ZERO | 02.02 & 02.03 | THE FILLMORE, SF

Words by: Alan Rhody :: Images by: Susan J. Weiand

Zero :: 02.02 & 02.03 :: The Fillmore :: San Francisco, CA

Zero :: 02.03.07 :: The Fillmore, SF
The infamous vessel pulled into its old home port with all hands on deck (and then some!) to be greeted by a curious and loving crowd. The shows were billed as a Zero homecoming with special quests, and they certainly delivered on both those promises.

Constructed in the wilds of Marin, California during the mid 80's, Zero vigorously plied the dark barrooms of the new Barbary Coast (San Francisco's North Beach, Haight St., and Inner Sunset districts) during its early years. As the band became better known over the next decade they started filling up local favorites like the Great American Music Hall, The Fillmore, and the now defunct Maritime Hall, while cultivating a worldwide network of fans. Many of the audience, especially at Saturday's sold-out performance, were members of the extended Zero family. These shows marked the band's first performance at The Fillmore in almost a decade and the band's first performance in the Bay Area since 2000. Though crewmembers have formed various near-Zero configurations throughout the intervening years, it wasn't until March 2006, when co-founder and guitarist Steve Kimock played alongside drummer Greg Anton, and saxophonist Martin Fierro —an essential ingredient of Zero-ness— that the mighty ship was resurrected from the depths.

Steve Kimock - Zero :: 02.03.07 :: The Fillmore, SF
Due to an ever shifting lineup and just a handful of appearances over the past year, it's hard to tell who's in Zero permanently and who was a special guest. Joining the core trio of Kimock, Anton, and Fierro over the course of the two nights were previous crewmembers Judge Murphy (lead vocals), Liam Hanrahan (bass), and Pete Sears (piano), as well as the new recruits Melvin Seals (organ) and Kimock's teenage son John Morgan Kimock (drums). Old friends Donna Jean Godchaux Mackay (vocals) and Arnie Green (vocals, guitar) joined newer friends Suzanne Sterling (backup vocals), Sikiru Adepoju (talking drum), New Monsoon's Brian Carey (congas) and ALO's Dan Lebowitz (guitar). It could have been an auditory mess with so many cooks in the kitchen, but thankfully the house sound was managed by Howard Danchik of UltraSound fame, who can make this band sound better than anyone. To make the mix more challenging, Kimock broke out his usual arsenal, most notably some beautiful steel and lap guitars.

Sterling & Green - Zero :: 02.02.07 :: The Fillmore, SF
The eclectic setlists seemed designed with Murphy, Zero's most notable vocalist, in mind. Until these performances he had only sung with the reunited Zero last March in Colorado and last June in Santa Rosa. Friday night's show began with "Baby, Baby" - Anton and Kimock's highly customized rendition of an Aretha Franklin song introduced back in 1984 - and "Tangled Hangers," one of Zero's first instrumental compositions. Then, to the delight of the crowd, Judge debuted two of his signature songs, "Chance in a Million" followed by "Horses." The rest of the sets, two each night, featured the usual mix of treasures from the late '80s ("Golden Road," "Tongue n' Groove," "Many Rivers to Cross"), mainstays from the early '90s ("Gregg's Eggs," "Mercury Blues," "Home on the Range," "Anorexia," "Forever is Nowhere," "Catalina," "Spoken For"), and newer pearls "Sun, Sun, Sun," "Ermaline," and "Merle's Boogie" in honor of Merl Saunders's visit on Saturday night.

Scattered throughout the sets were Zero-fied versions of some classic oldies: "Boogie on Reggae Women" (Stevie Wonder), "Slipping into Darkness" (War), "Watchin' the River Flow" and "Highway 61 Revisited" (both Dylan), "Layla" (Eric Clapton), "Big Love" (Little Village), and "Hey Jude" (Beatles). "Crazy Fingers" and "That's What Love Will Make You Do" satiated the Deadheads. Though one of the folks onstage played with the Grateful Dead, two played in Jerry Garcia's bands, and three others regularly collaborate with Grateful Dead members now, these guys are not just another Dead-esque jamband. This is the legendary ZERO, and there is NOTHING like them.

