The members of Yid Vicious just observed their 14th anniversary, but not until Saturday, Feb. 27, the Jewish holiday of Purim, will they really fete the night away. That's when they'll team up with Stevens Point's Shuvani Belly Dance Troupe and the Sockrates Sock Puppet Players for a full evening of revelry, storytelling and music at the Frequency.
It's fitting that Yid Vicious knows how to get down, considering that klezmer, the group's genre of choice, is the official party music of secular Judaism.
As the band members themselves put it on the Frequency's website: "No band has caused more dancing and celebrating than Yid Vicious. Except Kool and the Gang, when they had that hit single about celebrating good times, come on; that caused lots of celebrating. But Yid Vicious is next, right after Kool and the Gang."
And while Purim is a yearly festival commemorating the Persian Jews' triumph over Haman, a political bigwig who'd devised a plot to murder them, it's also a celebration of the Jewish culture's enduring will to frolic.
Kia Karlen, Yid Vicious' French horn and accordion player, compares Purim's atmosphere to that of Mardi Gras. In fact, for those who missed out on the masks and MoonPies on Feb. 16, it's another chance to dress up and let the good times roll.
"A lot of the holiday's old traditions involved masquerades, where people would dress up as Queen Esther and wear big hats," Karlen says. "It's always involved alcohol, too, like a lot of Jewish holidays, plus some more noble components like giving to the poor and sharing food with friends and neighbors."
The Sockrates Sock Puppet Players is a project Karlen and her husband, Yid Vicious percussionist Geoff Brady, began several years ago to explore the absurd side of Arthur Schopenhauer and other philosophers. The troupe will act out Esther's story. This Old Testament tale chronicles how Esther hid her Jewish identity when King Ahasuerus exiled his first wife and chose her as his queen, then revealed her secret to derail Haman's nefarious plan.
Yid Vicious fans should prepare to let the good times rock and roll, as the group's rarely played favorite "Sherway to Heaven" is likely to appear on the set list. Imagine Page and Plant doing a Russian folk dance at a bar mitzvah, and you'll be on the right track.
The band may also draw inspiration from Purim synagogue services, where worshipers get to boo and rattle metal noisemakers called graggers every time Haman's name is mentioned during a reading of the Book of Esther.
Says Karlen, "His name is in, like, every sentence, so it can get pretty raucous."