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E-Z Does It

September 11, 2008 By:
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Hail, hail the ... groupies ... are all here on "Z Rock." Photo by Jennifer Graylock/IFC

Rock 'n' rugelah?

"Z Rock" may be the zzzz-sleeper of the season for IFC TV, bandying about as it does with band rockers Paul and David Zablidowsky and Joey Cassata as they perform raunch 'n' roil as the gold standard of heavy metalers at night while finding wiggle room in their lives to earn a real living as kids' music icons during their day Job -- and it is a torture for three hellions of a bar band who find themselves entertaining at Bar Mitzvahs.

But as mitzvah must have it, all is not lost -- and the kiss of good fortune may be theirs to have with a record deal. (In real life, the rockers have opened for Kiss.) Unfortunately, that deal is as smooth as an old 45 rpm with a scratch at the middle as all discover life's B-side ain't the side to be on.

These aren't the "Sopranos," but the basses beset with the basest of problems: making ends meet in a meat market of music groups where "slaughterhouse 5" may as well be the name of the bands that drop off the radar every rockin' moment.

The Cream of the crop of rock revelations, the series also rocks the world and the boundaries of TV standards; "We Are the World" it isn't -- unless your world is filled with wealthy buxom New York matrons who attend to their children's needs in the afternoon and to the Z Rockers at night.

The three guys are hired for play -- and their foreplay is also an eyeful displayed on a small screen maybe too small to hold them in a world where "keep it in your pants" is a mantra about heavy-breathing, not belted trousers.

But, even in an e-male world, there is still no e-Z pass to success.

So how did two Jewish bros from Brooklyn and their Italian bud get to be Fender-benders on Sunday nights on IFC?

Grads of the school of hard rocks, the three had been fixtures of Arlene's Grocery club and other Lower East Side highlights where their ZO2 act zigged where the more mainstream zagged.

But, like the alternate lifestyle that lights up their life on TV, they were perhaps making more of a name for themselves as children's music performers. And as the Z Brothers, they could sleepwalk through performances if they wanted to to keep the kids of such notables as Robert DeNiro and Michael J. Fox fixed on their fun songs.

If Bizarro world had a rock group, it would be these three doing their alt music in the alternate universe.

And nowhere is this more apparent than in this week's episode, to be rebroadcast tomorrow night and Sunday night, as the boys in the band -- unlike Mart Crowley's creation, heteros all -- take the cool '50s adage of "give me some skin" and apply it to their latest gig: a bris, where their orgiastic original song in the newborn's honor is as delicate as Shakey the Mohel asking the band for a band-aid.

The badinage isn't bad -- quite quirkily witty, as a matter of fact. Just who knew a band's bris kit would include a guitar or two?

Abetting the boys in their long and winding road are a bunch of big-name acts, with John Popper popping up in this week's episode as the popinjay who might get them signed -- with conditional approval. The fact that the rockers' over-the-ZZ-Tops of a manager must sleep with Popper is a rider to the contract gives new meaning to aiding and abedding.

And, yes, says David, at 26 the youngest of the three, "we have played all kinds of events -- maybe even a bris."

Slice-of-life TV? "The basic premise is completely true," he adds. "It's all bred on reality, with some embellishment. Sort of like a rock version of 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' meets 'Entourage.' "

Improv Improvements

"Curb" appeal? Easy to see why: The scripts are loosely formatted, like that famous Larry David show, with Mark Farrell -- who served as a producer on "Curb" -- one of the imps helping with the improv here.

It helps that so many celebrities have unbridled enthusiasm about the show, with Joan Rivers streaming her one-liners in an occasional through line of the plot.

Kiss of success from a Kiss of Poison? ZO2 has opened for both on tour, and the threesome have a certain menage à trust that "helps them on the set," says Paulie.

"We know each other's timing."

And the timing is right for their breakout -- with Jewish gems spouted by the Zablidowskys a facet of the fun in the show. (Cassata makes a case for his side, which he calls being on "Team Jesus.")

The show teems with outrageousness not seen on the more-timid mainstream TV. This coming from former yeshiva buchers? "Yup," avers David, "we went to yeshiva for four years but my brother and I decided it wasn't for us, so we then went to public school."

He eagerly makes public his onetime commitment to laying teffilin -- but now he's more about public appearances layin' down some chords. "We went from Shabbat to Black Sabbath," says David.

Which is not meant as a black mark against their upbringing, in which they were raised Jewish by Mom Doris -- "who is half Columbian and converted to Judaism when she married my father," says David -- and Dad Marty, burrowed in the neighborhood of Borough Park, where he once played in a band that included his brother.

Band as bashert? "We're proud of our Jewish heritage," as well as musical one, says David, who, with his brother -- both are known publicly by their first names followed by the "Z" that zings -- started early composing their own sound. Indeed, the high life started in high school, where their influence was sealed with a Kiss.

Years later, to tour with Kiss must have been more than lip service ... not. After the tour, they found themselves in musical Siberia -- which may explain why David wound up part of a tour with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Paint them blue -- or at least Joey, who was once part of the Las Vegas branch of Blue Man Group.

But it's been a star-spangled banner year for these iconoclastic, if not cocky, rockers. "We obviously all get along," reasons Cassata, the member of the roguish trio who sometimes has "a hard time understanding" the Jewish words the band bandies about on screen.

Those words and more may pop up not only on screen but on their Web site (www.zo2.com), where it all comes together as it does on their space in myspace.com.

As the band prepares to tour in promotion of its new CD, the record's title says it all. "Ain't It Beautiful"? "Yes, it is," say the "Z Rockers."

 

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