"Hello, we're the Zeros from Chula Vista."
Called the "Mexican Ramones" though they developed parallel to the Forest Hills foursome, the Zeros were one of the wellsprings of American punk. Rock revisionism disguising a loving traditionalism (like the Ramones, the Zeros were acolytes of the affect of girl groups and the derangement of surf psychedelia), they played punk as attitude and approach, not style.
When I first came across the band, it just confirmed my suspicion that punk somehow expressed the Latin condition. After all, the first time I came across a record by my fellow Queens misfits in torn jeans I pronounced their name "Rah-MOH-ness."
I never saw the Zeros in its heyday -- the band was broken up by 1980 and I had little clue of punk history outside NY until I lived out West -- and age-wise, most of 50-60 people at Southpaw couldn't have either.
There were a lot of canas on us bopping to "Don't Push Me Around," but not all of us were paunchy middle-aged punks. There was a gaggle of shellac'd garage mods, their shags, striped shirts and pointy Beatle boots the same I remember in Cavestomp in the 80s. There were also a few cholo-billies barely old enough to get in the club, too sweet in their bangs and skinny black vest. And of course the usual Brooklyn crew of gringos on cool safari.
And on the stage, four men in black pushing 50 playing teen rebellion music, songs they'd written in high school. Was it ridiculous? Actually, no. I think sometimes it takes the accommodations and disappointments of adulthood to really appreciate the bustout energy of youth.
Individually, the Zeros have remained active as musicians. Javier Escovedo (brother to Alejandro and a uncle to Sheila E.) has been in True Believers and Rank and File. Hector Peñalosa played in paisley underground band Flying Color in the 80s. And Robert Lopez is, of course, El Vez.
On stage, Javier had a little of the lineless yet hard living look of Johnny Cash, but seems to miss his role as lead singer just a little too much. He indulged in ax god clichés -- two or three times stepping to the lip of the stage and grinding on the guitar, all the better positioned for photo-snapping fans.
Robert, on the other hand, treated the whole affair like a serious goof. His trademark pencil-thin mustache, black suit, crisp white shirt and roach killer shoes giving him the look of a 50s Mexican movie star, he spent much of the show with an impish grin on his face, tossing out disarming patter that on a teen would have been amateurish, but he wore with grace.
"I've run out of things to say," he said around song #4. And in a shoutout to Mario Escovedo, Javier's younger brother and the concessioneer in back, Lopez said he "saw us practice in Javier's bedroom when he was 12. That's not true, Javier was never 12, he is... ageless."
As is the rush of the electric guitar.
[blurry photos by moi]