One of the staples of Christmas Eve in the Twin Cities is Jewbilee, and Planet Plookey is becoming a regular at this annual showcase of local talent. Danny Tolchiner, the band’s guitarist, is always looking forward to playing at 7th Street Entry on Dec. 24. Tochiner talks about teaching guitar, the evolving sound of the band, and his “cooking” in this week’s Who The Folk?!
How long has the band been together?
In different iterations, about 4 or 5 years. At one point it was ¾ Heebs, and we realized that most of the instruments were Bar Mitzvah gifts.
Has the sound changed over time?
For sure. As stuff we’ve listened to has changed, we’ve changed. Not unlike a lot of younger Jewish kids, we listened to too much Phish. We were a little heavier on jamming back in the day, but its morphed to a little more rigid, a little tighter sound. Don’t want to call it pop music, but that’s more the direction. Verse, chorus. Catchy tunes, simple melody. I would consider it to be a progressive funk band. Lots of parts sometimes with the instrumental tunes. Still do some instrumental.
So I found this clip online of you guys and…
Oh no! We can’t for the life of us get it to come off. We had a last-minute drummer change and had just practiced a couple times. And now it’s immortalized on the internet.
When did you start playing?
I started when I was 14 – the summer before my freshman year of high school. I was really, really, really terrible. I didn’t understand how bad I was when I started playing. I was fortunate to be around musicians that I’m still in touch with today. around today. I was lucky to be around the right people. A huge motivation was Rabbi Sim Glaser. On a lot of different levels, he has impacted me. I always saw him playing and it was as cool as could be. That was a huge catalyst.
Did you grow up at Temple?
How old are you now?
You’ve been playing almost half your life, then.
That’s scary. I never thought of it that way.
Danny, what inspired you to teach?
There was a shop that I would go to in Uptown – Twin Town Guitars. I wanted to do something relating to guitar. After a while they hired me. I was in the right place at the right time. I’ve been there 7 years now. I feel lucky to be with them.
Is it full time?
Nope. I am a design engineer. I design product displays for cosmetic companies and Target. I work for a company. We take on jobs from Target and bunch. Excel Plastics. I went to MCAD for graphic design. Quickly I was exposed to their furniture design program. It was a thing. I got out of school and fast forward a bit, I got the job I started now. Two weeks after I started I found out my title was “engineer.” I like building stuff as a one-off or prototype but didn’t want to work in a shop all day. It’s what I wanted to do, but didn’t know it.
How many times have you played Jewbilee?
It’s our fourth year. That’s what’s going on in the city. I feel bad for everyone who’s tied up with family stuff. That’s the place to be in the Twin Cities on Christmas Eve. Regardless of religion. But I’m a little biased.
What other instruments do you play?
I can play the bass alright. I noodle around with a couple other instruments but I’m not strong with any other.
It’s hard having a real job with also trying to play, right?
Absolutely. That’s another thing I’m constantly telling my students. Take advantage of the time. When I was younger, I had my guitar glued to me. It’s more challenging now, but I feel very fortunate with the teaching. I pick it up every day. It’s hard-wired in there.
Favorite Jewish food?
My grandma is a monster cook. Just another level. Her knishes, there’s nothing like them. I had a Shabbat dinner potluck a few years back. I didn’t know what to bring or make, so I raided her stock of frozen knishes and passed them off as my own. I like to think they think highly of my cooking skills.
Favorite Jewish holiday?
Rosh Hashanah’s nice. I don’t have to fast and everyone gets together.