February 1, 2007
Eighth ‘Crazy Night’ for Jewish punks
Local punk bands brought their own followers to the Workmen's Circle on Robertson Boulevard, and a swarm of people flooded the building as the lights dimmed and the stage settled. Members of the Australian group, Yidcore, passed out kippot to the crowd, and once the last Chanukah candle was lit, the band launched into a cacophonous "Salaam" and "Mao Tzur."
It was unclear who was there for the punk and who was there for the Judaism, but everyone seemed to be there for the music.
Hosted and funded by Workmen's Circle, the seemingly unlikely marriage of Judaism and punk brought bands like Yidcore, Oakland's Jewdriver and the Zydepunks from New Orleans to the Pico-Robertson neighborhood on Dec. 22, the last night of Chanukah.
The idea was "to put culture back into punk," said Aaron Brickman, the Workmen's Circle youth programmer who envisioned the tour last Purim.
But "Eight Crazy Nights" provided more than punk with a Jewish face. It was also intended as a vehicle to expose Jews to different ways of being Jewish and to engage a more culturally diverse audience to the high-intensity music of punk rock, Brickman said.
The tour started on Dec. 15 in San Francisco, before moving on to punk venues in Berkeley, Santa Barbara, Las Vegas, Tucson, San Diego and Pomona.
As the intensity of the music increased at the Workmen's Circle, the crowd's energy grew. It didn't take long for a slab of hummus from the snack table to end up across the room and on several fans, creating what can only be described as a "nosh pit."
The madness continued with the Manischewitz-drinking melodies of Jewdriver, and the show wrapped with the klezmer tunes of the Zydepunks.
One of the main values of the religion is to constantly challenge convention, said Brickman, a University of Judaism graduate who added that Jewish punk rock can provide a unique path that is both educational and enjoyable.
Although at times the lyrics were drowned out by yelling and screaming, Jewish punk appears to offer its own very clear message that this ancient religion can continue to survive through continuous reinterpretation and musical transformation.