Korean Gut breaks a sweat at the Zoo Zhop

Garage-poppers close out four-band record-store show with a soggy bang
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At the Zoo Zhop on Friday, August 17

What is a sweaty, fired-up mob of 20-somethings to do in Vancouver on an unusually sultry evening? Why, cram themselves into a tiny, humid record shop for a mostly local four-band punk gig, of course. And that’s exactly what we did at the Zoo Zhop last Friday, making sure to take a comically copious number of between-sets smoke breaks to survive the heat. Everybody out, everybody in, and pet the store cat, James Bond, on the way. Repeat.

Kicking off the night and setting the adrenaline-fuelled pace was the eagerly anticipated Nervous Talk, a brand-new concoction composed of equal parts Ballantynes, Moby Dicks, Timecopz, and Shitty Neighbours. The band didn’t even have a name until the day of the show, which was its first ever, so you might be right in guessing that nerves were the inspiration behind the moniker. If these locals were nervous, though, they masked it expertly.

The quartet breezed through its back-to-basics garage punk—more like the Moby Dicks, Timecopz, or Shitty Neighbours than the Ballantynes—like it was no sweat, even though the place was already sweltering after one song. And its charismatic, lanky bassist pulled enough scissor-legged rawk poses and orgasmic faces to convince anyone that Nervous Talk is no blasé side project.

Although the quick set was just a taste of more Nervous Talk to come, the crowd was definitely into it. One person even got a balloon bouncing around the room like a beach ball at Lollapalooza, until a skinny guy in the corner decided it was becoming a bother and popped the poor thing into smithereens. Killjoy.

Jangly noise rockers Crystal Swells got the audience going again with their ’60s-inspired jams, their best tunes coming from their latest 7-inch EP, HarshSide/SludgeFreaks. Bringing all the vigorous energy of classic garage bands like the Sonics, guitarist Tim McRobbie switched effortlessly between hard-and-fast punk riffage and chiming, resonant licks.

Meanwhile, singer-guitarist Nick Price wailed and warbled away with a demented expression on his face and a tendency to hop around on top of amps. Never mind that his head kept hitting the ceiling, which was draped with what looked like pink sheets and blankets from my childhood bedroom, casting a rosy glow over everything in sight.

Equally garage-y Albertans Fist City were the only out-of-towners on the bill, but they fit right in with their catchy surf-rock fretwork and heavy, toe-tapper beats. Twins Kier and Brittany Griffiths shared vocal duties like they’ve probably shared most things in life, crooning on “Endless Bummer”, off their latest LP, It’s 1983, Grow Up! “All I wanted was an endless summer/All I got was an endless bummer.” Oh, how Vancouverites can relate.

Fist City came across as laid-back, compared with the energy of the other bands, and the Lethbridge act was definitely one-upped by the tirelessly spirited Korean Gut, which ended the evening with a high-octane bang. If the audience was sick of surf rock at this point, you simply couldn’t tell. Forming the first real mosh pit of the night, the audience members bounced and shoved each other around like a bunch of kids let loose at recess, soaking up Korean Gut’s summery retro melodies as heavy bass lines rolled over the room in waves of the noisiest, peppiest garage pop.

Peeling off his soggy shirt, mesmerizing singer-guitarist Jarrett Evan Samson declared, “Don’t be ashamed of your body!” And that was as good a message as any to take away from this sweatiest of record-store concerts.

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