When Dov Rosenblatt was 11, he placed an ad in the local newspaper in Baltimore offering his musical services to play keyboard at private parties. Despite his mother's warnings to callers ("He's only 11"), he launched his performance career at that tender age. Now 25, Dov continues to write, sing, record and perform with two bands in the New York area, Blue Fringe and Gonzo Station. . A self-taught musician - piano, drums and then guitar - Dov writes in a variety of song styles, from pop/rock to reggae. He is a natural performer and communicates well with his audience, from clubs in New York City to campus concerts, mixing soft humor and a passionate presentation style. Dov is waiting for a 'dare-to-be-great' situation! Musical Inspiration: Beatles, Counting Crows, Wallflowers, Dave Matthews, Elliot Smith, Pete Yorn, Coldplay, John Mayer, Jason Mraz, James Katz. Favorite Snack: Tam-Tams and cream cheese Standing at 6'4" and somewhat resembling an upright bass, Hayyim Danzig has a strong presence on and off the stage. Danzig is an intelligent and articulate man, unafraid to stand up for what he believes in. His funky style of bass playing is influenced by greats such as Charles Mingus and Victor Wooten. Danzig offers a soft touch both in his everyday life, dealing with people, and in his bass playing. His soulful bass-lines serve as the backbone to Blue Fringe and have earned him the nickname, "The Prince of Bass Frequencies." Avi Hoffman was born in the far distant realm known as Houston, Texas. Nobody knows his real age, but everyone agrees that he was already a century old at the time of the War of the Orcs, in which he fought valiantly. His majesty, the Emperor, awarded him for his efforts by appointing him as a knight on his Honorable Service. He has been serving on this post for just short of a millennia, and it is believed that his involvement with Blue Fringe has something to do with a quest upon which he was ordered to embark. The finer details remain a mystery. Although he is skilled at playing the lyre and the Conjural Mage's harp, the guitar is something he has only been playing for about three hundred years. He met a private trader from the Craftsman guild, and he replaced his battle axe with his current "axe," the Blue Daisy. The guitar itself may date back to the time of the fourth Ice Age, and its mythical powers are known to all. The trader bestowed this gift upon Avi as gratitude for Avi's slaying of the Beast of Ute up in the mountains of Pictathia. Avi loves that weather which precedes rainfall... Danny Zwillenberg started his musical endeavor only 8 short years ago. Since then, he has drummed in several bands and has performed all over-- he is a true phenomenon. Due to his countless hours of practice mixed with his raw, natural talent, Danny plays each Blue Fringe song with precision and style, blending ska and reggae with Jewish rock. "DZ Supertrain" is a real lover of music, as he can be seen at any time of day walking with his headphones on, listening to Elliot Smith, or Nick Drake, while drumming on his legs, desk, or whatever is in front of him. As long as he sits there, watching the sunset, he is in paradise. Blue Fringe has established itself as America’s favorite Jewish rock band. Captivating large Jewish audiences of all denominations throughout the U.S. and abroad, Blue Fringe has successfully mixed pop, rock, funk and R&B with Jewish themes that are particularly relevant today. The emotionally charged songs on Blue Fringe’s breakout first album, My Awakening, include original English and Hebrew compositions that run the gamut from soul searching to irreverent. Written in the vein of popular artists such as Coldplay, Phish, and John Mayer, Blue Fringe sets a new standard for popular Jewish music. The band, comprised of four 20-something friends who met at Yeshiva University, includes: Dov Rosenblatt, guitarist and songwriter, who supplies the band with his compelling, lyrical voice; Avi Hoffman, also a guitarist and composer for the band, known for his electrifying, bluesy guitar playing; drummer Danny Zwillenberg who incorporates rhythms from diverse musical sources, including Latin, reggae, funk, and rock; and Hayyim Danzig on the bass, both electric and upright, who gives the group its soul with bass-lines deeply rooted in old-school funk and jazz. Based in New York City, Blue Fringe performs regularly on the East coast, including major NY clubs such as Irving Plaza, BB King’s Blues Club and Makor. Internationally, Blue Fringe has toured South Africa, Australia, and the UK. The band has performed several concerts in Israel including a “Rock n’ Soul Festival” in Beit Shemesh that hosted 10,000 fans. Blue Fringe released its second album, Seventy Faces, in June 2005 to rave review. A highly anticipated third album is set for release during Hanukah of 2006. Blue Fringe is represented by the Jewish Artists’ Regional Touring Service (J-ARTS). To host a Blue Fringe concert in your community as a cultural event, fundraiser or