Your Guide to AJMF5

Your Guide to AJMF5



Bram Bessoff

As self-proclaimed music guru of the AJT, co-chair and vice president of the Atlanta

Jewish Music Festival, I am assuming responsibility to making sure you don’t miss a single moment of what promises to be the biggest and best spring festival we’ve done yet.

Spread over 10 days and two weekends there is a lot to attend and this is how it’s going down:



Yo La Tengo, Mikey Pauker & Basya Schechter

Variety Playhouse (1099 Euclid Ave NE 30307)

Doors: 7:45 p.m., Show: 8:45 p.m. 

Starting backwards, our festival ends with a headlining show from Yo La Tango, an Atlanta fav since before the millennium. The group features Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley, who formed the band as a husband/wife duo in Hoboken, N.J., back in 1984.

The band was named after a moment in baseball history when the 1962 New York Mets center fielder Richie Ashburn and Venezuelan shortstop Elio Chacón found themselves colliding in the outfield due to confusion over “¡Yo la tengo!” being Spanish for “I got it!”

First becoming the team’s standard for calling out a catch, it is now memorialized as the name of an artist that has survived the music industry timeline completely on their own terms.

With releases dating back to 1986, YLT released their first LP, “Ride the Tiger” on Coyote Records. The band has since recorded 13 records, including their latest “Fade” released just last year.

They have been through five record labels and four past members, leaving them a trio for their upcoming performance with Ira and Georgia being accompanied by James McNew on bass.

Despite achieving limited mainstream success, Yo La Tengo has been called “the quintessential critics’ band” and maintains a strong cult following, known for its encyclopedic repertoire of cover songs both on stage and in the studio.

Along with their impressive 30 year discography, they have collaborated with Yoko Ono, done four film soundtracks and an original score for a short lived documentary series “The Sounds of The Sounds of Science.”

Their humor can best be understood when you watch a alternate video for “Sugarcube” (a tune which has been covered by the Flaming Lips) featuring huge YLT fans, Matt Besser, and Amy Poehler of Upright Citizens Brigade (who can be seen on various episodes wearing Yo La Tengo t-shirts) along with David Cross, the talent behind Mr. Show.

Watch it by finding the link on the @atlantajmf twitter feed or searching YouTube. Tenacious D fans will love this video.

Be sure to arrive early so you can catch our supporting acts. Mikey Pauker of Laguna Beach, Calif., has been described as one of the most profound and trend setting Jewish Recording Artists and experiential educators in the world.

Featured in Time magazine’s online as one of the 10 Stars of the New Jewish Musicians, Mikey is recognized as an engaging musician who is transforming the boundaries of contemporary Jewish music and generating “Jewish Cross Over Music.”

Mikey draws inspiration from traditional Jewish liturgy, Chassidut, Mysticism, and his own Jewish experiences. Mikey’s “Sim Shalom” has been featured in the RUACH 5771 song book and has been implemented in congregations, youth groups and summer camps all over the U.S. and Israel.

Recently he has shared the stage with Matisyahu, Moshav, Trevor Hall, Idan Raichel, Yael Mayer, Josh Nelson, Craig Taubman among others. Along with members of his full time band, Mikey will be accompanied onstage at AJMF5 by two local musicians Eli Sperling, fellow AJMF board member, and Nick Edelstein, a previous AJMF featured artist (2011 Closing Concert). 

Opening the evening is special guest and front woman of Pharaoh’s Daughter, Basya Schechter. Hailing from New York City, Basya blends a psychedelic sensibility and a pan-Mediterranean sensuality.

Known for leading her band through swirling Hasidic chants, Mizrachi and Sephardi folk-rock, along with spiritual stylings filtered through percussion, flute, strings and electronica, her sound has been cultivated by her Hasidic music background and a series of trips to the Middle East, Africa, Israel, Egypt, Central Africa, Turkey, Kurdistan and Greece.

Performing as a pared down trio at AJMF5, expect to see a different side to Basya. She brings her cross between an Arabic oud and a Turkish saz guitar sound, laden with harmonic minor melodies and odd time signatures that will bring new light to Pharaoh’s daughter classics and solo works seldom heard live.

