Zappa Plays Zappa

I was lucky enough to catch Dweezil (‘the Dweez’) Zappa twice this week.  He exclusively played his father‘s (wiki) music except one that was one of his in the second show.

This excellent band did a different set each night, first at the Gothic on Thursday (2/13) and then the Ogden on Friday (2/14-VD).  I haven’t seen the set list for the Friday show yet, but it’ll show up here in the next day or so, but they did the entire Roxy And Elsewhere set from the album of the same name (issued 40 years ago).  I’ve seen Dweezil twice before: at the Filmore 3 years ago and 2 years ago when ZPZ opened for Return to Forever.

I already had 2 tickets to the Valentine’s Day show last night, neither my wife nor I are particularly sentimental about the “holiday”, particularly because our anniversary is 5 days earlier (good planning on my part), and she would rather be locked in a clothes dryer with a couple dozen claw-hammer heads than even have her dead corpse taken to a concert.  She likes Zappa, at least the Uncle Frank I’ve played for her, but concerts are a no-no. So, I took a friend from work, Paul Brill.  Paul’s a drummer and I want to work with him on some jazz tracks I’m writing, I figured he could appreciate the statistical density in FZ’s more serious work, which I knew Dweezil would play.

The Thursday show was a complete fluke. ZPZ had a gig in Aspen that they couldn’t get to (avalanche, and they came on the bus), so they went on to Denver from their last one in Portland, found an empty venue, sent out emails to the devoted and sold tickets for $20 for an 8:30 show.  I got settled in to read my email a little late, and read the message at about 8:10.  I raced around to my neighbors to see if they wanted to go (no takers, and they’re musicians!), screamed goodbye to Maryse, threw on my hat and coat and raced like a maniac down to south Broadway.  “Going Stag” is my middle name.  I was on the road at 8:17 and got to the Gothic about 8:45, so frazzled that I asked the booth-troid if they took plastic (?) and only missed the first two songs, catching the last half of San Berdino.  Aspen’s misfortune was our gain, and this band would rather play than take a night off, they had too many of those on the road from Oregon already.

The Gothic is a small venue, but I’ve seen it with 400 people, only about 100 well-informed and behaved fanatics showed up Thursday, so there was lots of elbow room.  The Ogden had about 700 people, but is larger and it was packed with rowdier, drunker, and less hard-core crowd, more familiar with Titties and Beer and Nanook Rubs It than Peaches En Regalia or The Black Page, but a friendly crew.  No fights, just lots of fun.

ZPZ played The Black Page both nights.  This is a drum solo (about 4 minutes) written by Frank for Terry Bozio, when he played with the band in the mid seventies.  When Terry saw the all notes Frank had written down, he exclaimed “Frank, that’s a fucking black page!” and the song was given its name.  Later, Frank put together an arrangement for other instruments, which he called the “The Black Page 2: the Easy Teenage DIsco Version”.  ZPZ glued BP1 and BP2 into a single song very much on par with the “In New York” performance where BP 1 & 2 were first performed by Frank in 1977.

There was audience participation both nights, too. At the Gothic, there was this 9 year old boy, stage front center.  Dweez noticed him and asked him if he’d ever been to a concert, then brought him up, put his father’s custom Gibson SG around his shoulders and let him jam– standing behind the boy, Dweez placed his own fingers on the frets and told the kid when to strum.  Sounded pretty good, too.  Everybody loved it.  I’ll post the pics when I get them sucked off my iFone.

Of course, since the VD show was playing the double R&E album (and lots of other stuff), they had to do the Beebop Tango. That meant volunteers who claimed they could dance to 32nd notes (and all had been drinking). The dancers were too adagio– no one got up there and put on a show like that described by the original R&E audience members.  Probably because children were present.

Great show both nights.  Paul liked the VD show, his first exposure to FZ other than Pandora. I’ve got a convert to celebrate Zappadan with next year.

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