outreach program, contact Adam Davis at J-ARTS: 773.550.1543 email@example.com http://www.j-arts.org The Seventy Faces of Blue Fringe Reprinted from the World Jewish Digest Blue Fringe’s wildly successful debut album, My Awakening, threw the Jewish music world for a loop, selling over 15,000 copies in two years. That’s no small achievement for any indie rock band, and in the Jewish music world, 5,000 copies is often considered a gold record. The popularity of the music shot the foursome into the role of “Hot New Thing”—and it wasn’t just hype. There was real talent on the power pop-soaked My Awakening, even if its John Mayer influence sometimes slipped into something akin to the Rembrandts in Hebrew. Songwriter, guitarist and lead vocalist Dov Rosenblatt met his band mates in Israel the summer before starting Yeshiva University. The group quickly found a niche in Modern Orthodox circles with the tongue- in-cheek “Flippin’ Out,” describing the process by which Jewish high school graduates go to Israel for a year and undergo a dramatic religious transformation. “I’m getting frummer, yeah I’m on my way, learnin’ those catch phrases that you have to say, like Shkoyach and M’Stama too, cuz’ if you don’t say them then you’re not a frum Jew…I’m flippin’ out/my rebbe’s sheppin nachas/ I’m flippin’ out/My parent’s will kick my tuchas…” An eager world of young observant Jews immediately identified with the song, and young seminary girls went nuts over the band’s good looks and Rosenblatt’s silky vocals. Tour dates brought the band to every major U.S. market, plus Australia, South Africa and a few dates in Europe. In Israel, their tour included a performance in Beit Shemesh for a festival audience of 10,000. With their follow up, 70 Faces, Blue Fringe shows a maturation and willingness to experiment with new formats and arrangements. They avoid the trap of making their second album a facsimile of the first and draw on their musical influences and creativity for a distinct, yet familiar, sound. 70 Faces refers to the Talmudic concept of Shivim Panim laTorah, or the 70 ways to interpret the Torah. Its selection as the album’s title track is a sly hint that the band is no longer sticking to a singular pop-rock sound, but embracing funk, blues, jazz and an ever more diverse range of rock influences. Several songs, like “Generations,” “Lo Irah” and “Modim,” continue to bow to the John Mayer, Chris Martin and Dave Matthews power pop genre, but a departure is also made into grittier territory. Subtly nodding to a Steely Dan-like appreciation for jazz session players, Blue Fringe stacks up horn arrangements that call on the spirits of Jimmy Pankow (Chicago), Earth Wind and Fire and the Tower of Power. This is especially so in the title track, “Mayim,” and a bluesy version of the “Shidduch Song.” On a first listen, the mix of styles seems an odd choice, but taken as a whole the mingling of styles creates a potent brew. Rosenblatt’s lead vocals are better than ever—light but wry and sprinkled with a snarkiness that’s apropos for his ironic generation. His vocals still tend to emulate the breathy, punctuated rhythms of John Mayer, and love it or hate it, the latter’s influence remains evident in the band’s arrangements and overall sound. The first song on the album is the guitar-laden, pro-Israel “Lo Irah (No Fear),” either an ode to the orange- shirted friends of Gush Katif, or a broader anthem about the Jewish people facing adversity in their homeland. I suspect the latter, but it leads off the album with a power pop sound that’s a rush to the head and heart. On track two, “Av Harachamim,” things slow down and get darker. This is sonically the most expressive song on the album, beginning with a spare and delicate interplay between vocals and guitar and then building into an unrestrained brooding storm of slow, lush, power-chord progression and distortion. Those who know the band knew that the “Shidduch Song” would be this album’s “Flippin’ Out,” but it’s not a gimmick. They’ve been playing the song live for years and it’s a favorite in the yeshiva crowd for its satirical take on the pressures of dating and marriage. In a slightly naughty way, the song nods to the shomer negiah (no touching before marriage) set and the recent rightward turn of the frum community. Of a similar, albeit more aggressive sound is an arrangement of “Shir HaShirim,” the Song of Songs, a text rich with allusions to physical love. Of course, the poem is traditionally interpreted as an allegory of the kinship between God and the Jewish people, but here the funky chorus of “Ani l’Dodi v’Dodi Li” speaks more to the former. Whatever your interpretation, it’s one of the best songs on the album. Overall the tone of this album is slightly darker than the first. Paired with the horns, 70 Faces achieves a slightly richer, meatier sound. Strong pop elements still break the surface, but having played together for four years, the band’s maturity and influences are showing through. It’s a change of musical direction for