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Nomadic musician's journey hits River and Sky this weekend

Yonatan Gat will play The Townehouse Thursday night.
Guitarist Yonatan Gat will perform at the Townehouse Tavern with his band on Thursday, July 14, and at the River and Sky Festival the next night. Both shows promise to be different experiences due to his improvisational approach to live music. Photo by Josh Sisk.

Yonatan Gat has lived much of his adult life as a musical nomad.

When he played guitar for Monotonix, a garage rock band from Tel Aviv, Israel, he did not have his own apartment, and spent his life travelling the world and experiencing different cultures.

“As a musician the tendency will be for people to open their doors to you, to let you into their lives because they really appreciate the musical gift you gave to them,” said Gat.

He took full advantage of the kindness of strangers to learn as much as he could about the countries he visited and their musical heritage.

With his more recent career as a solo artist – albeit with the full backing of a drummer and bass player – Gat, who now lives in New York, has melded the musical influences from his own country with rock and roll and some of the sounds he has picked up travelling the world.

He and his band mates have gained a reputation for a frenetic live show that also borrows from the jazz greats like John Coltrane and Miles Davis for its improvisational nature. 

Gat and his band will perform at the Townehouse Tavern Thursday, July 14, and will hit the late night stage at the River and Sky Music and Camping Festival in Field the next day.

Both shows promise to be radically different experiences.

“We don't know what we're going to do next,” he said about each live performance. “For me it's completely invigorating.”

While Gat and his band have created a musical framework and unique sound over the course of 300 concerts in two years, he said anything goes within that framework. 

The band opts to play inside the crowd at each show to be closer to the audience and build off their energy. 

But despite the praise he has received for his live performances – The Village Voice called him New York's best guitarist in 2013 – Gat said it's a mistake to dismiss his albums.

In his latest record, Director, he uses digital mixing techniques to create sounds that would be impossible to achieve in a live setting. 

Like his live performances, the record is a unique creation that stands on its own merits.