Sunday, July 15, 2012

Zappa Plays Zappa

A few nights ago, I had two musical firsts. I saw my first show at the Cannery Ballroom, and I got my introduction into the world of Frank Zappa, by way of Dweezil and the rest of Zappa Plays Zappa.

As long as the Cannery has been open, it has had a reputation for being a pretty bad place to see a show. The room has a funny L shape to it, and many a line of sight has been blocked by its mid-room pillars. Until recently, that is. The powers over at the Cannery/Mercy compound have just done some remodeling, and after removing said vision obstructors and raising the stage, it turns out that this venue isn't all that bad. Of course, it was only at about 70 percent capacity, and all the lines were short. I can imagine it being a bit more of a nightmare trying to get to the bar when it's sold out.

 I have been wanting to get into Zappa recently, so when a friend called with a plus one, I jumped on the chance to get as close as I could to the real thing. I've dabbled a bit with some Youtube videos and such, and I knew they were weird, but the one thing I knew for sure was that there was going to have to be some pretty great musicianship to pull this off.

They started with  "The Gumbo Variations", and took us on a complete tour of Zappaland. Now, I'm not going to pretend to know the entire catalog, but my friend at the show was in set list heaven, clearly approving of the night's selections. At one point, they were joined by Chester Thompson, former Zappa drummer, for a power house trio version of "Apostrophe". The obligatory drum solo rocked  and the Van Halen portion of the show was fun, as Dweezil showed off his Eddie chops. "I'm The Slime" and the show ending cover of "Whipping Post" were other musical highlights from the night.

The band did a great job with the psychedelic funk rock, nailing all of the weird stops and starts, along with every funny time signature. The singer had all the strange lyrics and voices covered, and the rhythm section kept it all together. Of course, I fell instantly in love with the purple wigged sax/keyboard player, who also took charge of the female vocal parts. And Dweezil, man that Dweezil, sure can shred. And not just run of the mill shredding either. He can play Frank's stuff right down to the T, all the while adding his own personal flavor. I've spent my whole life wishing I could play my Gibson SG like my dad, but Dweezil took it to a completely other level. Man, that guy can wail.

I'm probably not going to go out and buy a bunch of Zappa stuff, but my interest remains and my respect has doubled for the music of this wonderfully strange, yet freakishly talented family.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Collective Soul

Tonight, I got off of work just in time to slide down to Marathon Music Works and catch the encore of the Collective Soul show. The bad news is, I missed most of the show. The good news is, the two songs I caught in the encore were really the only songs I was interested in seeing. My friend who happens to work at the venue told me that most of their set was an album played in its entirety, which, I couldn't imagine being that great for anyone who likes music. The encore consisted of "December", or to us non-fans, "Spit Me Out", and the never-gonna-die, Du nu nu nu nu nu nu nu nu nu nu, YEAH, "Shine" anthem of flannel-hangers-on who still love the 90's. Two songs was quite enough. Three might have made me lose my expensive beers.

The crowd emitted a really strange vibe. Imagine the type of people who were into the Soul 15 years ago. Then imagine them 15 years down the road. The type of person who would sit through an entire live version of some record, only to yell "YEAH" at the end of a dozen Nu's, the type of people who stand behind their dates with their hands in the lady's back pockets. Not as long in the tooth as an Eric Clapton crowd, but pretty up there. Let's just say, on my way in, I saw a lot of people leaving. At 10.

The band itself made me wonder if what I was watching was serious. Really? It was like watching a Lab/Boxer mix run around the yard. There was some energy, but no real intelligence or depth behind their eyes. The encore reeked of a band that was playing songs that were almost 20 years old, but songs they knew they had to play none the less. The singer didn't even do the "YEAH". He "let" the crowd have that honor.  Basically, it made me laugh.

After the big rock ending, all five members staggered around the stage like they were drunk and hugged each other like they hadn't been sitting on a bus together all day. It was like they had just reunited and played their first show since Flannel Fest in 1994, and couldn't believe that the rock gods had brought them back together for this great reunion. The whole thing made me remember why I felt a little sick ever since the first time I heard these guys on Thunder 94. I can see people justifying going to a nostalgic show, maybe The Eagles, or Van Halen, or even Guns N Roses, but all you gotta do is turn on your local 90's radio station for an hour and you can get your fix of Collective Soul. I still haven't decided if I'm going to check out Bush Saturday night. On the upside, if I do, I might be able to copy and paste this article while only having to change a few key words.