the band, but one that will age well with their fan base and appeal to a more discerning audience. Much of Jewish music is derivative, even within Jewish rock, so it’s encouraging that a band like Blue Fringe would actively explore new sounds and not rely on the tried and true. In this respect, 70 Faces is an aptly named album, showing us that Blue Fringe embraces all its influences at once and can’t be as easily pigeonholed as we’d like. 70 Faces’ resulting complexity makes for a gratifying listening experience that shows Blue Fringe is still on top of its game. Blue Fringe and their 70 Faces What you should know about the four Jewish 20-somethings who set out to create a different type of Jewish music - - and did. by Michelle Cove You've got to admit, it's pretty rare having a rock album in your collection that references the Talmud. But that's exactly what the funky, modern-ortho band Blue Fringe has done on their new album "70 Faces." The name represents the Talmudic idea that there are many ways to view the same thing, an idea central to the band's philosophy. The CD includes 10 original songs, including a Coldplay-esque "Av HaRachamim" (Merciful Father) and a funk version of "Shir HaShirim" (Song of Songs). If you haven't heard of them before, you missed Blue Fringe's independently released album "My Awakening" (2003), which sold 13,000 copies. Dov Rosenblatt, the lead singer, joined forces with Chaim Danzig, the bassist, Avi Hoffman, lead guitarist, and Danny Zwillenberg, the drummer. Their goal was simple: to create a different kind of Jewish music than the "generic Jewish sound that usually includes a horn section, strings, keyboards and studio drums." According to Dov, "I'm not saying anything bad about that kind of music, but we wanted to create something different. A lot of our friends listen to secular music, and that's what I like --the Beatles, Counting Crows, Wallflowers and Dave Matthews." In fact, the band intentionally hired a producer who wasn't Jewish to ensure they wouldn't get a generic sound. Adds Chaim, "We didn't set out to send a Jewish message. We just wanted to make good music. And our music should let you feel whatever it is you feel -- love, encouragement, God, whatever." "My Awakening" included Hebrew songs such as "Shma Kolanu" and "Ani Maamin," as well as English ones that talk about real-deal issues like a terror attack on Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem, and the necessary "catch phrases" for becoming an accepted member of 'the frum Jew' club. One of Dov's favorite songs, "City of Gold," was written after waking up and hearing of yet another bombing in Israel. "I felt so helpless," he says. "I wanted to do something to help. But I also felt, like, what could I possibly do? So I just sat down and started writing." While the group loves recording, Blue Fringe has prided themselves on being a live band and they love getting busy on the stage, whether it's for small Jewish camps or large clubs and college campuses. Based in New York City, Blue Fringe performs regularly on the east coast, including major New York clubs such as Irving Plaza, BB King's Blues Club and Makor. Internationally, Blue Fringe recently toured South Africa, Australia, and the UK. The band has performed several concerts in Israel, including a recent "Rock n' Soul Festival" in Beit Shemesh that hosted 10,000 fans. As for their new CD, they're definitely psyched: "We feel that we've developed and matured as a band," said Avi Hoffman, guitarist. "We've written more sophisticated songs while trying to maintain some catchy and memorable hooks." This article reprinted with permission from JVibe.com, the new magazine for Jewish teens. The new face of Jewish rock by Chanie Cohen THE LIGHTS DIM AND COLORED BEAMS OF LIGHT FLASH across the platform as the final act takes the stage. The auditorium swells with shouts of adulation from teenage girls, shouting the band's name. The room is filled to capacity, the fans are cheering, and the band ... well ... the band is all wearing yarmulkes. It's Blue Fringe, the hip modern Orthodox band that has taken the American Jewish community by storm. And they aren't stopping there. With a world tour this summer, these four guys have turned out to be the best thing to happen to Jewish teenagers and young adults since Oreos became kosher. Playing to sold out audiences across the country, being approached for autographs in restaurants, and riding the success of their first CD, Blue Fringe has achieved Jewish cult star status. Amidst the trumpets and artificial string sections of popular Jewish music today, Blue Fringe has emerged with a fresh, alternative sound, which has wooed audiences from all walks of Jewish life. "We wanted a different flavor, not like generic Jewish music," explains Dov Rosenblatt, the frontman for the group. "We really wanted a very raw sound." Influenced by the likes of Coldplay and the Beatles, Blue Fringe's music is more reminiscent of Linkin Park than Uncle Moishy and His Mitzvah