Deuteronomy Article by Will Stickney

Deuteronomy’s Psychedelic Hanukkah - Music as Rebellion

posted Dec 14, 2017, 6:48 AM by Max Aronow

MOUNT LAUREL, N.J.- On November 21st following weeks of political turmoil, Robert Mugabe resigned as President of Zimbabwe after 37 years in power. This triggered a series of unintended consequences, as military coups usually do. The most unexpected of which however, was the possibility that Max Aronow might not receive his custom made jumpsuit from Zimbabwean designer Colin Ratisai in time for Psychedelic Hanukkah. An event Aronow has been planning for the better part of two months with his band Deuteronomy. A band that has been together in various iterations since Aronow founded it in 2009 when he was in the sixth grade.

“Deuteronomy, Subjected To 26 Degrees, Fahrenheit” Keith Steinberg, left, Max Aronow, center, and Dmitriy Prokopovich

The current lineup features Aronow on lead guitar and vocals, Dmitriy Prokopovich on drums and Keith Steinberg on bass. Prokopovich joined in the summer of 2012 and Steinberg shortly after in January of 2013. They were added to the band after a few of the original members parted ways to work on their own projects. One such member Julian Scanlan has found success as Slushii, a notable electronic music producer based in L.A.

Since finalizing the lineup Deuteronomy has played countless shows at this point but Psychedelic Hanukkah in a lot of ways will be a career highlight, encapsulating two things they love dearly, their Jewish heritage and Psychedelic Rock music.

The event started in a way that I would soon learn is typical of this band, full of a series of comical events that wouldn’t seem out of place in a film like “Spinal Tap”. Aronow explained that him and his band have had a “catty relationship” with their on again off again producer Andrew Palais. “He usually throws an annual Christmas show and he asked us if we were going to ask him to be a part of it and I said no we are actually having our own event. He responded with, “Oh really what’s it called,” and I said uhh.. Psychedelic Hanukkah.”

Max Aronow of Deuteronomy
Of course Palais said he would be interested in attending and thus set in motion a few frantic weeks of Aronow and his bandmates putting the event together. Fat Randy, Died, and Earthboy were chosen as the other bands on the bill with Reuben Shine doing spoken word in between sets. These bands feature members that come from all different backgrounds, but the majority are Jewish, in keeping in line with the theme of the event. What initially started as a joke quickly evolved into a legitimate event showcasing the music and art of Jewish and LGBT youth.

The description on the event page that Aronow wrote reads, “In 2017 America, we've noticed a startling rise in Anti-Semitism. The "alt-right" has pushed Nazism to the front of the political stage and its sympathizers spew nothing but hatred. Whether it's on the internet, on campus, on the news, or in politics, this vile and pernicious ideology that our grandparents fought against in the Second World War is back, and that's unacceptable. Come by for some sick jams and to get down with your kosher self with Jewish homies + ally’s in the greater Philadelphia area and know you're not alone as a Jewish youth in the fight against fascism and anti-Semitism.”

Psychedelic Hanukkah owes an awful lot to the DIY tradition that has remained an essential part of punk rock and experimental music since the mid 70s. The term DIY typically refers to arts and crafts or home improvement projects that champion the act of and creating from scratch. This same ethos is applied to the context of music, with members of the DIY community starting their own bands and putting on their own shows, that exist outside of the mainstream. These scenes exist all over the U.S. and the

world, in large cities and small towns alike, with an emphasis on political activism and fostering

safe spaces for those that are marginalized.

Many of these shows are held in improvised spaces, everywhere from VFW halls, to abandoned buildings, to basements. One of the distinct components of DIY scene’s is the unregulated nature of the venues and shows themselves. Rather than posting addresses to these events online, most event pages and flyers encourage guests to ask the hosts directly. The purpose of this is to protect the safety of the hosts and their homes and to weed out those that might threaten the existence of these places, specifically the law. This show is no different and will be held in the basement of Andrew Young’s house, nicknamed “The Castle” right off of Broad and Diamond in North Philadelphia. Young is a Temple University student that has spent a significant amount of his time in the last two years attending these types of shows.

This will be Young’s first show behind the scenes, rather than just as an audience member. Young saw the transition to throwing shows a natural one, “I thought well we have a house, we have a basement, we have everything we need, and the response I got was a lot more positive than I was expecting.” Everyone was willing to help him out and was very supportive of what he was trying to do.

Around this time Young met Aronow at another show in the area and after talking Aronow pitched the idea of this event. “He just came to me and had this already set up.” Young then provided his house and the show started to take shape.

Alex Geisel plays bass in “Died” and is currently a senior at NYU. Geisel has been playing music for years and has been involved in the music scene in New York City since he moved from New Jersey a few years ago for school. Geisel went to high school with Prokopovich and the two crossed paths again through playing shows. In Geisel’s eyes these shows succeed because they “remove the monetary or financial expectation,” that a lot of clubs or larger venues with big overheads have.

“What you see a lot of shows doing like this one for instance, is that there is a price to get in but no one will be turned away for lack of funds, so if someone can’t pay that’s not going to stop them from being able to see the music, but if they can pay then all the money that we get goes directly back into putting on more shows like this.” Geisel sums up this dynamic well. When the money is removed the only point of having these shows is simply for the joy of seeing live music.

This music and these performances can be experimental and quite frankly weird in a space that is for young people, that encourages creative freedom and in a politically tumultuous time, this is exactly what is needed. On December 16th, Psychedelic Hanukkah will carry out this tradition, Aronow assures that it will be, “A very psychedelic event, indeed.”

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