I confess that I thought this gig was going to take place at your standard music venue. After a bout of journalistic internet sleuthing I discovered that Zoo Zhop is a record store. This revelation resulted in a tumult of questions. Can alcohol be served in a record store? Would we be forced to perch on top of the stacks of vinyl? Could this possibly be the most interesting gig I would attend for some time? All these questions and more were answered on the night of June 21st. I walked by dilapidated buildings and locals to reach this modest shop front. Zoo Zhop bills itself as a record store, community centre and performance space. A large crowd crammed into the darkly lit back room for the show. It felt like you were hanging out in a friend’s cosy basement. What it lacked in decor it more than made up for in vibe. There was little separation between the band and the audience. There was such a communal feel that the coat check/bar looked oddly out of place. This did not stop me buying a beer though. (First question answered!)
For only five bucks it was a quality night of local bands. Koko kicked proceedings off with their urgent brand of pop punk. They boast no-nonsense song titles such as Punk as Fuck and Poopy Dog. At times they sound like a jaded 60’s garage band with their pop melodies and lyrics about suburbia and student loans. Then they cut the dreary middle class miasma with punk rock outbursts.
Once the entire audience returned from their smoke break it was time for the next band. Recent upstarts Weed describe themselves as sludge pop. Off-kilter grunge also comes to mind. It felt like a jamming session in a good way as a mounting wall of sound washed over me. There was plenty of distortion, glitchy guitars and yelping vocals. The crowd got into the groove and the room seemed to compress even smaller under the weight of the sound. The mighty Ben’s Tour was a highpoint of the set.
Headliners B-Lines put on the most straight forward punk display of the night and there’s nothing wrong with that. By now the crowd was full on tipsy and ready to break a sweat dancing. B-Lines got everyone into a frenzy with their short but punchy punk anthems. They are very much a Vancouver band. Their sharp guitar riffs and pounding drums reflect the dystopian side of this great city. I heard screamed references to Hastings Street and the constant rain. This just felt right in our grimy surroundings.
The raw music of the night was amazingly complimented by projections above the bands. A white sheet became a canvas for freaky retro black and white clips. These were films you never knew existed except in a drug induced nightmare. A 1950’s muscular hunk paraded in tiny underpants and lifted weights by a pool. Russian men ate unnameable substances from tubes. The mixture of the surging music and bizarre images was all very Twin Peaks. I expected a backwards talking midget to accost me at any moment. If this sounds hellish to you, it wasn’t. The whole night was the most fun I’ve had in a record store for quite some time.