Men. It's a recent Thursday night in April. On the second floor of an unassuming building in the shady Manhattan neighborhood known as Spanish Harlem, Blue Fringe gathers in a music classroom of the Belz School of Jewish Music, a division of Yeshiva University. With only five rows of red fabric chairs, it's like a mini-theatre in here, and every seat is a good one. A jazz class is ending, an appropriate genre for the demure setting around the mellow participants, light blue walls, gray carpet, and fluorescent lights. A few of the jazz class remains, and it turns out these members of the group are also members of the band which is about to practice here. With the ease of Mr. Rogers slipping off his outdoor shoes, they switch from jazz mode to rock mode, as they begin to set up their instruments. Danny, the drummer in the band, wearing a Penn State T-shirt from his hometown is schmoozing with his jazz teacher, while Hayyim, the bass player, is catching up on dinner, quietly munching on Chinese takeout. Diligently setting up speakers and cords, Avi, the lead guitarist in the group, realizes that some of the wires are back in his apartment a few blocks away. Dressed in khakis and a blue button-down, and with his tzitzit showing, he looks more like a Yeshiva student than a rock star, and he rushes out of the classroom to get the necessary accoutrements. Dov Rosenblatt, the lead singer, acoustic guitarist and final member of the band, hurriedly enters the classroom, with his guitar slung over his shoulder. A sandy-haired lean guy, Rosenblatt eases into a chair in the second row and with pride, begins to chat with a journalist about his band. Dressed in black pants, layered t-shirts, and a gray and black pullover sweatshirt, one is suddenly reminded of how these guys dress when they perform on stage -- exactly the same. "We are who we are," remarks Rosenblatt. "We're not trying to send out an image, or get out a message. We're really all about the music, that's what brings us together." He pauses and glances at the guys. "Maybe that's why we appeal to different audiences, because within the band, we're different people." So how did four guys from Yeshiva University become the phenom that is Blue Fringe, being recognized in kosher pizza shops across the country? It all began two and a half years ago, when Rosenblatt was approached by Jon Perl (the band's current manager) about putting together a band for a concert at University of Pennsylvania a few weeks later. Rosenblatt, a New Jersey native, called his friend and bassist, Hayyim Danzig, whom he'd played with in yeshiva in Israel a few years earlier, and Avi Hoffman, a guitarist, and friend from summer camp. Danzig, in turn, knew a drummer, Danny Zwillenberg, whom he'd had a band with in high school in Philadelphia, and unwittingly, Blue Fringe was formed. Needless to say, the concert was a success. "People were asking us, what's the name of your band, where do you guys play," Rosenblatt recalls. "We didn't have a name and we didn't play anywhere." Perl continued booking concerts for the group, and they decided that their hurriedly chosen name "Tip the Band" needed an upgrade. "I just recently found a piece of paper -- we had sat there for a few hours one night and had written down a bunch of different names, but some of them were really bad," Rosenblatt says. "We were trying to think of names that were English but Jewish, so we could appeal to all different audiences." Some of the scribbles on the paper that night were Uncle Pete's Goat, a nod to Jon Stewart's essay on God, Citron, and Six-Point Star. At the end of the night, the name they had settled on was Blue Fringe, a biblical reference to the ocean-colored four-cornered strings worn by Jewish men. In the winter of 2002, the band decided it was time for a CD. In a studio in Philadelphia (Danzig's and Zwillenberg's hometown), they spent three entire days mixing, recording, and tracking the entire CD, with the help of producer Bill Kovatch. "We stayed at Danny's house," Rosenblatt reminisces. "We'd come back to his house at five or six in the morning and his parents would be laughing at us, joking that we were never going to finish this CD." Well, that's true -- they didn't finish the CD. But a few weeks later, they came back to wrap it up and in June of 2003, "My Awakening" was released to an expectant fan base. Their modest goal was to sell 3,000 CDs. As of this printing, they have sold more than 15,000 copies. Rosenblatt grins, "That's Jewish platinum!" Perl has since moved on. Right now they're working on their second CD, which is more of a collaborative effort. "On the first CD, I wrote the skeleton for the songs and everyone came up with their parts," Rosenblatt explains. "This new CD has just shown how much we've grown together. We wrote the songs together, using everyone's creative ideas. The music is much more mature." As if on cue, Zwillenberg begins a beat on the drums, and above the noise, Rosenblatt offers to move the conversation from the classroom