Zeros to Receive SDMA Lifetime Achievement Award
September 4, 2009
By John Philip Wyllie
It has been an amazing and totally unexpected summer for the Zeros, a local punk band that formed in the late 1970s and reunited in June with all four original members for the first time in nearly 15 years. Often referred to as the “Mexican Ramones,” the Zeros (Javier Escovedo, Robert Lopez, Hector Penalosa and Baba Che-nelle) had a short, but notable career beginning with a 1977 gig they played in Rosarita Beach. High school students at the time and not yet driving, the Zeros were carted back and forth to L.A.’s then burgeoning punk rock scene regularly by Chenelle’s father, then a National City policeman. When they weren’t heading north to L.A. they were generally across the border enjoying similar success. Their popularity exploded after they recorded a string of punk rock standards written primarily by Escovedo. They went on to tour throughout the U.S. and abroad and stayed in the spotlight for a couple years until other musical interests captured their individual attention.
Several of the 30 or so songs that were penned during their heyday have been covered by other bands both here and abroad and their music has been kept alive by various websites run by devoted fans.
The Zeros fires were rekindled a year ago by a punk rock devotee and club employee who goes by the name “Bobby Adopted”.
“Bobby Adopted” works at the famous Gilman Street punk rock club in Berkeley. A year ago he began sending a steady stream of emails to Escovedo, the band’s lead guitar player, about the possibility of a band reunion taking place at his club. Each one sounded more desperate than the last.
“He was practically begging Javier to get the band back together and Javier was touched by his sincerity,” Penalosa said.
A year passed before the band actually performed live together, but on June 25 after a 15 year hiatus, the four original members performed before an enthusiastic sold out crowd at North Park’s Bar Pink. The gig was a tune-up for the two shows they had agreed to at the Gilman Street Club the next two nights in Berkeley. Initially, there was no thought of continuing beyond that, but when the band saw the enthusiastic welcome awaiting them they started to think about additional gigs and the offers started flowing in.
Gigs at San Diego’s Casbah and a theater in L.A. followed. Then it was on to L.A.’s legendary Troubadour, San Francisco’s Elbow Room and Alex’s in Long Beach. Additional gigs in Portland, Seattle and Tempe are already booked and a European tour is in the works for January. Local fans will get the opportunity to see them on September 26 at 8:00 p.m. at the Adams Ave. Street Fair.
“All of these shows have been sold out and enthusiastically received. Kids (who were not born when these songs were written) know all the words and are singing along to our songs. We have seen old punks and young punks and a number of long lost friends at our shows. That has been a big treat for me,” Penalosa said. “We are really grateful for everything that has happened recently. We weren’t really planning on doing more than three or four shows, but we have decided that while there is a demand we will deliver.”
The band was also taken by surprise when it was announced that they would be receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from the San Diego Music Association.
“We will be receiving our award on September 10 out at the Viejas Casino in Alpine, but it really hasn’t sunk in. It was a surprise and shock to us. We were not expecting it,” Penalosa said.
Tickets to the San Diego Music Awards at Alpine’s Viejas Casino begin at $25 and are available through the Casino’s website. The Zeros are just one of the many local bands that will be performing that evening.