There will be a few fun and interactive ways to commemorate the 5th anniversary of the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival, including custom on-demand t-shirts printed on site.

Choose from an array of designs, colors and shirts to purchase your own one-of-a-kind concert tee. Hop into our pop-up photo booth or get a free photo frame magnet from our wandering photographers who will insert your pic into this year’s commemorative photo frame as your free gift for attending AJMF5.


Featuring Josh Nelson Project, Boomfox, Miss Emily, No Komment, Miles Cohen, Justin Goren and JR Stein

Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta (5342 Tilly Mill Rd 30338)

Doors 10:30 a.m., Music & more 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

$5/person or $18/family (two adults and unlimited children)


The newest addition to our spring festival, the Family Day is AJMF’s first move to a traditional festival-styled, multi-stage event.

Along with our featured performers, there’s more live music from the best of our acclaimed teen open mic series along with a full array of activities for all ages including food, drum circles, and interactive exhibits by vendors and partners from the Atlanta community. 

Highlights include a headlining performance from Josh Nelson Project. One of the most popular performers and composers in modern Jewish music, Josh Nelson brings his extraordinary message of hope, unity and spirituality to concert stages and worship services across the globe.

Josh is a gifted multi-instrumentalist, known to play as many as 13 instruments in one show (although not at once) and is a songwriter whose work is celebrated and integrated into the repertoire of congregations, camps and communities around the world.

Another artist recently hailed by Time Magazine as a “star of the New Jewish Music,” Josh’s presence and performance style is high-energy and captivating.

He is a classically trained musician who is equally versed in rock, jazz and world music, Josh lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. with his two young sons and a goldfish named Dorothy who will not be making it to the show this coming Sunday.

Boomfox is an Athens-based rock band led by Hannah Zale Toland that brings pop sensibilities to a solid rock sound. In support of their recently released EP “Beech Valley,” Boomfox stop to rock AJMF with their fusing of blues, grunge and alternative rock that brings a high-energy performance and sound that Athen’s Music Junkie says they found it “impossible to stop listening.”

Zale, who is classically trained in opera, helped form the band’s image and found inspiration for their name by covering Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” one too many times in their early days. When Hannah Zale and the Foxy Caucasians didn’t catch, they became Boomfox.

For those with little ones, be sure to arrive at the beginning of the day to catch Florida’s own “Miss” Emily, a Jewish music educator who believes wholeheartedly in the power of informal education with music as her tool of choice.

Her primary career focus is early engagement of young Jewish children and their families through developmentally appropriate, enjoyable and meaningful musical experiences.

Emily has two released albums, “For Shabbat!” and “Every Day!” and was featured on the PJ Library’s album “This is Me!”Emily also works with Jewish Learning Matters, creating and editing curricular materials to support the use of books and music to teach Jewish values.

Local teen sensations No Komment of Tucker, Ga. along with featured teen open mic night artists Miles Cohen, Justin Goren and JR Stein fill out the middle of the day bridging the gap between rocking the tots and the adults.



Featuring Mikey Pauker & Rabbi Brian Glusman

Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta (5342 Tilly Mill Rd 30338)

5:30 p.m.: Family friendly Shabbat experience. 7 p.m.: Celebration for families, singles, and adults of all ages.

Open to all, FREE

This year we are excited to produce two very different ways to experience Shabbat through musical worship and prayer.

On the lighter side, Shabbat Celebrations with Mikey Pauker and MJCCA’s own Rabbi Brian Glusman is a two-part affair intended for the whole family.

Bring younger children to enjoy family-friendly Shabbat songs, prayers and blessings, challah, grape juice and a visit from “The Shabbat Dinosaur” for the family experience promptly starting at 5:30 p.m. and stick around for the Shabbat celebration at 7 p.m. featuring Mikey Pauker’s unique style as he breathes new life into Shabbat classics.


Featuring Gayanne Geurin,Will Robertson, Bonnie Puckett and Michael Levine

Congregation Bet Haverim (2676 Clairmont Rd NE 30329)

Doors 6:30 p.m., Service begins 7:30 p.m.

Open to all, FREE

Come experience a unique Shabbat service of Sacred Hebrew Chant as AJMF5 returns to Bet Haverim for this special musical service. Together with congregation Ahavat Achim, this Shabbat service features Atlanta’s best Hebrew chant leaders: Gayanne Geurin, Michael Levine, Bonnie Puckett and Will Robertson.

