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.

1 comment:

  1. Great review, man. Zappa is awesome. You should also look into Captain Beefheart sometime if you haven't already.