Passing Over...

It’s 4 AM. I haven’t sold my chametz.

This time of year is always really good for me. I like (read: crave) the arrival of the spring, and look forward to everything that comes along with it.

When I was a little kid, spring really meant March and the beginning of spring training. The arrival of pitchers and catchers meant April would come soon, and April was only a month away from May, which in turn was only a couple weeks away from June 15, which was generally the day school let out for summer vacation. I actually remember charging through the doors of my elementary school, bursting out onto the playground and shouting “I’m free! I’m free!”

It’s a funny memory to have every year, since I generally spend some time around this season thinking about the nature of freedom.

On a personal level, this past year hasn’t been so easy. I’m not quite sure how I arrived at this particular point in my life. I am sure, though, that walking through the proverbial desert has clearly brought me closer to the man I want to be… I just need to know how to find my way home. (I keep looking for Charlton Heston to guide me, but he never seems to show up...).

In some ways, we are all lost in the desert… we search and we seek, hoping for a sign of something more. I suppose this is simply the nature of being, of hoping. The desert itself may look different every time we encounter it, but it’s always there, regardless. The desert, to put it lightly, isn’t easy.

Recently, a friend suggested that I start keeping a journal in order to find some clarity. It was a really good call. Here’s a little Pesach Manifesto:

I’m free. I’m not going to be a slave to expectations.

I’m free. I’m not going to compromise my individuality.

I’m free. I’m not going to let society’s sense of aesthetic determine my own.

I’m free. I’m not going to be afraid to be vulnerable.

I’m free. I’m not going to be afraid of walking into the water.

On some level, life is simply about living this blessing we call self-determination.

Easy or not, we all have the chance to sow the seeds of inner-truth. We ultimately have the power of choice; Pesach is all about seizing that choice and living a life that’s reflective of the miracles we’ve each been blessed to encounter.  Redemption itself is not found at a seder table. Rather, the seder reflects on the miracle that is redemption… and on all the other miracles that have graced our personal journeys. Redemption is internal. It’s already inside you and me and each of us, waiting...

May we gain wisdom in our lives, and live lives that honor and respect the essence of the Shechinah that shines within us all.

Avadim hayinu, Atah b’nei chorin. 

Once we were slaves. Now we are free.

Chag sameach, and a zisn Pesach.


The Big Fix...


 Life’s been crazy lately. In the midst, I have been thinking about tikkun olam in a markedly different way.


My take: “We” are all forgetting to think of ourselves in the “collective we.” We’re divided, subdivided and compartmentalized. We no longer identify as a part of a greater whole. We are broken and fractured as a community.


You want to fix the world? Need a place to start?


Bring people together, even if it’s one or two at a time. 


Let them share a powerful, meaningful experience; it may be the first one they’ve had in a long time. Do it without pretense, without pomp, and without a holier-than-thou attitude. Let it be transparent, and only focus on the experience itself. Forget agendas. It’s not about becoming, doing or giving. It’s about having the experience. It is, quite literally, all in the moment.


Connect in a space that feels comfortable, unpretentious, and safe.  Feel good to be there. Take care of each other; we all deserve it. Create an atmosphere that’s genuine.   Take away illusion, and go for what’s real, actual, and honest.


Once all the armor is off, and all the barriers have fallen away… that’s when amazing things can happen.


I believe this. And I believe in this.


The WarehouseNYC. Shabbat. March 16. Tammany Hall, NYC. 




Here's to happy accidents...


Me and my tired fingers have been home for a couple days, but I'm still in recovery after last weekend's whirlwind run through Columbus, OH and Houston, TX. I’ve been experiencing exhaustion and adrenaline in equal amounts, but I’m incredibly happy about the weekend; beautiful Shabbat services and a smoking show on Sunday.

I’ve been thinking a lot about an interesting thing that happened during the Houston show…

Halfway through the second song, I break a string on the PRS. I play around it, and get through the song without a D. So, I look down to grab a spare… and suddenly realize that I've left my extra strings in the green room. Instantly, I’m stuck, and know I’m playing the whole show on an acoustic guitar.

I pick up the Martin and, without a second to try to figure out how I’m going to pull this off, launch into Ayzehu. (Note: I run an A/B box in front of my pedal board that flips my setup between the acoustic and electric guitars). I lift my foot to kick in some delay under the first verse… and suddenly realize I’m patched into the electric rig while playing an acoustic guitar. Oy. I mentally play out four scenarios in the space of a quarter note, and having not a bit of choice in the matter, drop my foot…

and it’s awesome.

