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Gold, Magnets and a band

2008-04-27
Saturday, April 12th, the members of "Ha'yehudim" (translates to: "The Jews") get a gold-album for their latest album "Forte" (their forth album so far, hence its title) officially in front of a loving crowd; a handful of it even lit some birthday-like fireworks for the occasion. The band didn't forget that this very crowd is the main reason they've got to this point – they chose to give a couple of their biggest fans the framed golden album on stage – as they usually say "you are all Ha'yehudim".
When asked, after the show, whether they're excited from the new title or if it's become a habit (on each of their former album they received one, if not two, similar titles) band members replied that now, especially in the internet-era, when anyone can download anything for "free", it is a major accomplishment.
Indeed, this is an accomplishment, but you must be wondering "so what's this gotta do with magnets?"

"Ha'yehudim" is the most successful rock band in Israel, you can't argue with the numbers, and it is their presence that works like a gigantic magnet (or some electro-magnet) attracting thousands of young fans, who in turn come to each and every show, shove in lines (like any other Israeli) and end up in the company of others of their own age without having to be member of some geeky youth-movement with sandals as part of its unwritten dress code. A magnet, yep, like the ones on your fridge only much larger and more potent, and since recently backed by a visuals-screen playing videos against the songs.
For some reason, this sort of magnetism affects mostly teenagers (no, it's not because many of 'em have braces), and although this isn't a professional statistics study about the band, it requires some reference.

In front of "The Theater" club's stage, which wasn't entirely full and maybe not full enough, several hundreds of viewers assembled and got a night which was energetic, exciting, fun and mostly one that shows there's little competition in terms of Israel's live rock bands. As soon as the show began, the magnet power was used without holding back – the venue got more and more packed, every jailbait became a tiny iron particle and couldn't resist getting closer and closer to each other, until you could even tell one's sweat from the others.
The band delivered a set of no less than 26 songs, including two encores, electrifying performances of ליפול ("to fall"), סמי חופשי ("Sami's free"), ניו יורק סיטי ("New York city), shivers in המאה העשרים ("The 20's century") and לעולם מצידי ("Forever if it's up to me"), a surprising monologue in מחפש תשובה ("Looking for an answer") and an immortal finish with עוד ארון אחד ("One more casket") – a perfect setlist, with no unnecessary halts, a show for the sake of performing.

Avi Strool, who recently announced his and the band's ways parted, was absent, and his absence was felt, hard. Somehow, even without the faces of wonder on the bass-player friend I went with, the substitute was – as his name suggests – a mere substitute. The venue proved its reputation for imperfect sound quality, and the lack of proper balance was like a tight shirt on a cubby girl – a bit just runs off the sides, it's not her fault. In a rather short and corny summery for the night – everyone was left tired yet satisfied; Both the band – who reminded us journalists what an effort it is to play for almost two and a half hours, and the crowd – who went straight to Yafo's kiosks for immediate watering.

I was accompanied by a nostalgic feeling on the way to the show, it's been a while since I was part of that hormone-filled crowd, and the atmosphere throughout the show, as electrifying as it may have been, was different from before not only due to the time that's past, but also due to the fact the band's current crowd (today's youth, more like it) isn't and won't be like that of the past. You can accuse the whole generation, and you could just see it as a symbiotic system of crowd & band; like any other magnet, with time its gravitational force slowly weakens. The index in this case is the craze, the very same insanity I remember from back when I was that age )not so long ago, I admit) which included ignoring warm-up bands (if you were in there in 2005, you know), girls passing-out, homemade t-shirts with the band's lyrics in a black marker, knowing every single world of every single song – the crowd knew when and what to shout back, it was all synchronized.

So where did the good old crowd go? Some of it is in the army now, some past that, some moved on and joined the rest of the tasteless-radio-public, some took different direction in music moving deeper into genres, and some feel "too old" to go wild in the first lines but show their love for the band from distance. Wherever they went, a younger crowd that isn't only interested in having a sidelip and a pony combed sideways took its place.

In the review about "Forte", the ambivalence towards "Ha'yehudim" is felt like a cold breeze down your spine, but the overall message is that beyond all the trashing-out, stigmas and musical arrogance – there's a boiling core which beats again and again, in every single show, and doesn't let the Petrover-Sha'haf joint magnet lose its attraction. This symbiosis between the band and its crowd was always well felt, even if it was a bit less this time (too little communication between the songs, too little insanity from the crowd) it's hard to refute it and declare it a trend. "Ha'yehudim" have been with us for over 15 years, and despite being ignored by the Israeli media over the years and being taken lightly by critics, it's hard to argue with success. And just between us…"the jews", gold…it's obvious.

Ofer Vayner

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