It has been known that services like this have taken some to meditative states of devotion and connection to the Divine while inspiring others to break out into joyful song and dance. Attending and playing in similar services in the past, I can contest that it is easy to find new meaning in prayer with Kirtan chanting.

The evening will be accompanied by rabbis Laurence Rosenthal and Joshua Lesser and is open to entire public. In fact, we at AJMF encourage you to invite non-Jewish friends and acquaintances to attend and experience this moment with us.



Afro-Semetic Experience

Steve’s Live Music (234 Hilderbrand Dr NE 30328)

Doors 6:30 p.m., Set 1: 7:30 p.m. (Sold Out),  Set 2: 9:30 p.m. (Few Tix Remaining)


AJMF5 kicks off with a celebration of Jewish and Black culture by bringing in an artist that is fighting anti-Semitism and racism with the power of music. Residing from my neck of the woods growing up in the North, The Afro-Semitic Experience is a band from Hartford, Conn. that is beyond simple description.

Perhaps best worded as soul-driven music, they play spiritual, world-beat, funk, jazz, cantorial, gospel, salsa, swing pretty much all at once. To get a taste of what that sounds like, listen to “Fon der khupe 6” on their website, and you’ll see what I mean.

One of the hottest tracks from their brand new record “Jazz Souls on Fire” which is being released the night of this show.

Co-founded by African-American jazz pianist Warren Byrd, and Jewish-American jazz bassist David Chevan for an interfaith Martin Luther King memorial service in 1998, they set out to create an ensemble dedicated to preserving, promoting and expanding the rich cultural and musical heritage of the Jewish and African diaspora.

This is a group that is as comfortable playing a freylakh as they are swinging a blues. Nat Hentoff of The Wall Street Journal said he “Never before have I heard this lyrically powerful a fusion of Jewish and jazz souls on fire.”

Pianist/Composer Warren Byrd is a Hartford, Conn. native with an international touring schedule. His experiences with performing began with singing in the church choir with his older siblings. By the time he’d been awarded a full scholarship for Classical Vocal Studies at Hartt College of Music, he’d decided he wanted to be a jazz artist.

Bassist and composer David Chevan, was born in Philadelphia in 1960, and grew up in Amherst, Mass. His early passion for music has led him to explore a wide range of musical realms from singing in synagogue, to playing in gospel groups, Polka bands, Klezmer bands, and Italian wedding bands, and finally to jazz and contemporary composition. He has composed music for a wide range of artists and ensembles.

The talent on stage is not the only special aspect of the evening, opening night is also the site of AJMF’s silent auction featuring a wide array of unique gifts such as studio recording time, rock star consultancy, dance lessons, learning to speak Hebrew, a bottle of scotch, VIP tickets to Haim and so much more going to the highest bidder.

AJMF5 also brings the third installment of our limited edition commemorative poster available for sale at all non-Shabbat AJMF events. Featuring the illustration styles of Atlanta design student Matt Phejlada, this limited edition silk screen poster is hand printed by local legendary pop artisans Danger Press.

The concept this year was to proclaim our goal to unify the different sub cultures across the Atlanta Jewish community, represented by a crowd of unique and different characters coming together under the AJMF banner to celebrate Judaism, life and each other through the power of music.

Limited quantities of posters will be on hand for each event, so we recommend arriving early if you are one of those that like to collect. Each poster is hand signed and numbered by the artist and is first-come-first-served.

As always we recommend getting your tickets in advance, our events have been known to sell out before. For all things AJMF5, links to venues, online ticket sales and more detail, and be sure to come find me, Russell, Raychel and all the board members and volunteers of the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival to say hello and share in the fun.

We look forward to seeing you over the next two weeks.



Bram Bessoff is a drummer and musician. When not onstage, Bram is a performance coach and music industry entrepreneur helping artists get the most out of their live shows and chart on Billboard. He sits on the board of directors as VP for The Atlanta Jewish Music Festival. Follow Bram’s experiences on, off and backstage @bram_rocks. Interact with him at #InItForTheMoment to share thoughts, comments and ideas about this column.


read more: