Monday, April 19, 2010

Zero Boys at the Record Bar

Posted By on Mon, Apr 19, 2010 at 9:37 AM

Zero Boys' frontman Paul Mahern stood on stage as the band prepared to start their set, and told the audience that the band was a little nervous, and to go easy on them. There was no need: the band was given love from the crowd from the first note.

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That's surprising, because the band started their set with all-new songs. All of them were a little more melodic, and the tempo wasn't slow, but it wasn't near the blitzkrieg attack the band's older material was. The songs were damned good, however, sounding a lot like Lords of the New Church -- not gothic in atmosphere, just in terms of pacing and delivery.

After the new songs (for which the audience was immeasurably polite, if not very enthusiastic), Mahern made mention of the fact that they were "starting you off with some new stuff," and then the band launched into "Vicious Circle." They played damn near the entire album, and the audience went off for each song like they'd been waiting for years -- which, of course, they had. Fists pumped for "Trying Harder," fingers pointed for "Civilization's Dying," and everyone lost their collective shit when Zero Boys closed with "Mom's Wallet."

The guitar work wasn't quite so distinctively buzzsaw as it was on the record, but every riff, note, and lick were there, even if they disappeared in the mix here and there. The rhythm section is what dominated -- the bass guitar came out of those speakers like the fist of God. Mahern's delivery was snotty as it was recorded nearly 30 years ago, and it seemed to have gained some breadth. "Inergy" was remarkably epic in terms of melodic vocal delivery.

What do you do for an encore when you've played almost your entire debut record? You play somebody else's music: in this case the Strangeloves' "Night Time," punked up and amazing, with bits of both the 13th Floor Elevators' "You're Gonna Miss Me" and the Seeds' "Pushin' Too Hard" before coming back to "Night Time."

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The Sex Offenders seemed to frighten off some of the kids. Frontwoman Heather even wondered aloud if the men seemed afraid that she had bigger balls than them. The band played straight-ahead punk rock, and maybe the audience just wasn't as familiar with them as the rest of the openers, but it seemed like people were kind of apathetic during the Sex Offenders' set. Their loss -- the band played like they didn't give a toss if anyone was watching or not.

The opener for whom the audience went off for was Dark Ages There were nearly as many people up front for them as there were for Zero Boys. When I saw them for the first time last year, it was in a record store, with the attendant PA, and this was onstage at on of the best-sounding clubs in the area. The difference was astounding -- Ben and Justin, despite a few false starts on bass and guitar, worked in tandem to provide shred and low end, while the band's new drummer hit the skins with enough for force to rattle the ceiling in the bathroom. Jordan stalked the stage like a caged beast, exploding onto the monitors to shout lyrics to the eagerly awaiting audience.

Der Todesking and Shred Scare had their devoted followings. Der Todesking had kids stomping about to "Kicking and Screaming," like they were evil dwarves bent on destruction. It was creepy and spooky to hear the band throbbing and pulsing onstage while seeing these kids crouched and crept about the pit. Shred Scare was pure, full-on thrashy skatepunk. I kept expecting to hear either an Anthrax or JFA cover, but it never happened, sadly.

The way I tend to gauge the draw of any given punk show is whether or not it manages to draw people from another city. It sounds ridiculous, but people hate to make that trip down I-70. It's a two-way thing: people from KC rarely go to Lawrence shows, and vice versa. In this case, there were quite a few Replay regulars, as well as some kids from the Shirley Temple of Doom, amongst the myriad Kansas City folks jam-packed into the Record Bar.

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