to the hallway. As he settles onto the carpeted floor, the discussion turns to the public response to Blue Fringe. "The way we dress, for some reason, has become an issue," Rosenblatt says. "One article written about us called us bookish. Bookish is kind of nerdy, and we don't feel like we're nerdy." Noticing Rosenblatt's wire-rimmed glasses, you see how that particular journalist might have made his "bookish" assumption. No, this band is most definitely not bookish. Would Jewish teenage girls be falling over themselves for a bunch of geeks? And it's not just teenagers. "We get e-mails from teenagers and adults who say that they don't listen to Jewish music, but listen to us." For Danzig, the most rewarding part of the whole experience is "seeing how people respond to the music." But what about life outside of Blue Fringe? By day, most of the band attends school at Yeshiva University, while Zwillenberg, a recent grad, travels downtown to the Ramaz School, where he works as a kindergarten teacher, extending Blue Fringe's fan base to include the toddler community. Hoffman, though a music major, spends most of his day studying Torah, beginning with the morning prayers at 6 AM. Rosenblatt and Danzig are Psych majors. Separate but demanding schedules keep these guys apart most of the day, but twice a week, they gather here at night to practice and work on their new CD, usually until 1 AM. "Or until they kick us out of here," Rosenblatt gestures to the music room. As he moves from the hallway back to the classroom, Rosenblatt says that they've just come back from a gig in LA, and this Passover, the band played a concert at a Miami hotel where more than 4,000 people gathered to hear them play. Back at their Washington Heights practice, the band recalls a time when their concerts were a little more modest -- and a little more animal friendly. "We were hired to do a concert at Binghamton for Yom Ha'atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) and the other attraction they had hired that day was camel-riding," Rosenblatt says. And as if that wasn't humbling enough, when they traveled to Cornell for their next concert, the group found that the camel-riding attraction had been booked there as well. "I think the camel had more attendance," Zwillenberg jokes good-naturedly, as he rests his feet on the pedal of his drum. So now that they've made it in the Jewish music industry, what's next? "We have a lot more to do together," says Rosenblatt. "We're definitely planning on keeping it going for as long as we can, or as long as people want to hear us," he says. "Generally music is fickle, you're popular one day, and you're not the next." (Remember the Nelson twins? Didn't think so.) "Within Jewish music, there aren't too many bands doing what we're doing." Well, that's not totally true. There are a few other "boy bands" from Yeshiva University that have formed over the past few years, and while tuning their various instruments and preparing to play, Blue Fringe reflects on what may make them different than the rest. "We just really play well with each other," Danzig says. Rosenblatt agrees and adds, "I think it's experience, and that we've been together for so long." With a quick grin at Rosenblatt, Zwillenberg says, "It's because we have a better singer than any of the other bands." Rosenblatt picks up his guitar, and slides off his gray New Balance sneakers. "It's time to play." While Hoffman grooves along with the music, Danzig stands tall and steady in the rear, confidently holding the guitar as if it's his God-given right to strum the Stratocaster. At the end of 20 minutes, a visitor turns to Rosenblatt and asks what song they're practicing, and he shakes his head and smiles, "We're just jamming." "Someone starts an idea and we all kick in and just let things flow, and, as corny as it sounds, the music takes us to different places," Hoffman explains. "Basically, when you're jamming, almost anything goes, and the more varied the ideas that you can throw into the jam, usually, the better the jam becomes." Eyes fixed on each other's instruments, they adjust their own sound to complement the others, confirming Danzig's statement about how well they work together. By anyone's measure, these guys are talented. Add that to their honest and realistic outlook on their own stardom, their cohesion as a group, their good looks, and their good-naturedness, and you've got the formula for a successful group -- whether it's called Blue Fringe, Uncle Pete's Goat, or Tip the Band. (07/29/2005) Rock Of Ages Blue Fringe, with its second album, is bridging the gap between rock culture and religious faith. Liel Leibovitz - Staff Writer It is the night before Christmas, and Manhattan’s B.B. King’s Blues Club and Grill in Times Square is packed with young fans, some of whom had been waiting for hours. A sleepy-voiced announcer welcomes the band, and four young men in their early 20s saunter onto the stage. A few tune-ups and they’re ready. The music begins, the guitar jogging