Zero Boys - Live in Indianapolis (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Zero Boys

Live in Indianapolis (2021)

live show

The fear in seeing an older band later in their career is that they’ll be a severely diminished version of what they once were. Zero Boys wasted little time laying those fears aside on Saturday August 21st at the Black Circle Brewery in their hometown of Indianapolis. From the opening notes of “Long Way To Go”, to the closing refrain of “Trying Harder”, the enthusiastic crowd was treated to a local punk history lesson and one hell of a punk show.

This “40th anniversary” show was rescheduled from last summer. It still works however, as 2021 marks 40 years since the release of Zero Boys’ classic debut LP Vicious Circle. Needless to say, that album was well represented. The show was also moved outside, which allowed for a bigger, safer crowd. Despite the larger confines, they still somehow still managed to maintain the intimacy necessary for a truly great punk show.

The show was opened by last minute local fill-ins Adictos Al Kaos. The energetic quintet sang about cops in Spanish, and the older folks in the crowd seemed to enjoy their Cheech and Chong reference. Dollars to Donuts, a trio from Grand Rapids, MI played next. The sentimental types in the audience were amused when the drummer proposed/got engaged at the show. Neither band was a perfect fit for the bill, but both did just fine.

Darkness fell before Zero Boys hit the stage a little after nine, which did a lot for the ambience. ZB singer Paul Mahern was at the center of the action. He’s tall and fit, with long white hair that trails behind him as he stalks the stage. He’s joined in the current lineup by OG Zero Boys drummer Mark Cutsinger. The newer guitar and bass players were no slouches, and played their roles flawlessly. Mahern mentioned that the quartet started out playing mostly covers before launching into their only cover of the night, Alice Cooper’s 1971 classic “Long Way To Go”. The song seemed like a proclamation of their intentions with the repeated refrain of “we still got a long way to go”.

The crowd was as diverse in age as you’re likely to find at a punk show. There were 60 plus year olds, plenty of middle agers, some young Mohicans, and even a few kids. Multiple generations were clearly enjoying the spectacle. The front of the large stage was lined with gravel, which made dancing seem a little hazardous. Most folks were content to stand back and sing along to some of the greatest punk songs of all time.

Mahern talked about making their debut EP, Living in the ‘80s and then Vicious Circle the following year, and the band played several cuts from each. The one or two minute history lessons between the bunches of songs really tied the set together. The strong 2014 comeback LP Monkey was represented by a trio of songs. The underrated songs from the aborted second Zero Boys record that ended up on the History Of compilation sounded great in a live setting.

A Couple songs came from the 2014 EP Hollywood. Those tracks were previously unrecorded songs written by original guitarist Terry “Hollywood” Howe, who died of an overdose in 2001. New, digital only track "Don't Shoot Can't Breathe" closed the regular set. The two mostly forgotten early ‘90s records did not get much love, but “Indianapolis” from 1991’s Make It Stop was the first half of the two song encore. “Trying Harder”, the definitive song about the Midwestern punk work ethic, brought things to a satisfying conclusion.

Towards the end of the night, Mahern said that this was the best show the band had ever played in Indy. He seemed sincere, and it did not come across as pandering. Maybe it was. It’s hard to find any fault in Zero Boys’ performance, and the audience was eating from the palm of their hand. As much as it occasionally seemed like a victory lap, Zero Boys appear to still have plenty of gas left in the tank.

Confessions of a merch whore: Zero Boys only had one T-shirt design, but made up for it with their excellent vinyl selection. I picked up the Living in the ‘80s 7” (clear), the Hollywood 10” (orange with black splatter), and the Monkey LP (basic black), all of which I previously had on CD only. They also had History Of, which I already had on wax, but ironically not Vicious Circle, which I also already had on wax.

Coda: The Zero Boys show finished relatively early, so we were also able to catch the last two bands at the Clash Bash at the Melody Inn. The Enders and The Brixtons helped us celebrate Joe Strummer’s birthday in style. The Mel has been hosting Saturday Punk Rock Nights for many years, and is an Indianapolis legend in its own right. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area.

Zero Boys setlist:

Long Way to Go

Stoned to Death

Stick to Your Guns

Vicious Circle

Amphetamine Addiction

New Generation

Dirty Alleys/Dirty Minds

Civilizations Dying

Living in the '80s

Anti Breakdown

Detroit Boys

Almost Cried

Drug Free Youth

Down the Drain

You Can Touch Me

Forced Entry


Johnny Better Get

Blood's Good

Human Body


It's a Long Way Home

Don't Shoot Can't Breathe



Trying Harder