Jewnfest 2011 — Fresh, at The Mint

Jewlicious brought its inaugural Jewnfest to The Mint, June 14 & 15, featuring two days of Jewish folk and funk in West L.A. It was no full house on Wednesday, the second night of the fest, but every other seat was filled with exuberant, hand-clapping, head-bobbing fans. Despite the dim lighting and vibrant poster art, as well as the dank smell of beer, a campfire mood prevailed.

Jewnfest kicked off Tuesday night with folk-rock revival artists: Yael Mayer, Dov Rosenblatt (Blue Fringe) and his newest collaboration, The Wellspring, as well as Lauren Barth. On Wednesday, funk/jazz headliner Hyim shared the stage with Yiddish soul act Klezmer Juice and Josh Kramon.

Kramon, the opening artist, and his last-minute back-up band grabbed the audience’s attention. Chiming on his guitar, Josh Kramon, sang “Good Times,” a song that evokes a ‘90s road trip. And Josh looks the part of the ‘90s acoustic rocker — standing on stage, guitar in hand, wearing unfitted, washed-out denim jeans, a black T-shirt and wire-frame glasses. Two girls, who came for Klezmer Juice, sat at the bar gazing at Kramon, thrilled they got there early enough to hear him play.

“We are an eclectic mix,” said Rafael, a Lithuanian mathematician, describing the Jewnfest scene. Among the crowd are Jewish hipsters, draped in flannel, stomping their vintage cowboy boots to the music. A young observant Jewish man, dressed in white linen, watched Zen-fully from the back of the room wearing a white beanie with a pompom on top; his long brown payot swung to the music as he bobbed his head in harmony.

When Klezmer Juice opened with “Hava Nagila,” two men in suits, linked arms and danced the hora.

“I think I felt an earthquake,” Klezmer Juice’s Gustavo Bulgach said as he and the pianist retrieved a knocked-over keyboard.

The fans and the bands stuck around after each set to listen and dance to the next act. Two men talked among themselves as San Francisco-based Hyim and his band take the stage. “Looks like we’re in for some psychedelic trippy music,” one of them said. 

Hyim held the audience’s attention with his boisterous sounds and dynamic presence. He sang into the mic as if he was talking to the crowd, pounding on his keyboard, pouring his heart out and rocking his hips to the beat. He was straight funky. After all, “We are an eclectic mix.”

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