For those who think they don’t need to be told what goes on at a Jewish music festival, the 18th annual Jewish Music Festival (March 22-29) should offer a few surprises, including R&B group Street Sounds, swing-rock-jazz violinist Jeremy Cohen, and singer-activist Holly Near. The East Bay festival — now proclaiming itself the largest and most diverse festival of Jewish world music in the United States — is a weeklong celebration that works hard to show this musical culture in myriad forms, with concerts in Berkeley, San Francisco, and Walnut Creek.Klezmer — that jazzy, swinging Eastern European band style — sparked the ’70s revival of Jewish music for a younger generation, and it rekindled interest in other Jewish music. So it’s exciting that one of the country’s leading klezmer bands, the Klezmatics, makes a rare visit to UC Berkeley’s Wheeler Auditorium on Saturday, March 29, to close the festival. They will be joined by Holly Near, whose song, “I Ain’t Afraid,” is part of their repertoire.
While the Klezmatics may be the best-known act this year (they joined classical violinist Itzhak Perlman for In the Fiddler’s House, Perlman’s recording, PBS-TV special, and concert), there are a number of surprises, such as the pairing of Linda Hirschhorn’s all-woman Vocolot with the African-American choir Street Sounds, started by Sweet Honey in the Rock cofounder Louise Robinson. The groups share songs of faith, love, freedom, and the struggle for justice on Monday at the Freight & Salvage.
Other concerts feature bluegrass mandolinist-clarinetist Andy Statman’s trio, Morocco-born Shlomo Bar’s Israeli chamber band Habrera Hativeet, a kids’ concert by Gerry Tenney’s California Klezmer, and violinist Jeremy Cohen in a string quartet. Further events include services, lectures, and solo performances. The full schedule is available at www.brjcc.org or from the box office: 925-866-9559. — Larry Kelp
Off the Pigs!
She’s the rich ex-wife of an unsuccessful Republican candidate for the US Senate from California — who transformed herself into a born-again populist and wrote a book called How to Overthrow the Government. She’s also a nationally syndicated newspaper and Internet columnist notorious for her terrier-like attacks on the Bush administration and corporate gluttons, and especially for her crusade against SUVs. Evote.com labels her “New Age Meets Right Wing.” She’s even joined the Apostrophe Posse, hauling her own daughter up on charges of misappropriating punctuation marks. She’s Arianna Huffington, of course, and reading her is one of the few guilty pleasures liberals have left. Meaning that if it’s gotten unbearable for someone like her, it must be truly awful. She loves underdogs, loathes big shots, despises meaningless polls — and makes a tidy living saying the things most Democrats are afraid to. The Santa Monica-based commentator, whose new book, Pigs at the Trough, cuffs you-know-whom for you-know-what with teeth-gnashing outrage, filters into Oakland this Wednesday evening for a lecture and Q&A with Van Jones, director of the Bay Area’s Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, at the First Congregational Church of Oakland, 2501 Harrison St. Tickets are $12 door, $10 in advance from 415-255-7296 x200. — Kelly Vance
“At first, people gasped. And then they began to laugh. Everyone was laughing. They hissed. Then one by one, they began to leave, noisily, talking, protesting. They banged the door as they left.” That’s what Anaís Nin wrote of the 1933 premiere of Antonin Artaud’s The Theatre and the Plague. And it’s no coincidence that eXtreme Elvis, the Bay Area’s own GG Allin in oversize sunglasses, often gets the same reaction as the drug-addled Surrealist once did. The only non-EE links you’ll find on www.extremeelvis.com are not one, but five about Artaud. EE pisses on the audience and lets live chickens peck at him, and Artaud acted out the plague, but the aims of both were and are the same. You can share the pain, the horror, and the ugliness of the human condition at the Starry Plough (3101 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley) when EE performs with his band, fresh off a tour with Axis of Evil, wherein he played Ozzy to the Extra Action Marching Band’s Black Sabbath. 86 and Carrie Bradley open the 21-and-up show, and cover is $6. 510-841-2082. — Stefanie Kalem
There’s just something about British kiddie lit. Perhaps the sense of wonder that American children feel while reading about Roald Dahl’s Charlie or the desperate rabbits of Watership Down has something to do with the shadow that Mother England’s history casts; li’l Yankee lives just seem so scrawny compared with her extensive narrative. The places and people breathe with a strange life, toeing a shimmery line between the familiar and the fantastic. Melanie Wentz capitalizes on this fascination in Once Upon a Time in Great Britain: A Travel Guide to the Sights and Settings of Your Favorite Children’s Stories, visiting the London of Mary Poppins, Toad Hall (from The Wind in the Willows), and Winnie the Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood, among others. Wentz’s discussion of the book and slide show of the journey starts at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Easy Going Travel Shop and Bookstore, 1385 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley. Call 510-843-3533 for more information about this free event. — Stefanie Kalem