OUR SONIC ASSAULT ON NORTH AMERICA was gaining momentum. Having secured nationwide artists' representation, we were now perceived as a folk-roots ensemble with pro chops enough to play university art houses or civic concert venues, sharing performing arts seasons — and ticketholders — with the likes of Luciano Pavarotti, Victor Borge, Leontyne Price, Pilobolus, and Mummenschanz. While nothing could beat a folk festival's spontaneity and camaraderie, the concert stage provided access to audiences with more demanding expectations and big-city tastes.
Despite this wider exposure, we felt no need to compromise our musical style or repertoire. Major hall or little club, we played to suit ourselves — evolving backwards to internalize the pre-1930 sound of klezmer bandleaders like Harry Kandel and Abe Schwartz. Drama coach Kim Chase helped us organize our free-flowing energy into a kinetic, quasi-acrobatic spectacle that filled a proscenium nicely — cleverly magnifying the stark minimalism of six cats with horns.
Yet the band's ensemble precision and collective telepathy, much noted by the press, belied the sorry fact that behind the scenes, bickering and factionalism wrecked rehearsals and made touring torture. Recognizing that rumors of instability could kill our career, we closed ranks to keep backstage backbiting under wraps. When tension threatened to erupt noisily, one of us would intone the sacred phrase: "Save it for the van." Safely away from public ears, we'd hok tchaynik in the Ant Farm, our Spanish Inquisition on wheels.
Not that we wallowed passively in denial. At the urging of manager Rick Foster, we sought group therapy. Yes — now it can be told! The Klezmorim engaged a licensed psychotherapist to help us overcome mutual resentments and macho mind-games. Trust me, you're better off not having been a fly on that wall. But I do recommend the process to any band that finds itself cracking at the seams amidst the pressure of success.
Highlights of our 1982 itinerary included two New York gigs produced by legendary theater impresario Joseph Papp... a Grammy nomination for Metropolis, and glitz for a day at the awards ceremony... a pleasant introduction to Cleveland, Ohio and bookseller Philip Turner, who became a faithful supporter and friend... a delightful sojourn at the Pepsico Summerfare in upstate New York... the first of many trips to the American southwest... and a death threat in Chicago, deterred by rent-a-thugs. As the year ended, we prepped intensely for our upcoming Carnegie Hall shows. The inside story continues in 1983... >>