The Jewish Nomad: Seeing a real-life concert again was worth even more than Spotify

An actual concert on Nov. 17, 2021. (One which was more Jewish than Ilana Zackon thought going in.)

The early pandemic times brought many of us to new virtual frontiers: learning how to use Zoom, buying nearly everything on Amazon, getting regular groceries delivered to the door.

As for me, I finally subscribed to Spotify.

Ample amounts of time holed up in my Vancouver one-bedroom, I had a constant soundtrack to my daily routine. Music while cooking, cleaning, showering, working, relaxing–those tunes truly helped get me through the dreadful dreariness of lockdown.

It was then I discovered the band Lawrence, a  New York-based eight-piece pop-soul band helmed by a brother and sister.

Gracie and Clyde Lawrence create songs that are upbeat and catchy, with boisterous saxophones and wild vocals. (You haven’t truly lived until you’ve heard Gracie belt her face off in “Limbo.”)

Now that I live in Toronto, it was enormously exciting to discover they were set to perform on Nov. 17 at the Danforth Music Hall. This was a concert rescheduled from Sept. 3, 2020—a refreshing reminder that so many postponed promises are starting to be fulfilled.  

I’d finally be able to hear live music again! Yay!

Before the pandemic, I’d go to concerts maybe once or twice a year. But being cooped up for so long made me crave the energy of a crowded room filled with sweet, sweet melodies. A sweaty setting, albeit while required to wear a mask. Was it possible?

To my delight, when my boyfriend and I arrived that night, there were a thousand others who felt the same way, packing the standing room area, as well as the balcony.

Now, here’s where a Jewy angle started to reveal itself…

Erez Zobary, a Toronto local with a Yemenite-Ashkenazi background, opened the show with a bang. Her soulful vocals, accompanied by a five-piece band, were mesmerizing and delicious to the ear.

After her one-hour set, Erez received thunderous applause and you could feel the bubbling excitement for the headliners.

When the lights came up, Gracie Lawrence bounced on to the stage. Clyde took his place behind the keyboard, wearing a T-shirt reading “Jerry & George & Kramer & Elaine,” with his curly brown hair fraying from his baseball hat.

I turned to my boyfriend, who had only recently discovered the band, and explained to him that they were siblings from New York.

He goes: “…are they Jewish?”

“What makes you say that?” I replied.

“I mean, they’re from New York, he’s wearing a Seinfeld shirt and has a Jewfro.”

I was convinced I’d once looked them up (because let’s be real, we all Google “Is _____ Jewish?” at least once daily) and was adamant that it was a coincidence—and mayyyybe a stereotype.

But, turns out, he was right on the money! (So, who’s propagating stereotypes now?)

Clyde and Gracie Lawrence are indeed part of the tribe, huzzah! Plus have a great tune on YouTube called “Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah (But Funky),“ which underscored this revelation for me:

To add to the Jewiness of the night, I was trying to find the best place to stand to see the band (5-foot-3 lady over here, holla!) and suggested we move closer to the edge.

As we moved to our new location, a stranger next to us suddenly eyed my boyfriend with an intense look of recognition and then proceeded to tell him how he never forgets a face and is sure they’d met before.

After a few minutes of racking their brains, they realized they’d met the previous summer at a Moishe House event.

I, then, noticed my boyfriend waving at someone behind us—another Jewish friend of his happened to be in our same corner, as well.

Welcome to Toronto, Ilana. Jewish Geography at its finest.

From our little Jewish corner, fairly close to the stage, we danced our pants off all night. 

The show was absolutely fantastic. Definitely one of the most fun concerts I’ve ever been to and I’m sure not having attended one in two years made it all the more special.

(Highly recommend checking out both Erez Zobary and Lawrence, if you want to funk up your daily playlist. Warning: their vocals may blow your mind.)

What we’re saying on Bonjour Chai

Canada’s weekly Jewish current affairs podcast is nearly nine months old—having launched in early March—which sounds like a good time to give birth to expanded interaction.

We’re starting with an invitation-only Slack chat for daily discussions with listeners, and @bonjourchai getting on Twitter. 

Figuring out how to make this dialogue better (and more fun!) where others have fallen short is more of a challenge than you might think. 

So, we got a hold of Jesse Brown, creator of Canadaland, for his thoughts on how digital discourse can be improved. (Particularly for a younger generation of Jews who’ll never agree on anything.)

Fittingly, the popular podcast publisher had some different opinions from Avi Finegold and David Sklar and myself. But, in the Bonjour Chai tradition, we ended up better friends when the debate was done.

Listen to the latest episode. And, if it’s your kind of thing, you’ll learn how to join us.

Ilana Zackon can be reached at [email protected] and found on Facebook and Instagram.

HEAR what else she has to say every week on Bonjour Chai