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Zeros' European tour a smash despite weather John Philip Wyllie | Fri, Apr 16 2010 02:29 PM

Back in the late 1970s when a quartet of local kids from Sweetwater and Chula Vista high schools formed a punk band called the Zeros, they had no idea that they might still be performing in the 21st century. Not only are Zeros founders Javier Escovedo, Baba Chenelle, Hector Penalosa and Robert Lopez still together, they just completed a 21-day, 19-date tour of Europe. 

"At our ages (approaching 50), I am surprised that we were crazy enough to try it," said Penalosa, the Zeros' bass player. "We were like a bunch of 19-year- olds running around Europe. Without a doubt the music is what keeps us young and what keeps us going."

The band began with four frigid dates in Germany, worked its way through France, played a single date in Holland, progressed through four more shows in Spain and then concluded with four gigs in Italy -the last being in Rome. The band was not prepared for the arctic temperatures they encountered in Germany. The situation was made far worse when the heater on the van they rented went kaput. And that wasn't the only problem they had.

 "The day before we were to perform in Paris, the promoter for that show unexpectedly died - apparently, he fell down a flight of stairs," Penalosa said. "A lot of the people who showed up to the cafŽ where we were playing were there to pay their respects to the deceased. Naturally, the emotional level was very high on the sad side. But once the music started, something happened and everybody let go of their grief. In fact, they went bananas. They rushed the stage and I had to move from where I normally play to the center in order to make room for them. It turned out to be a very special gig."

There were plenty of other high points as well. 

 "It was exciting to meet our fans," Penalosa said. "Many of them sang along with every song. A few of them even joined us on stage. To see the strong devotion that remains for our band (after all these years) was quite a treat. In Valencia, Spain, the crowd was singing at the top of its lungs. I encouraged that by telling them Mas fuerte! Mas fuerte! They ended up being louder than we were."

What began as a simple reunion gig last April has now snowballed into first additional California dates, then a brief national tour, acknowledgement by the San Diego Music Awards Association with a lifetime achievement award and now the just completed 19-gig tour of Europe. Where it will all end is anybody's guess, but there is talk of playing at a summer music festival in Toronto and a 2011 tour of Japan.

Not bad for a group of middle-aged guys from Chula Vista.  

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