RABBINICAL SCHOOL DROPOUTS, LAMAJAMAL | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The California big band known as the RABBINICAL SCHOOL DROPOUTS actually does seem to play at a lot of weddings and bar mitzvahs, which is hard to square with their sound. Recalling Zappa at his giddiest and least scatological, the Dropouts seem to have developed a klezmerist form of Sun Ra worship, decked out in kabbalah references and bad Yiddish puns. Vehicles Behind Comets (Ethnic Warrior), released last year, takes their irreverent Semitic space fusion well past the asteroid belt: it's Exodus as Star Trek, with manna in the form of Guru Guru records. No matter how many metaphors I pile up, though, they won't capture the band's exuberant energy, heard clearly in both the dizzy instrumental pivoting of "Yeshiva School Fallout" (at five and a half minutes, it's the longest song here; they're jumpy spacey, not epic spacey) and the gusty grace of "Anne Frank's Ghost."

Opening tonight's show (presented by KFAR Jewish Arts Center) is LAMAJAMAL, a bunch of locals working a so-called Gypsy-surf style that sometimes feels like they learned it back in the old country--Generistan. But when they're on, they're on, arriving at a fuzzy, garagey take on Roma music thanks to a knack for sexy, serpentine grooves and a mean, mean oud player. a 7 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $15, $12 in advance. --Monica Kendrick

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