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Thankful for his burgeoning career,
21-year-old Texas-born rock musician
OPEN DAILY - LUNCH & DINNER
Ben Kweller takes the stage
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at St. Andrew's Hall.
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fig I t's sort of funny," says Ben
Kweller during a recent
phone call from Austin,
Texas. "Last night I'm play-
ing to 900 kids in Dallas, at a sold-out
concert, and about 400 kids are singing
dayenu back to me."
No, Kweller wasn't conducting a
Passover seder in February. He was on
tour for his latest album, Sha Sha, and
the "kids" in the audience were singing
part of the chorus of his love song to his
"It is fully connected to being Jewish,"
says Kweller, 21. "I always loved the
[Haggadah reading of] Dayenu' and the
tradition of it. It's like a full song. All
these good things happen, and you say
[after each one], 'It would have been
enough.' But you're really thankful.
"It's about counting your blessings,
being who you are, staying humble and
keeping your feet on the ground."
Those who check out Kweller tomor-
row night at St. Andrew's Hall in down-
town Detroit will likely be thankful, too.
Kweller's "anti-folkadelic, indie-
punkpop" and piano ballads are fresh,
aware, engaging, fun and a little on the
edge, all terms that seem also to describe
Growing Up Jewish
Growing up in one of a handful of
"My parents are
totally rad and
cool people, good
ilies in Greenville, Texas (50 miles
northeast of Dallas), Kweller's religion
wasn't the only thing that set him
"Everything about me has always
been different, left of center, left-hand-
ed," says Kweller.
"My friends were always older. I got
thrown into this music business, and
left my freshman year of high school
to play rock. I've accepted that I'm dif-
Kweller took to the piano early, and
got his first electric guitar for his 12th
birthday. He recalls how his bar mitz-
vah celebration was a bit out of the
"I did rock out at my bar mitzvah,"
he recalls. "My dad grew up with Nils
Lofgren (sideman for Lou Reed and
Bruce Springsteen), and we played
together. He was always a family
friend, but when we got up on stage
together, it was real different."
In 1993, Kweller formed the three-
piece punk group Radish, which soon
became a local Texas favorite. Three
years later its members signed a major-
label deal, cut a second album and
toured the world, scoring a Top 40 hit
in the United Kingdom.
The group parted in 1999, and
Kweller moved to Brooklyn to pursue
a solo career.
When Kweller talks about his fami-
ly, it is obviously another dayenu
moment for him.