By Boris Kurbanov, Special to The Jewish Sound
Any time the word “music festival” is thrown around, people typically think of events like Sasquatch!, SXSW, or Bumbershoot. On August 31, Jewish music from around the world comes to Seattle for the city’s first-ever outdoor Jewish music festival, SPARK.
Middle Eastern rock, contemporary Klezmer, Hasidic folk, and rap are just some of the music styles festivalgoers can enjoy at the Seward Park amphitheater on the shores of Lake Washington. Blending music with booming Jewish pride and community, the festival aims to capture Jewish unity while providing a stunning backdrop, said Adam Simon, the festival’s lead planner.
“The message is ‘we’re better together,’” Simon said. “Any time you can bring together Jews to celebrate and to be happy together, that’s a great thing.”
Headlined by the popular band Moshav of Israel and California, artists featured at SPARK include local hi-hop star Nissim, Klezmer-style bands Sasson and Erev Rav, guitarist and children’s performer Eli Rosenblatt, and the talented Oregon-based spoken-word artists Ari Lesser and Ben Yosef.
“You don’t have to be Jewishly inspired to appreciate being outdoors and listening to creativity unfold — this is something that can unite both Jews and non-Jews,” said Simon. “Feeling the music reverberate through the crowd is something that people love.”
The amphitheater is a venue that has yet to be used for events such as festivals, but, thanks to its forested peninsula, its proximity to the beach and views of Mt. Rainier, its beauty can easily be compared to that of Washington State’s most notable music venue, the Gorge, Simon said.
Seattle is one of the largest cities in the United States that lacks an outdoor Jewish festival. Along with his friend Ben Gown from Sasson, the idea to bring a festival to Seattle was born several years ago.
“I just thought [the amphitheater] was gorgeous — great views, built-in seating with unmatched views. I thought to myself, there’s just something we can do to make this our venue our home,” Simon said.
SPARK, which is produced by the Eruv Coalition, a committee of congregants from Seward Park synagogues, welcomes people of all ages. (The eruv is the border around observant Jewish communities within which Jews can carry items on Shabbat, when carrying is prohibited. In the case of the festival, it symbolizes inclusion.) A designated “Kids Korral” for children will feature coffee sack races, sports, and face painting. Kosher cuisine, including a falafel food truck and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, will be available as well.
“We want it to be a transcendent experience for Jews and non-Jews alike, and we wanted to have a quintessential festival for not only Jews, but for everyone who appreciates good music,” said Simon. “Music resonates with everybody, and we are very excited to have a chance to bring the amphitheater to life.”
If you go: SPARK takes place August 31 from noon to 6 p.m. $18/person. Advance tickets available at BrownPaperTickets.com. Kids 14 and under are free. For more information visit SparkSeattle.org.