OM is a genre-bending band that defies easy description. The Stoner Metal band formed after Sleep disbanded in the late 1990s, one of the good things that came out of Sleep’s self-destruction after recording Dopesmoker.
While one can categorize OM as Stoner Metal, their influences reach far beyond that genre’s confines. Formed in 2003, OM originally consisted of just Al Cisneros (bass, vocals) and Chris Hakius (drums), the rhythm section from Sleep. Unlike Sleep, OM has experimented with other musical influences, such as Middle Eastern Folk, Dub, Reggae, and Psychedelic Rock.
And if you listen to OM, one thing you’ll notice right off the bat is that Cisneros and the rest of the band are heavily inspired by spirituality, mysticism, and various forms of religion, including Eastern Orthodox and Middle Eastern religions.
Go on any message board discussing OM, and fans will describe listening to them as a kind of spiritual experience. That’s why it’s not so surprising that one of the legends surrounding OM is a five-plus-hour concert they played at the Club Uganda in Jerusalem during their Israel Pilgrimage Tour.
So, what really happened during those more-than-five hours in Jerusalem? And are there any good recordings of it? Monster Riff investigated to sort fact from fiction of this legendary performance.
Jamming for Hours
In the fall of 2007, OM began their Pilgrimage Tour to support their third studio album of the same name. The tour mainly consisted of U.S. dates and spanned from September to November of 2007. At this point, OM consisted of only Cisneros and Hakius, though Hakius would soon leave the band.
When the U.S. tour ended, OM added three dates – one in England for the Nightmare Before Christmas festival hosted by All Tomorrow’s Parties and a pair of dates in Israel. The band would bill the Israel shows as the “Israel Pilgrimage,” and a promotional poster for shows dubbed OM “psych-drone chant from San Francisco.”
The first of the two shows was at Uganda Bar in Jerusalem, where OM played their songs “Bhima’s Theme,” “Flight of the Eagle,” and “At Giza,” and then jammed out for a super-extended time.
No one exactly knows how long OM played, but people there estimated it to be between four and six hours long. It’s also unknown how much of the fabled set was recorded, aside from Club Uganda’s YouTube clips. The very next night, OM performed in Tel Aviv at a club called Levontin 7. This was also a long show, though not quite as long – reportedly more than three hours.
Cisneros would talk about the Jerusalem shows in later interviews and recalled them fondly. In an interview with AV Club, Cisneros said the band had toured Israeli holy sites in the days leading up to the show, putting him in “a completely different space.” He also told AV Club it hadn’t felt like much time had passed during the five-hour-plus performance because he was in a totally different zone.
Was It Recorded?
After reading about this divinely-inspired jam session, the next logical question is: Did anyone record it? Well, sort of.
OM’s record label at the time, Southern Lord Records, released Live in Jerusalem in May of 2008, a single LP featuring only a small portion of the performance. The live album – OM’s first at the time – included “Flight of the Eagle” and “Bhima’s Theme” and was a total of about 35 minutes. But here’s the thing: the sound quality sucks, as most reviewers and fans found out. The release was also limited to 3,100 machine-numbered vinyl-only copies.
Luckily, at least one fan recorded two videos of about nine minutes of the famed concert and uploaded them to YouTube (which we share below). The sound quality is much better than the Live in Jerusalem recording, so it provides at least a sneak peek at what it was like to have been there that night.
OM at Club Uganda (Part 1)
OM at Club Uganda (Part 2)
Looking Ahead: Will OM Ever Play Such A Massive Live Show Again?
Will OM ever have a repeat of this type of performance? As Cisneros himself says, the band has been known to play long shows with extended jams. But the circumstances of the Israel Pilgrimage tour are perhaps too perfect to ever be matched again: a band obsessed with the spiritual in the Western world’s most holy city with two shows to play in an intimate setting. It’s kind of a dream-come-true scenario for OM and die-hard OM fans.
OM’s last studio album was back in 2012 (Advaitic Songs), but they may have some new music on the way. Initial recording on a new album was reportedly done at Empty House Studio in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Cisneros lives. So, you may not be able to relive the famed Jerusalem concert, but OM may take you on a celestial journey of new songs soon.