We caught up with some of the participants after the shows:

JamBase: Judge, the fans were very happy to see you at the Fillmore. How come you were missing from some previous shows?

Judge Murphy - Zero
02.02.07 :: The Fillmore, SF
Judge Murphy: I had a summer schedule and a fall tour with Lansdale Station. It is my main musical focus. I had a conversation with Steve [Kimock] in January and asked him which night he wanted me to come down, to which he replied, "Well, I was hoping you could come down both nights."

JamBase: Did Lauren [Judge's wife and musical collaborator] make you do extra chores around the house if you agreed to play with Zero again?

Judge Murphy: Lauren is actually the one who encouraged me to do these shows. She knew that I wanted to reconnect with my brothers in the band and our vast Zero fan base. That's the spirit of the San Francisco musical family.

Does playing The Fillmore present any special challenges compared to other venues?

Judge Murphy: Actually, playing The Fillmore is so much fun that I feel cocky as hell the minute I walk in the joint. I love playing the Fillmore and Howard Danchik is the best sound man anyone could hope for.

Suzanne Sterling: The only challenge in playing The Fillmore is living up to the standards of performers that have had amazing shows there over the years!

Martin Fierro: When playing The Fillmore it's hard not to get distracted by the social part of the shows. I saw so many people I love that I hadn't seen in years. The week before the shows I couldn't answer the phone due to everyone calling for guest passes. It's also hard work just to be there, walking up and down all those stairs. We got there around noon both days to work on the sound and didn't leave until two in the morning.

How's your back nowadays, Martin? We saw you resting up there occasionally.

Martin Fierro - Zero
02.02.07 :: The Fillmore, SF
Martin Fierro: Actually, it's my legs that are all fucked up. Four years after I nearly died in Hawaii [after being tumbled in the rough surf] I had an operation to fuse some vertebrae in my back. During surgery, a spinal nerve was accidentally cut, which left me with a lot of problems, especially with my right leg. Later on, I fell and broke my ankle. So, I have to sit sometimes. But, I feel blessed by the Great Spirit to still be here, still playing music. You know I've been playing professionally for over 50 years now [Fierro recently celebrated his 65th birthday]. When I'm onstage I still feel like I did when I was 16. I still have that same sense of excitement and adventure.

Do you do anything special to prepare for a Zero show? How's it different than playing with other bands?

Suzanne Sterling: Honestly? The preparations involve completely releasing preconceived notions of setlists and rehearsed songs! Anything goes, so stay on your toes.

Judge Murphy: Lansdale Station is a vocal band, and Lauren and I do warm-ups and get a different kind of game face. In Lansdale Station, I get to pick the songs.

How are the Zero set lists formulated?

Judge Murphy: By Steve and Greg.

What were the highlights of the shows for you?

Pete Sears - Zero
02.03.07 :: The Fillmore, SF
Judge Murphy: I think my two favorite performances were "Horses" and "Ermaline." There was some very magical energy Friday night. Melvin Seals absolutely had stardust on his fingers and in his heart this weekend. He is such a wonderful man. Steve burned up the stage on "Mercury" with a recent acquisition of a double-neck lap steel that a fan brought down to show him, and went home without. I warned him bringing Steve guitars could be dangerous. These shows presented a side of this band that I had not yet experienced before. It's interesting how adding different people changes the Zero mix so much. John Morgan Kimock is a great young man with vast talent. I remember him playing drums at Zero gigs and driving the tapers crazy when he was two years old. But, the high point of my weekend was to stand next to and play music with my dear friend, Martin Fierro. He is the guy who brought me into Zero and rode shotgun on my first Zero tour.

Suzanne Sterling: I loved doing that Stevie Wonder tune 'cuz I had just learned the lyrics about five minutes before we performed it. Also, loved the three-part harmonies we got on "Many Rivers to Cross." Singing with Donna is always a treat. I also loved Melvin's slamming organ and Pete's lyrical keys trading off Steve's always dependable wizardry. And I think that Greg is a mad genius drummer of incredible subtlety. I've been a Zero fan for many years and so as far as I was concerned it was all a highlight!

Martin Fierro: I loved every minute. I've been playing with some of these folks for years - Donna since the early '70s, Steve since the Underdogs, and Gregg, Pete, and Liam, they're my brothers. I look forward to playing a lot more with Melvin. He's such a sweetheart.

