Alicia Jo Rabins is filing periodic dispatches for The Scroll while Girls in Trouble, her four-piece band that plays original art-pop songs about the women of Torah, tours the Midwest. The first installment is here.
“Do not oppress the stranger; you understand the experience of a stranger, since you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
Touring makes you a stranger. At home you have your routines. You know where the best coffee is, the quickest way to get from one place to the next, and whom to call if you need help. On the road, you’re forced to ask for help and rely on people for the most basic things—directions, restaurant recommendations, a place to sleep.
Often the people who invite you to stay with them are family or fellow musicians, who have experience being strangers in the land of Egypt. Our first show, in Pittsburgh, was great: old friends and new fans (an entire family, from grandma to kids, came to see us after reading about us, which I thought was pretty awesome). After the show, we went to a house of generous fellow musicians, staying up late listening to records and talking about pedals. And football—after all, it’s Pittsburgh. Apparently one person’s band had to perform during an important game, and they put a TV onstage (facing the band, not the audience!) so they could watch it while they played.
Then we came to Cleveland, not to play a show, but to celebrate Passover. Finding a Seder to attend was a process, but thanks to a series of email introductions, my band-mate Aaron and I went to the home of the generous and kind Rabbi Steven Weiss and family. Great learning and a lovely group of people. It was perfect.
Once I had the Seder lined up, I started looking for places to stay in Cleveland and found out, through Facebook (!), that I have some cousins here, Jim and Annie. I called them out of the blue last week and they invited us to stay at their house. As soon as we arrived, we all did the genetic math together. So, maybe we’re not technically cousins, but we’re definitely family.
Jim and Annie’s family are musicians and music-lovers—Annie is a classical violinist with the Cavani Quartet, and Sam, who’s 9, is playing the same violin pieces I was at his age! They’re also close friends with Seth and Violaine, two of the deeply important music teachers that Jonathan (our accordionist) and I shared growing up together in Baltimore. In fact, the guest room where we all slept is where Seth stays on his annual audition trips to Cleveland.
And so the line between music-family and family-family is further blurred, I make matzo brei for my band and my new cousins, and we pack the van for Youngstown, Ohio.