(The post title is a mangled parody of the lyrics to “Let There Be Rock” by the Drive-By Truckers. Which just goes to show that it’s true…if you’ve got to explain it, it wasn’t funny.)
Went to see the Zappa Plays Zappa show last night. Sorry I haven’t updated since I found out we were going, but I’ve been kind of Zappa obsessed since then and I haven’t had much else I wanted to post about. If you’ll indulge me, I’m going to talk about the show for a bit, along with a few additional thoughts. If you won’t indulge me…why are you still reading?
Okay. On this tour, they played all of the “Apostrophe'” record, in sequence. That was pretty cool, as that’s among my top five Zappa records. (In case you’re wondering, my other favorites are “Freak Out!,” “Tinseltown Rebellion,” “Ship Arriving too Late to Save a Drowning Witch,” and my all-time favorite “Sheik Yerbouti.” Though “Joe’s Garage” almost makes the cut, too.) It was a strong show and a lot of fun.
Here’s the setlist, as noted by Dweezil’s website: (But this is wrong. “Titties and Beer” was in there somewhere, too. And I think one or two of the songs were in a slightly different order…)
1 Gumbo Variations
2 Yellow Snow
3 Nanook Rubs It
4 St Alfonzo’s Pancake Breakfast
5 Father O’blivion
6 Cosmik Debris
7 Exentrifugal Forz
9 Uncle Remus
12 Valley Girl
13 Keep It Greasy
14 Echidna’s Arf
15 Inca Roads
16 Drum Solo
17 City Of Tiny Lites
18 I Promise Not to Come In Your Mouth
19 Cruisin’ For Burgers
20 Baby Snakes
21 Chrissy Puked Twice
22 Muffin Man
During “Keep it Greasy” Dweezil invited the women in the crowd up on stage for a “dance party.” He repeatedly commented on how many women—especially YOUNGER ones—were in the crowd, stating that it must be “some kind of record.” Apparently having more than a couple of women at a Zappa concert is something of a rarity. Sounds about right. I’d imagine that a lot of them typically get dragged kicking and screaming by their boyfriends/husbands…but I was watching, and a lot of the (yes, YOUNGER) ladies on the stage seemed to actually know the words and enjoy themselves. So, way to go St. Louis. Most dangerous city in America one week, biggest number of female Zappa fans the next. Well done…well done…
Anyhoo… There were a few times during the show that they put up live concert footage of Frank on the screen behind the band (which we couldn’t really SEE from out seats, but it was obvious that it was happening). They used some clever engineering to feed Frank’s guitar-feed from the video into the PA at the club…so the band was playing with Frank during a few songs. That was cool. During “Cosmik Debris” Dweezil played along note-for-mother-loving-note with the solo Frank played—which was NUTS!
I liked the guy Dweezil had singing for him. I was semi-expecting Dweezil to sing a few leads himself, but he didn’t. He was too busy playing the extremely dense, extremely complicated guitar parts. (Seriously…that’s a handful.) The singer seemed to “get” what he was doing though, and had a voice very fitting to the material. I think Frank would’ve been happy with it. I know I was.
I said in my last post that one of my great musical disappointments is that I’ll never get to see Frank Zappa live. Well, I feel like I saw the next best thing, and I had a lot of fun. Don’t get me wrong, I would’ve enjoyed hearing “Bobby Brown Goes Down” or “Broken Hearts are for Assholes” or “My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama” or some of the more ridiculous, funny, offensive stuff that it seemed Frank was particularly proud of (and defending before Congress) in the late stages of his career. But I’m in no way displeased with last night’s show.
Years ago, Frank dared to ask the question “Does Humor Belong in Music?” The fact that Dweezil has given Frank’s music a new life, a new audience, and a new energy—and is having probably the greatest success of his career doing it—proves that YES, it does. Dweezil’s doing his dad’s memory proud and making some long-time fans very happy. When Zappa died, I didn’t really know who he was—I’d seen the cover to “Ship Arriving too Late to Save a Drowning Witch” and thought it was funny, and I’m (like, SOOOO) sure I’d heard “Valley Girl” when it was at its apex. But otherwise, I was too young to be exposed to the bulk of his work, and even if I had heard it, I probably wouldn’t have understood it. You have to be of a certain disposition to get The Joke in Zappa’s music, and I was not yet of that disposition. (The Joke, incidentally, is basically that the best technical music available was being coupled with the most absurd, irreverent, funny, stupid, profane lyrics available. In some ways, not dis-similar to The Joke espoused by The Comedian in “The Watchmen.”)
A few years later, I GOT it, and I’ve been laughing along ever since. (Most recently, I’ve been enjoying the “Buffalo” live record, if you’d like to join in.) I have more than once privately lamented Frank Zappa’s death and what I thought was my own personal loss of a punchline, since I would never be able to see him play his material in concert. But last night, I feel like I not only got The Punchline, I got a whole mess of new straight-lines leading up to a new one.
I can’t express how grateful I am to Dweezil Zappa for doing what he’s doing. And it’s nice to sit in a big room with a bunch of other fans and know I’m not alone in that.
Frank Zappa Quote (from the “Buffalo” record):
“This guy’s wearing a shirt that says, ‘Lick Me – My 10th Zappa Concert.’ Alright… Well I’m not going to lick you, but maybe she will.” (*Crowd applause*) “Go on…lick him.”