Have you ever made Liam laugh onstage?

Donna Jean - Zero
02.03.07 :: The Fillmore, SF
Martin Fierro: Liam's a pretty serious, motivated guy. You can always depend on him. He plays so good sometimes he scares the crap outta me. Not many people know he's a fantastic guitar player, too.

Did you feel the love from the audience?

Suzanne Sterling: The audience was lovely. The love was written on every dreamy, sweaty, lost-in-the-music face.

Judge Murphy: So much love. I'm a Bay Area guy and I'm blessed to play music for people who understand the music they hear. It's very rare when I play a show where I don't enjoy the crowd.

Martin Fierro: Oh yeah, I love our fans. I always try to look out in the audience, make eye contact, and smile. I think I'm the only one in the band that does that. I tell those guys it's ok to do it!

What, if any plans do you have to play with Zero in the future?

Judge Murphy: The guys in Zero will always have a place in my musical history and I am sure that we will continue to do gigs when the timing works.

Suzanne Sterling: Don't know but I'd be happy and honored to play with them anytime.

Martin Fierro: Hopefully, we'll be doing some shows over the summer and in other parts of the country.


02/02/07 (Fri) The Fillmore - San Francisco, CA
Set 1: Baby Baby, Tangled Hangers, Chance In A Million, Horses, Anorexia, Boogie On Reggae Women
Set 2: Slipping Into Darkness > Sun Sun Sun > Drums > Highway 61 Revisited, Big Love, Ermaline, Hey Jude+, Happy Birthday*
*To Arnie | ^sung by Amy Green

02/03/07 (Sat) The Fillmore - San Francisco, CA
Set 1: Tongue 'n' Groove, Gregg's Eggs > Watchin the River Flow, Spoken For, Forever is Nowhere, Merl's Boogie, Home on the Range* > Layla Reprise*
Set 2: Crazy Fingers, Catalina, That's What Love, Many Rivers, Golden Road, Mercury Blues
*with Dan Lebowitz of ALO and Arnie Green

JamBase | San Francisco
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[Published on: 2/16/07]

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All Loving Liberal White Guy Fri 2/16/2007 03:12PM
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All Loving Liberal White Guy

steve kimock is awesome. it's really almost a crime that he's not as famous and recognized as he should be.

hippiehater Fri 2/16/2007 10:20PM
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The only exposure to zero or in fact steve kimock is a live gig with derek trucks that I recently got off of --- AWESOME

outerbank5 starstarstarstarstar Sat 2/17/2007 07:42AM
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Great story! MORE ZERO!

billywilke Sat 2/17/2007 07:53AM
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god i bet that was a fucking amazing show

MatthewAtienza Sat 2/17/2007 09:54AM
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that show looks so cool. I wish I still lived there.

livin_grateful starstarstarstarstar Sat 2/17/2007 09:58AM
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HOT BUTTERED DINGLEBERRY CHEESE JUICE, thats why Steve Kimock is soooo special!

WILBUR!!! Sat 2/17/2007 11:02AM
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aint it the truth! although I really really miss that great SKB formation (with walters and mathis), it's fantastic to see kimock doing so many different things with so many different groups. this man truly is amazing!!! Can't wait for Banyan!!!

NickBoeka starstarstarstar Sat 2/17/2007 01:43PM
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Twas a really great weekend indeed. Great review, capturing the vibe and feel of the night well. Sue, great shots as always!

saba starstarstarstar Sat 2/17/2007 04:20PM
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nice. i miss chester's!

erocstar starstarstarstar Sun 2/18/2007 01:45AM
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The show was really groovin! Great sound and musical bliss. Although i had a fever of 102, i couldn't stop myself from gettin down.

Blakemeister Sun 2/18/2007 11:12AM
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That crew needs to come to Fayetteville. George's is waiting.

