Their shows are fast-paced with a respectable amount of moshing from fans. And though the lyrics don’t shy away from exploring serious issues like the political climate and drug addiction, the ever-smiling Z.G.s deliver a soundly uplifting message.
So to anyone who has been following the band over the years, it came as no surprise that they were enthusiastically invited to tour Australia this March. It all started with some friendly networking on social media with the singer of Australian band Strawberry Fist Cake.
“They were booking a U.S. tour and were looking for help booking a show in Cincinnati,” says Z.G.s bassist Louie Groh.
Though The Z.G.s were going to be on their own U.S. tour during that time, Louie connected the band to a local venue to set up a show.
“They ended up having such a great time in our city that they came back the following year,” he says.
The seeds of The Z.G.s’ first trip to Australia were planted during Strawberry Fist Cake’s second visit to Cincinnati.
“On their second tour here, we were able to play a show with them,” Louie says. “We had a drunken conversation after the show along the lines of, ‘You all should really come to ’Straya,’ to which we emphatically replied, ‘Don’t you worry, we will!’ ”
And they did, loading up the band and traveling across the world for a tour down under.
The Z.G.s is a family affair — Louie’s brother Jim is on drums, his cousin Joe Groh is on guitar and friend Ryan Zentay is the lead singer. With Joe on break from the band to focus on his new baby, the group tapped in Paige Beller of the Dayton band Jasper The Colossal to take his place on tour.
Throughout the process, The Z.G.s relied on assistance from their new friends in Strawberry Fist Cake, who toured with them.
“They are a well-established band there and they used their connections to book a tour with us,” Louie says. “They contacted venues and the bands, got all nine of our shows set up, provided us with a place to stay and were just amazing to a bunch of strangers from the U.S. Because of (them), touring Australia was phenomenal.
“I honestly don’t know how to thank them enough for everything they did for us. The entire tour was one fun day after the other.”
While traveling in a new country would be daunting for most, The Z.G.s realized it wasn’t too different from Cincinnati.
“Riding across Australia is like riding across the Midwest, but with kangaroo instead of deer,” Beller says.
“The best part about all of this to me was that playing in the music scene over there reminded me of being home. Everyone was so friendly and helpful,” Louie adds.
The tour took them through Adelaide, Melbourne, Katoomba, Sydney and Brisbane, as well as through Australia’s own Punk traditions and etiquette.
“I had been traveling with a half a box of wine tied to my backpack for a day or so,” drummer Jim says. “The next morning in the van on our way to Sydney, we all decide to get into this box of wine, or ‘goon bag,’ as the Aussies call it. Apparently, boxed wine is by far the cheapest way to get drunk in Australia.
“We proceed to polish off this box, drinking straight from the tap while swapping stories about music, books, travel, love and life in general. By the time we got to Sydney, the collar of my T-shirt was soaked with cabernet.”
The Z.G.s also brought a little bit of humor from back home with them. Jim purchased Louie a kangaroo onesie as a Christmas present the December before, while the tour was still in the planning stages. Naturally, Louie decided to bring it along and wear it on stage.
“Well, being a big guy, that thing took up over half the room in my carry-on luggage, so I barely brought anything else with me,” Louie says.
The onesie lead to a trail of infamy along the tour, and people kept asking Louie to wear it. Since Louie isn’t one to let anyone down, he mostly obliged, even in 90-degree weather.
“I proceeded to suffer mild heat exhaustion,” he says with a laugh. “But thanks to the loving Aussies at the show, I always had either a water or a vodka cruiser.”
When asked for a story that stuck with him most from the tour, singer Zentay says it’s hard to pick just one.
“It was all just a bunch of little moments tied together with booze, friends and good music,” he says. “Playing with my eyes closed on a boat full of drunk, Hawaiian-shirt-wearing punks was amazing. Oh, and of course the kangaroo sanctuary.”
You can catch The Z.G.s back on their home turf every Tuesday in April at Northside’s Urban Artifact, where they’re joined by a variety of local and touring musical friends.
The residency ends April 24 with a “Punk Covers Night” featuring area bands Rhythm and Booze and Hot Diggity Daffodil.
For fans of classic, feel-good Punk, The Z.G.s’ live performances are not to be missed. Befitting a band that started as a way for a few relatives to kick back and rock out together, their live shows have a way of making you feel like part of the family.