So different, and totally unexpected. Unexpected like when you reach for a glass of water, and accidentally pick up a glass of soda. The first sip is crazy, but then your brain kicks in and says… “Dude... it’s Dr. Brown’s.”

I played a wildly different show on guitar, even taking some electric-esque solos with the acoustic running through an entirely unintended chain of effects. These were sounds I NEVER would have intentionally created, but they were what I had available… and so I spent ninety minutes painting sound with an unfamiliar and refreshingly new palette of colors.

It was freeing, and liberating, and just damn inspiring. And, it felt really, really good.

Today’s footnote: Don’t fear being pushed out of your comfort zone. Good times may, indeed, ensue.


Film at 11




Today’s work day involved sitting around and watching footage from a soon-to-be-released JNP live concert DVD.

(Sometimes I can’t believe this is a real job.)

Here are some random thoughts that popped into my head during the viewing:

-       Alex is grooving.

-       Michelle and Jesse are really bringing it.

-       Rob is just ridiculously good.

-       All that time I spent learning to dance more subtly with the pedal board has paid off.

-       That tiny little scar on my lip looks like the Grand Canyon in HD.

-       What am I DOING with that piano? Oh. That’s what I’m doing.

-       The Killers are either going to love this or hate this.

-       I do not quite have moves like Jagger.

-       That said, I aspire to have moves like Keith Richards anyway.

-       I should get Adam Levine to sing a hook on a track.    

But then…

-       Oy.

Some note, somewhere, in some tune, a mistake…

I was totally bummed until it dawned on me: the small mistake ultimately made the whole aesthetic experience better.

The mistake is live.  It’s real. It’s human.

Maybe the mistakes are little reminders of our humanity?

Ken y’hi ratzon. May it be Gd’s will.

Here’s a clip from the show. Have a sweet Shabbat.





Gear-ing Up for Biennial!

12/9/11 – 12:49 AM

Greetings from Gowanus.

I’m sitting in the studio, finishing packing up gear for the next 11 days. It’s in a pile the size of Rhode Island, and it’s making me laugh.

(Currently going into the truck: 3 guitars; 2 keyboards; a Fender Deluxe Reverb; a backup amp in case of a 22 watt apocalypse; a suitcase filled with charts, books, and binders; a percussion rig; a pedalboard; enough picks, capos and strings to outfit a hootenanny; a fully functioning audio/midi editing suite; a 5’ portable projection screen; a box of tea lights; and, a host of other miscellaneous gear that will show its face at one time or another during the run.) I just find it funny that all of this stuff is needed to pull off what’s about to happen. Seriously.

Tonight (I typed tomorrow night, looked at the clock in disbelief, and revised) is the 1st Warehouse Shabbat service held outside of NYC. We take over Velvet Lounge tonight (U street, peeps) and bring a little electrified worship to the nation’s capital. Rabbi Esther Lederman and Michelle Citrin will join us for an evening of food, drink and prayer sponsored by the Reform Action Center, the Union for Reform Judaism, Temple Micah and NextDorDC. Don’t miss this. We ordered souvlaki. Alex (on bass) is Greek, and he’s overwhelmingly excited on your behalf. We also ordered sushi. Rob (on drums) is Jewish, is allergic to such things, and is excited to hold on to his epi-pen.

We drop in on a private event Saturday night, and then relocate to the Gaylord National Hotel to ramp up for the URJ biennial. 5500 Jews (equaling 8250 opinions) will gather together to pray, sing, learn, and maybe even party a little bit. The list of speakers and performers is nothing short of incredible. The list of attendees is even more so. This is the culmination of two solid years of work, and I am completely thrilled to see it come to life.

Other fun news:

Sleepless in Seattle is rolling along, and is on track for a June, 2012 opening at the Pasadena Playhouse. This is not a drill.

Even more importantly(!): Judah, my youngest boy, has learned to say the word “shoes.” Consequently, much of our time together is currently focused on my willingness to keep putting them on his feet; this after they’ve been put on and subsequently taken off and thrown into various locations throughout our apartment. He will retrieve them, come running back, and (in his way) carry on an extensive conversation about the procedure. Priceless.

Ok. The sun is up. Looking forward to a wonderful ride. Also looking forward to an entire week of sleep when this is through. Shabbat Shalom.