Chassidic ladies rock
Sure, a Chassidic indie rock girl band is a bit of a novelty, but that is not the reason to take a listen to Bulletproof Stockings.
No, the reasons to listen to Bulletproof Stockings are the soulful, jazzy voice of Perl Wolfe, the stirring drumming of Dalia G. Shusterman, and the poignant, poetic, and very original lyrics in the songs of these lady rockers.
Bulletproof Stockings’ sound has been compared to that of Adele, Fiona Apple and Florence and the Machine, yet its music is distinct, and, considering its origin, entirely unexpected.
Bulletproof Stockings was born in December 2011, in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the hub of the American Chabad-Lubavitch community, when Wolfe, having recently moved from Chicago to New York, met Shusterman, a recent transplant from Los Angeles.
“I was always involved in music,” said Wolfe, who grew up in the Lubavitch movement. “I started playing piano when I was 6. But I didn’t try to write music until April 2011. And, baruch Hashem, it just kind of came to me out of nowhere. I wrote four songs in one week.”
Wolfe and Shusterman met soon after Wolfe had been tapped to play her first show, a benefit for a local school.
“The first night I met Perl and heard her music, I had no doubt that we would be playing big audiences, with all sorts of women,” Shusterman said. “And, baruch Hashem, we both have whatever gifts we have, and Hashem put us together to make it happen.”
Shusterman, who was raised Orthodox, has been playing percussion since the age of 16. While she left her faith behind for a while as she went touring with the indie rock band Hopewell, she eventually found her way back to Judaism, taking her music with her.
Wolfe and Shusterman recorded their first single, “Frigid City,” less than one month after meeting. In March 2012, the women released their first EP album “Down to the Top.” They have since played many shows around New York, and recently played their first show in Los Angeles.
In keeping within the laws of modesty mandated by the Chassidic, Bulletproof Stockings performs only for female audiences. These audiences, which are often comprised of women from all strands of Judaism and other faiths as well, embrace the opportunity to get up and dance to the music in a female-only environment, and to metaphorically and collectively let their hair down.
“We create a space for women to rock out,” said Wolfe. “Many of them haven’t done that; they have never been to a rock concert before.”
The concerts are particularly appreciated by the ba’al teshuvahs — Jews who were not raised Orthodox, but who embrace it later in life — according to Wolfe.
“Many used to go to rock concerts, and they miss that environment,” she said. “People are excited. For some, it’s been years since they’ve heard music they can appreciate on an intellectual level.”
“In the all-women space, we are free to be who we want to be,” Shusterman added. “It’s just music, us, the experience, and no boundaries. It’s cool.”
While Bulletproof Stockings started small, playing at private homes and flower shops, these ladies are ambitious.
“Our goal is to go full on,” Shusterman said. “We are trying to work on a full album, and we are looking to go on tour, and to make music videos.”
The name Bulletproof Stockings is taken from a tongue-in-cheek term used to describe the opaque hose worn by some women in the Lubavitch movement, but even those women in conservative Borough Park “love the name,” Wolfe said.
“And people are really open to the all women thing,” she added. “They want to be there with their girlfriends, and dance.”
Four songs recorded by the band can be accessed on its Facebook page, Bulletproof Stockings.
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at email@example.com.)