Soundcheck was over by 7:45 p.m. and within the next few minutes, Schmekel had their crimson drums, sage bass, earthy Fender and full size keyboard ready to rock the Underground last Saturday night.
Melody Ain, the president of PRISM at UMW, introduced the New York-based band as the headliners of this year’s keynote event for the PRISM TransAction Day celebrations. The event was cosponsored by the university’s Jewish Student Association and Gender Neutral Housing.
The first order of business was not the music, but everything about it. Ain reviewed some important terms to know in context of Schmekel’s “all-Jewish, all transgender, polka punk” identity.
“Sexual orientation” is defined by what attraction one may feel toward another human while gender is how one might identify within the world of attractions.
“Transgender” is the term for someone who does not identify with the sex that was assigned them at birth. On this same matter, Lucian Kahn, the lead vocals and guitar player then reviewed the band handout “What He Said: A Schmekel Lyrics Glossary.”
Since they incorporate a lot of Yiddish and “queer” terms (as Kahn deemed them) he thought it important to educate any newcomers to the concepts.
Kahn even called up four members from the audience to help read aloud the vocabulary words of the night.
“I’m Sorry It’s Yom Kippur” a song that Kahn deemed an “act of deep penance,” opened the night. It was a song about how awkward coming out can be to your family and friends, especially on the high holiday of Yom Kippur, a day of atonement in Judaism.
“The Mohel Song” really highlighted the punk aspects of the Schmekel sound – or “schmound.”
A fierce objection to circumcisions, Kahn, joined by bandmates Nogga Schwartz, Ricky Riot and Simcha Halpert-Hanson, did not even say the word during the introduction of the song, but instead snipped their fingers across the air with mischievous grins.
An audience member even joined in on the joke anticipating the “sensitive subject” of the song. A real crowd-pleaser was “Super Transsexual Bros.” which compared the transition phase to the likes of a video game.
At last, a comical ode to the humiliations of chest surgery put the crowd in stitches of laughter, especially when Shwartz can-canned beneath his bass to the beat.
After the music was over, Schmekel held a question and answer session with the audience where some interesting topics surfaced.
Their preferred pronouns were established as well as their inspirations, and phone numbers were even exchanged between Halpert-Hanson and an audience member.
Riot reflected on the meeting and formation of the group through different summer camps, Hebrew school groups, and LGBT center support groups in New York City.
Kahn recounted their favorite place to play, the Glitter House in Brooklyn. Halpert-Hanson revealed their favorite holiday to be Simchat Torah, the “rejoicing of the Torah.”
When asked a more serious question about the influence or change in support of their religious communities, Kahn explained the wonderful and encouraging atmosphere of the LGBT synagogue the band attends and its transaction coalition.
Kahn and Riot stated that the band’s goal is to simply “make queer people laugh” and play with their friends.
n a society that faces hardships day in and day out, it is comforting to see a group put a comedic twist on otherwise controversial topics.
The incorporation of old folk sounds gave a unique taste to the modern punky bass and jazzy guitar. The electronic fusion of keyboard against the simple drum beats added a strong backbone to the hilarious lyrics of the delightful noise that is Schmekel.
[Photo credit: Marie Sicola/Bullet]