SaveTheRobots Sun 2/18/2007 12:53PM
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Martin Fierro looks like such a bad ass.

johnnygoff starstarstarstarstar Mon 2/19/2007 09:34AM
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Not only did this review make me want to see Zero, it made want to be in San Fran. it made me want to go to the Fillmore again. It also made me yearn for more "Post-show" interviews with our featured bands...I love to see their comments! Great piece!

rossco8 starstarstarstarstar Mon 2/19/2007 09:59AM
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This band is unlike any other. No one will ever touch their sound or energy. Check out "Ermaline" and "Rigor Mortis>Outskirts of Town>Rigor Mortis" on Can't wait for the Vega/Kimock reunion.

sorenheyer starstarstarstarstar Mon 2/19/2007 11:06AM
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Hands down it was the best two nights of music I've had in 6.5 years!! A 15 year love affair that never gets old!
A great story, stunning photos and a huge weekend!! Thank you ZERO.

Krstmoon starstarstarstarstar Mon 2/19/2007 12:18PM
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This show felt like a homecoming for me too. It was a romatic place to be Saturday night. Zero will live forever.

kindfolk starstarstarstarstar Mon 2/19/2007 02:46PM
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Steve is amazing...I have been fortunate enough to see him several times over the last ten years or so. Living in Ohio, it's not always that easy to catch Steve, Zero or any form of these great musicians. Quite possibly one of the most under-rated musicians out there. And what a great Zero line-up for this show. Man O man...wish i could of been out west for this one!

turtlegirl starstarstarstarstar Mon 2/19/2007 03:06PM
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I traveled from Mississippi to see these shows and I'd do it again and again and again....There were definitely many musically magical moments that I won't soon forget. Thank you ZERO!!!

Marcsmall Mon 2/19/2007 05:06PM
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Who is Steve Kimock and why does he keep blowing my mind?

kem starstarstarstarstar Mon 2/19/2007 08:43PM
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It was an amazing two nights of Zero selling out the Fillmore and then tearing the roof off the sucka! Everyone there seemed so happy and turned on by the music!
Even after all these years Steve continues to surprise and delight me! John Morgan and Greeg Anton keeping it all in rhythm, Melvin playing his heart out, Liam thumping my ass and Martin's playing is just as saxy as ever!! Loved seeing and hearing Donna Jean, Arne and the other vocalists!...what more can I say except come back soon, and Sue you are the rock photographer extroadinaire!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstar Wed 2/21/2007 03:16AM
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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

fierro, sears, kimock.. oh man.. this is serious ZERO..
hehe.. how cool.. sorry I couldnt see them. peace yall..

EVILFUNK starstarstar Sat 2/24/2007 09:45AM
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Marten IS a badass! He sat in on a gig I played here in SF yeas ago...what an honor! 100% psycedelic warrior!

BrookSF starstarstarstarstar Thu 3/1/2007 01:52PM
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Zero is back! Yes, I wish they would come to the South East. I miss Zero and the Fillmore. Sounds like a great show. Martin is a sweet heart and an excellent musician. xxoo

chilla69 starstarstarstarstar Wed 3/21/2007 01:42PM
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Martin Fierro IS a badass. He looks like one of Fred Sanford's drinking buddies. Where's Skillet and Bubba?

caitlink69 Thu 4/5/2007 11:45AM
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Good to hear the bands doing well and you put behind grudges and had Judge back. Keep rockin and come back to Fayetteville and visit. See you soon....

thelostsailor Wed 4/11/2007 04:49PM
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What ever happened to Bobby Vega?

DEADGABE starstarstarstarstar Tue 4/17/2007 02:13PM
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I have seen Kimock many times from NYC to Colorado, and he is always of the headiest ingredients. Seen him play shows where quite frankly...I was pissed because he ended it too soon, or did not play all the stuff I wanted to hear, but how can one complain about quality of this kind in a time when our seen is on the verge of extinction. Why do you need him to be famous, "Maximus?" Is it to save the seen? That's cool, but it aint gona be Kimock. Put the heat on PISH, they peaced out and left us with MOE. And Bonnaroo is more like Bonacrap. There is nothing marketable about kimock, he is talented not for his antics, or appearance but because we will always catch his show when he's in town, and that makes Kimock famous.
just puicked up my ticket from Irving Plaza for Kimock on Friday, so...peeps go run and grad a tick yo, box office closes at 6:00, and they even sell to custy lookin fools like me in a suit.
this sellout must get off this wire and sell some more bars.