fast, the drums playing catch-up, the bass jetting in to tie the unit together into a rhythmic melody, inspiring nodding heads and snapping fingers. Enter the lead singer, a mellow tenor in a short- sleeved white button-down and an acoustic guitar, exuding the kind of calm confidence common in singer- songwriters of the Dave Matthews ilk. One not paying attention to the lyrics, or noticing the tzitzit dangling from beneath the lead guitarist’s shirt, easily could have mistaken the band for any of New York’s up-and-coming rock groups crooning about love and sex and relationships. But Dov Rosenblatt, 24, is singing in Hebrew and about moshiach, a sea of boys in yarmulkes is undulating to the beat, and girls in long skirts are alternately shrieking and singing along to every word. Such is the life of Blue Fringe (www.bluefringe.com), one of the more popular acts in the vanguard of bands helping to revive the Jewish music scene. With a first album, “My Awakening,” that was a runaway hit two years ago; a new album, “70 Faces,” released last month; and a steadily growing fan base packing its shows from Johannesburg to Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue, the boys in the band — all Yeshiva University graduates — are struggling to reconcile the rowdiness of rock with the spiritual depth of their faith. Judging by at least one timeless classic rock standard — shrieking females — they are doing well. ‘It’s About The Music’ On a sweltering summer day in June, three members of Blue Fringe — Rosenblatt, Avi Hoffman and Hayyim Danzig — are sitting down for an interview in a kosher lunch spot across the street from YU. Danny Zwillenberg, the drummer, couldn’t come — he’s an assistant kindergarten teacher at Ramaz. Nevertheless, the band seems like a trio aptly playing a piece written for a quartet: Between bites of pizza and salad, they finish each other’s sentences, further each other’s thoughts, delight in amicable banter. Their seasoned routine is a testament to the fact that they’ve been together for a while. For nearly four years, with a growing degree of intensity, the four have played hundreds of gigs, mostly traveling by car cramped with their equipment. Along with at least one weekly two-hour rehearsal, that’s plenty of time and ripe circumstances to develop a deep knowledge of each other as well a strong group identity. “Maybe this time we could give out more than five CDs,” somebody says, and the others crack up. An explanation follows: When the first Blue Fringe album was released in 2003, Zwillenberg advocated that they give their families no more than five copies per band member, claiming that all other copies had to be sold in an attempt to make a profit on the self-published CD. “My Awakening” has sold upwards of 14,000 copies, a tremendous amount for the limited realm of Jewish music in which “anything above 10,000 is a best-seller,” according to a spokesman for Sameach Music, the primary distributor in the field. With “70 Faces” slated to arrive later that afternoon, the members of Blue Fringe are teasing Zwillenberg in absentia; this time they are confident they can be a bit more generous. Prompted by a reporter’s questions, they go on to recall their career in a series of vignettes: Their first gig, in 2001, an impromptu engagement at the University of Pennsylvania that brought together four guys who were largely strangers to each other; a concert at Stern College, where a mechitza of balloons separated the band from its all- female audience; or that time in Queens, after a particularly exciting show, when they had to be rushed out by security, a gaggle of excited fans in hot pursuit. Reminiscing about that last incident, Hoffman, 24, a slim man with intense eyes and a quiet manner that commands attention, smiles. “I remember driving on the highway, saying ‘what the hell just happened?’ ” he recalls. A moment of quiet, another smile, and a shrug. “As long as I know it’s about the music.” His remark sparks a discussion of music as means versus music as an end. “For [Rabbi Shlomo] Carlebach,” Rosenblatt notes, “the music was a means to bring people closer. For us, it’s about the music,” he says, though noting with satisfaction that rabbis, educators and young people have told them about the positive effect their music has had on fans. Hoffman nods in agreement. “We were never a kiruv [religious outreach] project,” he says. “We’re thinking personally and trying to write on a universal level. The music is going to convey a mood, color the way you hear the lyrics. Even if you don’t understand Hebrew, the lyrics will color your mood.” As an example, the three discuss their song “Modim,” a buttery number with a guitar hook bouncing off a smooth horn section. Sung mostly in English, it has a refrain in Hebrew expressing thanks to God. Even if a listener doesn’t understand the words, they say, the drum roll leading to the refrain, the uplifting sax, the excited guitar riffs, all lead the listener to a sense of elation. “The song was written