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The violins swelled and the trombone blared as Ezekiel’s Wheels, an internationally recognized klezmer band, filled the WERS studio with the sounds of… Michael Jackson. For their last song in their three song set, the band played a pop medley, something they often do during their frequent street performances. “We play in a lot of subways and farmer’s markets where we are put into a situation with a ready made crowd,” says band member Pete. “People usually respond really well. A lot of times people are like, ‘I don’t know what this is, but I like the instruments and the energy.’” The first song Ezekiel’s Wheels played during their visit to WERS was a traditional Madovan wedding song that showcased their lively spirit. The second was the slow and beautiful, “La Rosa Enflorence,” which the band was required to learn for the International Jewish Music Festival they recently attended in Amsterdam.
The five person band is comprised of Jon, playing the fiddle and violin, Nat on the clarinet, Pete on the trombone, Kirsten on the upright bass, and Abigale on the violin. Ezekiel’s Wheels has been in existence for five years, although the current line up has only been together for one. Jon and Nat met during their freshman year at Brown University, where the two played together in a klezmer band. After graduating, both ended up in Boston and decided to form a new band. The rest of the group came together one at a time through various mutual friends-and craigslist.
Earlier this month, Ezekiel’s Wheels played at the aforementioned International Jewish Music Festival in Amsterdam as one of twenty-four chosen bands from all over the world. Ezekiel’s Wheels were the only American band present. The festival is structured as a multi-round competition; participating bands are only guaranteed a fifteen minute set in the first round. “We had no idea what to expect. For all we knew we were flying to Amsterdam to play for fifteen minutes,” Nat says. As it happened, the band did quite well for themselves, winning the City Winery Prize for the best klezmer ensemble and the Audience Prize for fan favorite. The festival attracted representatives from Russia, the Netherlands, Poland, Israel, France, Canada, Spain, and Germany. “It was really cool to be in an international setting and see people from all over the world who are all doing the same thing,” Abigale says.
Their weeklong stay was an interesting one, consisting of practicing, performing, waiting, and eating. Or trying to. The band says they survived mostly on oranges, Indian food that ranked “somewhere between passable and awful,” the shout-out worthy BroodBar, and carrots. Lots of them. “We were just walking around with a huge bag of carrots and giving them to other bands,” Abigale says. “We made a lot of friends that way.” Carrots aside, the festival was a great chance for the band to network with other groups and festival scouts.
This past May, Ezekiel’s Wheels released their self-titled EP after winning the Boston Jewish Music Festival’s Kelmzer Idol, where the prize was recording time. It is available on their bandcamp. They are also available for “weddings, parties, funerals, lessons, and haircuts.”