Shabbat at South by Southwest

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Alan Jay Sufrin and Miriam Brosseau form Stereo Sinai, a self-described “biblegum pop” band based in Chicago, IL. This week, however, they’re taking it below the Mason-Dixon to report live on the Jewish happenings at South by Southwest, the nation’s largest music festival in Austin, Texas. In the first entry, they chronicled a Mirah concert, meeting the Sway Machinery, and shmoozing at the Heeb showcase.

Here’s the second of three locational reports — okay, and gossip — straight from the country’s biggest collection of concerts.

We knew we were going to be spending Shabbat at SXSW, but, as with the rest of the festival, you never really know until you get there.

diwon, y-love, and ephrymeFriday afternoon we found ourselves at a mini Shemspeed showcase watching Diwon, Kosha Dillz, Eprhyme and Y-Love lay down rhymes at a show supporting a charity called “Music Heals.†The performances were strong, but there was practically no crowd to support them.

The closest Chabad House — our default setting for a Shabbat on the road — was surprisingly closed for spring break. So we tried Plan B. We marched off to Whole Foods and stocked up on goodies to munch throughout the next day as well as wine and challah (read: pomegranate juice and hamburger rolls) to make kiddush and motzi. We wanted to welcome Shabbat in a familiar way, but also wanted to avoid exhibitionism. The two of us prayed quickly in a relatively secluded corner of the Austin Convention Center, the hub of SXSW, just after the sun set over Sixth Street.

Hearing live music on Shabbat at all is crossing into dangerous halakhic territory — perhaps even more so when the groups you see (intentionally, at that) are an Iranian death-metal band and a Palestinian rapper.

We walked into the venue and found seats along the wall, making no show of our respective kippah and massive orange “Stereo Sinai: Biblegum Pop†sticker that might betray our religious identities. The crowd was an intriguing mix of aging hipsters, young mohawked punk-rockers, and a few more outwardly religious Muslims strewn throughout.