Benefit Show for Punk Jews
All photos courtesy of Jesse Zook Mann
Last night, the upcoming Punk Jews online documentary series hosted a concert and fundraising party at Sixth Street Community Synagogue in New York. There was a mixture of mostly Jews with different levels of adherence to punk ethos, punk punctuality (i.e., a very delayed start), an open bar, and raucous slamdancing. In other words, it was a successful event that brought the community of independent-minded Jews documented in different film clips together and introduced them to their likeminded peers in the flesh.
For me, the highlight was seeing two of my favorite Jewish bands, Golem and Moshiach Oi!, together for the first time. Golem, which plays klezmer-rock with a punk intensity, performed songs from their three most recent albums. Fiddle solos sounded somewhat off with someone filling in for longtime band member Alicia Jo Rabins, but Golem's highly danceable sound was the turning point that got the party rocking and got the audience enthused. Toward the end of Golem's set, multiple horas broke out in the middle of the pit. I have to admit that I enjoyed causing a bit of chaos when I tried to get a bunch of casually hora-dancing punks who'd been circling to the right to circle to the left instead. Somehow it all worked out.
I've seen Moshiach Oi! four or five times, and the Punk Jews show will go down in history as the night they really came into their own. Frontman Yishai Romanoff sacrificed the intensity of a second guitar so that he could reign over the microphone and immerse himself in the pit. As he preached to the audience (which he repeatedly referred to as "Jewish people") and thrashed about, he was at one with the crowd and developed a strong rapport. It didn't hurt that the "Torah hardcore" band was playing to its largest audience to date and that the fans at a Punk Jews show were quite open to hardcore music with commentary on blessing G-d, Shabbat, Torah study, idol worship, Moshiach, and Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. If people came to a Punk Jews show craving Jewish punk music, Moshiach Oi! made sure that everyone got what they wanted.
The event also included performances by Eden, Y-Love, and Blanket Statementstein (an eight-piece band that featured all four members of Moshiach Oi!) as well as artist installations from Elke Sudin, Rivka Karasik, and Ira Kaufman. Punk Jews is the brainchild of Emmy-winning director (and vegan) Jesse Zook Mann and co-producers Evan Kleinman and Saul Sudin. The documentary series recently hit its goal of raising $10,000, so last night was truly a celebration and profits from the event were icing on the cake. Punk Jews is featured on the front page of the current issue of The Jewish Week.