because as a Jew you need to think about how God fits into your life,” Hoffman says. “ ‘Modim’ is about being thankful” even when things are not going well. “I see it differently,” booms Danzig, 23, the bass player. At 6-foot-4, his presence reverberates even when he does not speak. When he does, which is not often, he is sharply eloquent. “I see it differently,” he repeats. “I think it’s about being thankful for what is going well.” Dealing With Real Issues Like “Modim,” several of the new album’s songs consist of original lyrics, mostly written by Rosenblatt, that weave in phrases from Jewish liturgy, all put to music that cannily captures their spirit. Among the tracks are “Av Harachamim,” a brooding melody, not unlike most of Coldplay’s hits, combining two traditional prayers; “Lo Irah,” a riff on a famous Breslover slogan applied to the intifada; “Shir Hashirim,” a jazzy take on the Song of Songs, and “Hineni,” a haunting ballad about Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. There are also some lighter moments: “Shidduch Song,” for example, is a soulful R&B romp gently sending up the Orthodox community’s obsession with marriage at an early age. The song tells the story of a young man who attests to being “the only one in the whole entire Orthodox community my age, not engaged, or dating now.” After a speedy shidduch process, Rosenblatt sweetly sings questions to the intended groom: “Did you book a hall? Not yet. Sheitel or fall? Don’t know what she’ll get. How long did it take? Three dates. Why the delay?” It’s a humorous way of tackling a real issue in the Modern Orthodox world, much as was the band’s most famous song, “Flippin’ Out,” from its first album, which describes the phenomenon of young men turning “black hat” during their post-high school year of yeshiva study in Israel. The new album, whose title is a reference to the multifaceted nature of the Torah, is complex both musically and textually. Whereas “My Awakening” displays spirited pop sensibilities, “70 Faces” is heavy with bluesy jams and roaming compositions, making for an album devoted to meditation — musical and spiritual. “I feel proud that the themes are meaningful,” Rosenblatt says of the new album. “It’s not like the songs you hear on the radio about sex and drugs.” Hoffman adds: “We express themes we care a lot about in ways we can appreciate. We try to take issues and make them real.” Danzig, having the last word, sums it all up. “I was always inspired by people who can bring the different facets of their lives together,” he says. “We all believe in religious Judaism, and we all believe in good music. Let’s put them together.” Putting It Together With summer gigs at Camp Ramah and Camp Moshava two days away, Blue Fringe is at a damp and cavernous rehearsal room in a mid-Manhattan studio polishing off old songs and learning new ones. Zwillenberg, 23, a radiant young man with fair hair and a habit of getting lost in the music, is drumming up a sweeping beat. Without a word, Danzig lays down a base line, zippy and confident. They’re playing “Sissy Strut,” a jazz staple. It takes a few moments, but finally everyone’s ready to begin, and the band plunges into a series of fits and starts, practicing bits of songs, rearranging others. When they are through tweaking their own music, they begin searching for a song to cover, a habit of theirs in most of their concerts. Previous choices have included Radiohead and the Beatles; now someone suggests “Beautiful,” Christina Aguilera’s pop anthem. The song is playing on an iPod, and each band member responds in a different way. Zwillenberg, as if he was connected to that machine’s wiring, instantly picks up the song’s beat, at first listening to the playback as he drums along but quickly shutting himself off from everything but the beat, now entirely his own. Staring into space, Danzig is doing trial-and-error: He tests one take, then tries another, and another still, until what he hears pleases him. Then he simply plucks on the thick, steely strings of his bass. A few feet away, Hoffman faces his amplifier, his back to the band. He is focused — in his dedication he looks more like a Talmud scholar than rock guitarist. His approach to the music is similar: Hoffman doesn’t so much play as interpret, and then reinterpret text, deconstructing it and rebuilding it, immersed in thought even as his fingers fret furiously on his guitar. In the front of the room, Rosenblatt is trying to decipher the song’s lyrics. He jots down as much as he can pick up, singing along to certain parts. Despite the cacophony in the room, the musicians are serene. They each do their thing for a few moments, until it’s time for them to play together as a band. When they do, it all comes together perfectly, as if each member’s meditation is somehow connected to a collective mind-set. Their version sounds nothing like the syrupy original: Now it’s a Blue Fringe song, ponderous and heartening. The lyrics, a motivational message about appearance and self-worth, now seem to discuss something more substantial, something metaphysical, something Jewish. 