Three and a half decades ago, a dapper quartet of Chula Vista rockers called the Zeros set the groundwork for the West Coast punk sound with their bombshell single “Wimp” b/w “Don’t Push Me Around,” released by Bomp! Records.
Guided by their idolization of groups such as the New York Dolls and the Velvet Underground, the Zeros and their trademark pointy boots went on to share the stage over the next four years with the likes of the Clash, Devo, Patti Smith, and John Cale.
They survived the notorious Elks Lodge debacle of 1979, when 60 Los Angeles riot police turned a concert by X, the Go-Gos, Los Plugz, and the Zeros into a bloody melee that went down in rock-and-roll history.
In recent years, the band even garnered the loyalty of an all-girl San Diego tribute band, Wild Weekend.The Muffs, Hoodoo Gurus, Mudhoney, and Sator all did covers of Zeros tunes.
In 2009, the Zeros regrouped for a summer tour with an all-original lineup and was crowned hometown hero at the San Diego Music Awards with a Lifetime Achievement Award presented by MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer.
Now, signed to Panache Booking and armed with an arsenal of covers and a few dozen classics, the Zeros are embarking on a series of dates with frontman Javier Escovedo’s younger brother Mario (the Dragons) on second guitar while original guitarist Robert Lopez performs an ongoing theater gig in Seattle as El Vez, the Mexican Elvis.
Sure, they’ve been called the Mexican Ramones (though they hadn’t even heard of the New York punk stalwarts when they first cranked up their amps as teenagers in 1976), but Joey Ramone may or may not have been quoting a magazine review when, a few decades ago, he told Javier, “You guys have a really original sound.”
Apart from a growing cult fascination with the Zeros and the era of attitude that they commanded alongside bands such as the Germs and the Weirdos, what’s different this time around?
Not much, says Javier, who anticipates a purely rock-and-roll showing of “pointy shoes, broken strings, and dropped picks,” adding, “I want us to play like kids at recess.”
The Zeros hit the Troubadour in L.A. last Friday with the Muffs and the Flytraps.