One of these days we’ll tell you how much Azzarello & Risso’s 100 Bullets rocked our world. But today we remember something else that rocked our world: Zen Guerilla. What’s the connection? Check out this page from 100 Bullets. Right in the middle, on the wall outside the bar where this scene takes place, Risso includes a concert poster for the band Zen Guerilla.
That’s not just a clever name Eduardo Risso came up with. It’s a real band we had the pleasure of seeing several years ago in downtown Ypsilanti, Michigan.
The venue was a now-defunct coffee shop/concert venue called The Green Room. The Green Room was one of our favorite places. Most of our favorite local bands played there from time to time, and occasionally we would get avant garde visitors like Eugene Chadbourne. We also discovered the Northwoods Improvisers there, a fascinating acoustic modern jazz trio from Mount Pleasant.
The Green Room also hosted poetry readings, a scene we avidly took part in for many years. We met some really interesting cats there and made a few friends we still keep in touch with. The Green Room sat just across the street from The Elbow Room, a cool dive bar that featured local and touring hard rock bands, and which outlived the Green Room by several years.
One summer, circa 1998, we made one of many trips to the Green Room to check out a local band. It might have been Morsel, an Ann Arbor favorite with a dense, heavy, trippy sound that defied classification in just about any genre of rock.
Regardless, Zen Guerilla came as a surprise to us that evening. They unleashed a brain-smashing onslaught of super-heavy blues riffs at top volume. The singer – who, if we recall correctly, doubled on harmonica – rocked like a man possessed by atomic blues demons.
Don’t get us wrong. These guys didn’t play blues like Lightning Hopkins or B.B. King. The chords and song structures may have been similar, but the delivery was pure hard rock. We just kind of stood there with our mouths open for a few songs, dumbfounded by rock power. Eventually we made out way to the stage to whip our long hair back and forth in heavy metal tribute.
Afterwards, we bought their album. In fact, it was a cassette tape. It was lost many years ago, and the internet isn’t helping us identify it for you. But, you can jump to Amazon and see the Zen Guerilla Artist Page for a brief bio and some cool samples. Our tape never came close to matching the raw power of what we saw and heard on stage that night, but it was a performance we will never forget.
Thanks to the creators of 100 Bullets for slipping in this Zen Guerilla poster. It brought back some very fond memories of our years in Michigan, and reminded us how awesome it is to show up somewhere and have your mind blown by a band you never heard of before. Rock on!