Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Zero Boys, the Jolts, and the Excessives at Funky Winkerbeans

In many ways the high point of the Zero Boys gig on Friday at Funky's was an abortive, but highly amusing, glitch in the proceedings, before the band proper even started to play. The singer, Paul Z., was - or so I was told - asleep in the van until quite close to when the band went onstage. I know, because I'd gotten a copy of their absolutely fantastic debut album Vicious Circle, on vinyl, signed by the three other members of the band: the original drummer Mark Cutsinger - the same guy who played Vancouver in 1982, at their only other gig here! - and new guitarist and bassist Dave Lawson and Scott Kellogg, both of whom proved able hands at rendering the old songs (and who are featured on the Zero Boys' brand new album, Monkey). I was stalking the entrance area waiting for Paul to come in so I could get his signature, which he eventually obligingly provided, so I know he only came in the front door maybe fifteen minutes before the band went onstage. I guess he was getting his mojo working in back, by whatever means necessary, because Cutsinger, Kellog, and Lawson were all ready to go before he came out, and as the wait extended a few minutes longer than usual, a drunk Funkys habitue climbed onstage and roared into the microphone, just standing there afterwards, like he was waiting for something to happen.
So Lawson began to play "Nervous Breakdown," one of those songs you can pretty much figure any punk worth his salt knows the words to, and sure enough, when it came around - there was a moment of suspense where we all waited in anticipation - the unnamed punk began to belt out, with perfectly credible vocal style, "I'm about to have a nervous breakdown, my head really hurts!" Which is about as far as he got into it before a Funkys security guy leapt onto the stage to shoo him off. Which, really, was probably a mistake; it would have been pretty awesome for all concerned if the whole band had kicked in and we got a full fan-led rendition of the song while we waited for Paul (because there was time!). Still, the guy's shrugging, obliging, nobody-lets-me-have-any-fun disappointment as he shambled back offstage was also pretty funny to watch, too. Everyone is a comedian when drunk! It all made a charming mini-narrative that I'm happy to have witnessed.

Of course, when the Zero Boys actually started, they kicked ass. Their first two songs weren't ones I knew, but as soon as they started up on material from Vicious Circle, the pit went pretty nuts, actually. It was a really happy mood, and Paul Z. - apparently only a couple of years older than I am - was definitely fully awake by the time he was leaping around belting out the lyrics to "New Generation." There may not be that many people in Vancouver who remember them, and certainly very few who would have had a chance to have seen them at their last Vancouver show -  when Paul said into the mike "how many of you were even born in 1982?" he had a point - but the people who packed into the pit Friday made up for in the quality of their enthusiasm what they lacked in quantity (because even at capacity, Funkys holds, what, 200 people? 250? But they were the right people, the good people, the people I like; and they had a fucking great time).

I tried snapping photos but I was a bit dizzied on Fireball shooters (sweet and hot cinnamon whiskey! How have I missed this previously?) and my prime directive was to protect the vinyl I'd bought, which eventually ended up getting doused in beer when someone's pint glass went flying across the monitor-protectors and up-ended onto me. (I don't mind, actually: the damage to the first album's cover is visible, but the Sharpie ink didn't run, the beerstink isn't that bad, the vinyl itself is fine, and the scars to the cover were acquired in the best of all possible circumstances, in a way adding to the specialness of the artefact. War wounds!). Plus, like, people were climbing over me, quite literally, to get up onto the stage to stage dive. Most of my photos turned out like this:
But it was a delightful energy, and there were cute girls who wanted to sing along to "Living in the 80's," and the band did a kickass versions of all their best known songs; the new ones sounded cool, too, though I need to spend some time with the album, obviously. There was also some amusement to be found it my attempts to kill time between bands by whipping out a Jack London book I'm reading, Martin Eden, which I've just started. As soon as I broke it out - leaning on the monitor-protectors - the guy to my right - French, I think, or French-Canadian - asked me what I was reading, and I said something like, "Jack London - he was a bit of an alcoholic and I'm kind of drunk so it seemed appropriate!' Then I went back to the book and read a few more lines before the Zero Boys' bassist came over and asked me the same question (the band had not yet started to play but were almost done their soundcheck). For the hell of it, I gave a different answer; since the Zero Boys are from the States, I said, "Jack London - great American literature!" Then I tried to go back to the book, and then had the girl on my left ask me what I was reading. Since she was cuter than the French dude or the bassist, I gave the longest answer: "You know Swans, the band? I interviewed Michael Gira a few years ago, and he said he'd been on a Jack London kick, so I thought I'd give a Jack London novel a try." She proceeded to observe that you don't see many people reading at punk gigs, and I considered responding with, "that's because people keep interrupting," but I just gave up and put away my book. (It got a bit of beer on it too, when that pint glass poured out onto me, but I figure Jack London would appreciate that, maybe. His autobiography, after all, is entitled John Barleycorn: Alcoholic Memoirs).

Anyhow, I got a few good pics of The Excessives, the first band of the night that I got to see, playing what was their first gig in Vancouver in six years, I believe the singer said. All their songs seemed to be about sex or drugs or alcohol; they roared and raged and obviously have lots of fans (especially that guy in the Dayglo Abortions' "I Fucked Jesus" t-shirt, who was a bit of a caution in the pit)... but I don't know their material, couldn't really make out the lyrics, and live, loud, and drunk is not the best way to experience anything for the first time, so I can't really react to it. (The song about "good head" sure seemed fun, if that's what was being sung - kinda reminded me of the Nervous Eaters' classic "Just Head").

The Excessives also had by far the best bass drum art (viva Lee Marvin!):
I enjoyed the Jolts' supercharged cover of "Neat Neat Neat" by the Damned, which fit the look of the singer, but I spent most of their set hunting Zero Boys signatures, and didn't really make time to get any good pics. But even from this, wouldn't you think that was the Captain?
I did get about a minute of great video of the Zero Boys, however. I must have accidentally shut off the camera function midway through, so it cuts off - sorry! - but this does accurately convey the spirit of the night, brief though it may be. It's them performing my favourite song of theirs, "Civilization's Dying," about guns and gun violence (the chorus references the attempted assassinations of Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan, and the successful assassination of John Lennon - respectively, "the pope and the president and the big rock star who made a lot of money"). That's the guitarist's big red shoe that you see, on the monitor protector that I was leaning on. Thanks to wendythirteen and Thrashers for booking this great, great band! (And good luck to the Zero Boys on the rest of their tour).


Andy Nystrom said...

Nice review! Andy and Cat/There's Something Hard in There

japanesegodjesusrobot said...

I really liked this review as well. I saw them here in Philly last year with Night Birds (who were great, too) and Bad Doctors. And I hope you got that girl's number!

Allan MacInnis said...

Nah, I got a girlfriend! But it was kinda a nice feeling not following through not out of cowardice and uncertainty or any of those more usual reasons for not following through, but because I already have someone in my life that I love, eh?