Aussie Punk Jews
by: Jennifer Fishbein-Gold - Last updated: 2004-07-05
Bram Presser takes a deep breath and blows into his shofar. A plume of hummus explodes from the end of the shofar, shoots out into the audience and smacks into the face of an unsuspecting fan. But the victim is unfazed?with hummus running down his cheek, he throws himself back into the pulsating mosh pit. YIDcore plays on.
Since its founding in the late 1990s, the punk band has garnered success while wreaking havoc across the globe. In a phone interview from Melbourne, Bram (he prefers to just go by his first name), YIDcore's lead singer, shofar-blower, and condiment dispenser, tells how at an Australian yeshiva, "one teacher told her class that anyone who likes our music is going to hell."
But the band still scores open invites to perform at New York's punk haven CBGB's for crowds of facially-pierced, spiky-haired, tzitzit-donning fans. Not bad for a crew of, in Bram's words, "little Aussie Jewboys from Melbourne."
YIDcore was born when Bram and friends Paul Glezer, Dave Orlanski, and Bubba Myki performed punk covers of 80's songs at an Australian Union of Jewish Students' Comedy Revue. For fun, they played a punk version of the Israeli folk song "Yerushalayim shel Zahav" ("Jerusalem of Gold") and, says Bram, "brought the house down."
Since that first show, the band has only gathered steam, and its members haven't slacked either. Now YIDcore's four twenty-something members, each in his twenties, in addition to being punk rock stars boast career paths that would make any Jewish mother kvell: Glezer, the bassist, works in marketing; Orlanski, the drummer, is an architecture student; Myki, the guitarist, works in advertising; and Bram is a lawyer. Together they've toured Melbourne as well as the northeast coast of the States.
The press has celebrated YIDcore often more for its antics than for its music. "Possibly the coolest thing going in Australia by any criteria," wrote Tim Krysko in Punk International, "Get this CD and rock out with the punkest Jews on the planet." They were also featured in TimeOut New York magazine - the authoritative guide to everything hip going on in the city: "They definitely rock: whether yelping 'oi, oi, oi? or "If I Were a Rich Man," they keep things fast, loud and furious," TimeOut enthused.
The group's self-titled first album, YIDcore, is a clever, whimsical fusion of punk sound and Jewish classics, covering everything from show tunes ("If I Were a Rich Man") to old-school Zionist fare ("Al Kol Eileh") to standard campfire sing-alongs ("Minyan Man"). The result is a hilarious, innovative treat.
But YIDcore's recordings are only low-watt substitutes for its mind-blowing live gigs. The band brings a frenetic performance energy to its wild, fast-paced songs, and Bram also entertains with antics involving anything from a rubber chicken to his trusty hummus-spewing shofar.
Bram is not married to hummus - he will use "whatever is available: cream cheese, tabouleh - you never know what's gonna be in my shofar," he says.
If the music and hummus aren't enticement enough, a YIDcore concert is worth checking out if only to see throngs of yarmulke-wearing Jews and the band's parents in a mosh pit. "You should see Myki's mom mosh!" Bram says. Lucky moshers may even get a taste of Paul's mom?s chicken soup, which she makes especially for concert-goers.
The band is still astonished by their success. Whenever Bram finds an audience awaiting him, he thinks, "Oh my God, there are people here!" He says he is not only grateful that he loves what he does, but that other people appreciate it. "People usually have different taste than I do, unless there?s a secret hummus-smearing society," he says.
Presser would be even more grateful if Natalie Portman were receptive to his advances. He has a healthy fondness for her - the YIDcore website is replete with Natalie Portman references.
He'd simply like her to acknowledge that he thinks she's "intelligent, eloquent" and that he is "available for her." He is certain that if they met, "She'd let me smear hummus over her, although I heard she likes tahine; it's good for your skin."
One celebrity who has taken note of Bram and the gang is Adam Sandler. When YIDcore wrote him a letter asking permission to sing his "Chanukah Song," he replied with a threat to sue. In response, the band composed a song entitled "Why Won't Adam Sandler Let Us Sing His Song?" which they perform at almost every concert.
During a radio interview, Bram challenged Sandler to a boxing match in a vat of chicken soup. Sandler has not taken Bram up on his offer. "He's a bit scared of us," Bram says. "We've got scary weapons: falafel, matzah balls and we're not afraid to use them."
For more on YIDcore visit: www.yidcore.com
First published in New Voices