Saturday, February 15, 2014

Zappa on Zappa

Valentines Day, full moon, Dweezil Zappa in his tight 6-piece band performing his father's 40-year-old Roxy and Elsewhere compilation - the Future has arrived, and I think we're finally ready. Vocalist Ben Thomas not only sounded like Frank Zappa, he exuded the energy of Neal Cassady as he sang, recited, and played trumpet, trombone, and miscellaneous percussion instruments. Scheila Gonzalez played sax, flute and keys, wailing and crushing out tunes in her stiletto boots, Chris Norton noodled on his rack of keyboards, Ryan Brown drummed up a storm, and a bassist I'm going to apologize to for not catching his name kept things rocking.

Zappa Sr's tongue-in-cheek style and unexpected melodies irritated more people than they convinced, back in the day (which is not to say the man lacked his fans) - but perhaps the world has caught up and we're finally ready to hear jarring juxtapositions, shifting rhythms, and sardonic songs. That's what the crowd got Friday night, and judging from the screams and roars, a new Zappa has launched his father's music for a new generation. Frank was a composer, and Dweezil carries on: at one point he invited members of the audience on stage to dance to "Bebop Tango" where they twitched and jerked along with the music. Meanwhile DZ directed the crowd ranging in age from 60-somethings to teenagers, conducting noise levels and tones in mass participation.

Frank Zappa never doubted that the powers-that-be are out to screw us. BOHICA!, we all shouted: Bend Over, Here It Comes Again! He's completely at home in our modern world, where our "protectors" are spying on us (hey, they were in the 70's too, but they lacked modern-day tools that really vacuum up everything we're doing). I'm sure he would have written some great songs about drones, waterboarding, and our compulsion to police the world - well, the part that has resources we want, anyway. The rest of them can murder each other as they like.

For me the evening was a confluence of two life-streams: in the 70's the Ogden Theater was a down-at-the-mouth repertory movie house, no flick running more than 2 nights. For a dollar you could see Tallulah Bankhead, Errol Flynn, Alfred Hitchcock's early movies, and many more. And I discovered the Mothers of Invention at about that time, spending a spellbound half-hour listening to "Billy the Mountain," laughing to "Broken Hearts are for A**holes" and "Goin to Montana Soon, Goin to be a Dental Floss Tycoon."

So my advice, if you think Indie music is a little too restrained and diffident, if you want to hear intention behind the noise, if you appreciate rock bands but what they play on Classic Rock stations is a bore, is: get yourself some Zappa! Listen to Roxy by Proxy and rediscover music!