Space cadets reunite
Zac Damon decided to instigate a Zoinks! reunion after receiving an e-mail from a fan. “It was this very sentimental—and admittedly very drunken—e-mail from this guy, all about how much he loved Zoinks! and how important they were to him growing up.” This feeling is apparently rampant because pop-punk fans from as far away as Florida and Wyoming are flying in to Reno to attend the two upcoming reunion shows. And Damon says that when he tells friends about the shows, he is shocked by how they gush and swoon.
There aren’t too many Reno bands that retain such heartfelt devotion nearly eight years after their demise. Guitarist Damon started the band in 1993 with bassist Rob Borges. Drummer Bob Conrad joined shortly thereafter and, later on, in 1995, guitarist Arne Cherkoss joined.
The band toured the continental United States seven times, as well as England, Europe and Alaska. They released three full-length albums (Bad Move, Space Cadet; Stranger Anxiety and Well and Good) all on the well-known punk label Dr. Strange Records, plus an EP and a gaggle of 7-inch singles and compilation appearances.
The band played in Hawaii with Green Day in 1996. Damon recalls being hassled by young music fans trying to get backstage to meet Green Day. At one point after the show, some enthusiastic Japanese rock fans caught his attention. Damon was annoyed because he assumed they were going to try to scam him into getting them backstage to meet their Green Day idols—but then they handed him Zoinks! records to autograph.
Damon left the band in 1996. The remaining trio wrote and recorded the final album and did a few more successful tours before calling it quits in 1998. Damon went on to play with Screeching Weasel, Common Rider and Crushstory and currently rocks in a major way with Big in Japan. Borges and Conrad played together in Prima Volta, and Cherkoss plays guitar and sings in Handgun Bravado out of Portland, Ore.
The Zoinks! sound is pop-punk with unusual musical sophistication and genuine wit instead of the puerile humor that often mars the genre. Songs like “Sapsucker Sluggo” and “Wooden Nickel” feature clever stops and starts, Conrad’s idiosyncratic and precise drumming and enough hooks for a few weeks of fishing. Anyone would be roused by the undeniable refrain of “Uma 14 Times.”
One of the two reunion shows will be an in-store, all-ages matinee at Sound and Fury Records. During its original run, the band played all-ages shows almost exclusively. “But anyone who used to go see us when they were teenagers is over 21 now,” says Cherkoss.
The band will play songs from all their records—even songs that band members have sworn never to play again—and some top-secret covers sure to please fans. The only thing missing will be Borges’ songs—because he decided against participating in the reunion. Mark Bradin, from the San Francisco band The Flipsides, will be filling in for the show.
Cherkoss promises “a rocking good time” but warns that the band might be a little under-rehearsed. But Cherkoss’ reasons for wanting to participate in the show are the same reasons that every music fan should want to attend: “It sounds like fun, and I haven’t seen these guys in a while, and these are some really good songs.”