2004-04-23 The New Color of Rock by David Finnigan, Contributing Writer Does New York’s Orthodox Jewish rock band Blue Fringe have groupies? "It’s not really sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll," lead singer Dov Rosenblatt, 22, said. "One father e-mailed us and he wrote it reminded him of ‘Beatlemania.’" About 4,000 fans attended the Yeshiva University-originating quartet’s Passover weekend performance in South Florida. Rosenblatt told The Journal that the group’s style is "pop rock with a lot of funk influence. The lyrics are Jewish, but the music could be stuff you hear on the radio." Blue Fringe performs at a Yom Ha’Atzmaut concert April 26 at Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills, followed by a May 29 appearance at a Southern California regional Shabbaton of the National Council of Synagogue Youth. Blue Fringe’s debut album last year, "My Awakening," sold 10,000 copies. Rosenblatt, one of Jewish Week Editor Gary Rosenblatt’s three children, studies psychology and music at Yeshiva University. Two and a half years ago, an invitation to play at a Jewish student event at the University of Pennsylvania found Dov Rosenblatt forming Blue Fringe with Yeshiva University psych major/drummer Danny Zwillenberg, music major/guitarist Avi Hoffman and psych major/bassist Hayyim Danzig. They played last month at Yeshiva’s "Pesachpalooza," and also have performed in Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue. The group joins Jewish-identified bands such as Soulfarm and Moshav in advancing Jewish rock. "We’re sold in Lakewood, [N.J.], which is a yeshiva community," Rosenblatt said. "And then we get e- mails from kids who say they don’t listen to Jewish music at all, but they like us. There’s no reason why high school kids can’t have in their CD book Nirvana, Guns N’ Roses and all of us." Funny, it doesn't sound Jewish -- but music is August 20, 2005 BY THOMAS CONNER Staff Reporter If you're a fellow rock 'n' roll gentile, when you hear the phrase "Jewish music," you probably think "Fiddler on the Roof" or, if you really think you're hip, Theodore Bikel. But the rock of ages has wandered into the 21st century making some exciting new sounds, and a Chicago arts center is spotlighting them throughout the fall. The "Tzitzit: Voices From the Jewish Fringe" music series, presented by the KFAR Jewish Arts Center, features young Jewish musicians who dig deep into their traditional culture and extrapolate its roots into bold, buzzing modern music. Lyrics sometimes seem like insider baseball to those of us who aren't "frum" (religious, observant, Jewish), but the resulting music is often innovative and worldly. The series kicks off tonight with a concert by Blue Fringe. On the eve of an appearance at Yidstock in Monticello, N.Y., this basic rock-pop quartet pulls off the same magic act Christian rockers have been mastering (and profiting by) for several years -- writing perfectly catchy modern rock tunes, but with lyrics aimed at their particular spiritual perspective, such as these from a song called "Flippin' Out": BLUE FRINGE WITH HEEDOOSH “I'm getting frummer, yeah, I'm on my way When: 10 tonight Learnin' those catchphrases that you have to say Where: Martyrs', 3855 N. Lincoln Tickets: $15 Like 'Shkoyach' and 'M'Stama,' too Call: (773) 550-1543 'Cause if you don't say them then you're not a frum Jew ... “ It's one thing to learn your way in the modern world, but young Jews study to learn their way through centuries of history and tradition, too. Blue Fringe tries to connect both worlds in its music -- old-world ideas with guitar, drums and bass -- and blow off a little steam in the process. The series' subtitle, after all, is "Concerts Exploring the Threads Tying the Ancient to the Avant-Garde," and a duo that really lives up to that is the Balkan Beat Box, appearing next in the series at Wild Hare on Sept. 18. Why buy every one of those tedious Putamayo world-music collections when these New York-based Israelis (Ori Kaplan and world-class beat boy Tamir Muskat) can synthesize them all in the span of a single disc? The pair's self-titled debut CD, to be released two days after their Chicago concert, is a magnificent mash-up melding music from every conceivable corner of the globe and its history. French heavy-metal samples, Arabic lyrics, Bulgarian female vocals, electronic beats, kitchen utensils, even a language made up just for one song -- instead of gazing into the navels of other cultures, these melanges pull the whole weight of the world forward, always forward. The shows allegedly are lively productions with the band often performing in the middle of the audience. More acts follow in KFAR’s Tzitzit series (look to www.kfarcenter.com for more). If you really want to explore other lands through music, this is a good place to start. Crossing borders -- this the Jews know how to do.
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