their network of 70+ yeshivos)

Ok, these are only ideas. Nothing is set in stone.  Speaking of which, I was thinking about “Even Shelayma” as a band name, since it has that “rock” thing (and is also the name of a sefer containing idea’s by the GRA), but it’s to similar to Evën Sh’siyah.  I can totally see the band that I don’t have performing at the Chicago Jewish Music festival (held every three years) or even playing a gig at someone’s Purim seudah.  Of course all merch for band would be available from and I could even make some bumperstickes that say:  If you don’t like my driving then go against the system and purchase a song by the band (fill in name of band here) on iTunes.
While the music would be rather fast paced with emphasis on base, guitar, and drums with catchy harmonies, the pasukim and lyrics would resonate with the thinking Jew (or the Jew who isn’t even aware that they need to be thinking) that wishes to be passionate about their Avodah and relationship with Hashem and those around them. I don’t think any tracks would be vehicles for kiruv (like Journeys’ “Conversation in the Womb”), but you never know. I sort of imagine songs that you would want to crank up when driving in the snow during carpool, yet melodic enough that you can slow them down and sing them as niggunim at the Shabbos table or after havdalah, to start out the week pumped and ready for action. Maybe I’ll even start singing a little this week after havdalah. I always tell my son a short short mussar idea, usually from R Yisrael Salanter, so to add a niggun for another 30 seconds couldn’t hurt.
I don’t think the band would be invited to any gigs in day schools, since our music wouldn’t sound traditionally Jewish (unless we sang acapella, then anything goes). I also don’t think we would make a video and put it on You Tube, I’ll leave that for the Maccabeats and other boy bands who would have more universal appeal. For sure we would not get booked for late night talk shows or multi-day music festivals, since Mattisyahu seems to have that covered quite well and affectively (I might add).

We’ll probably only play in someone’s basement or the social hall of a shul somewhere. Maybe if we get a following (as in people related to those in the band) we could even get booked at a local restaurant. That would be super-sweet, especially if I can work out arrangements for the band to get unlimited Coke or Diet Mountain Dew. I guess that when the band that I don’t have finally forms and starts playing, then we will only have one true way to see if we’ve made it. The true tell-all sign of our success will be if we get banned and an article appears on Yeshiva World News, Matzav, and VIN about how our music is an affront to Emunas HaChamim and listening to us is far worse than not allowing internet in your home (but letting your teens have a cell phone with unsupervised web access).

Is it a dream? Probably.

I’ll add it to my current dream list:
Health for my family
Financial Security
Writing for my Nineteen Letters blog again
Starting two mussar vaadim in Chicago (one for those already observant and one for those who are currently non-observant)
Taking my son to a Piamenta concert
Helping my children reach their potential and feel fulfilled
A long and happy life with my wife
Getting the band (that I don’t have) back together

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