Friday, June 13, 2008

After Zappa

I've probably spent too much time thinking about Frank Zappa recently, but the Zappa Plays Zappa show and an interview with Dweezil Zappa I posted at "Pop Life" gave me an occasion to reflect on someone whose music once meant a lot to me. After the show Wednesday, these thoughts:

1) I couldn't believe there were women there. I expected a good crowd, but I've never known a woman who liked Zappa's music.

2) I couldn't believe how many people under 40 were there. I expected old heads and freaks, but his music is so thoroughly absent from the culture today, it's hard to imagine anyone young knowing about it or caring. I suppose he is once again (or maybe has always been) a cult thing, and cults just won't go away.

As for his art, 3) The show reminded me how Swiftian Zappa's satire was, not in its outrageousness but in its privacy. Both could ruthlessly anatomize what's wrong with the world (and both found a lot wrong), but you can't infer from the mockery what people should do - only what they shouldn't.

4) The show in New Orleans leaned too heavily on Joe's Garage for my tastes, but that suite of songs got Dweezil out of his own guitar space enough to inspire his two best solos of the night. "Fembot in a Wet T-Shirt" prompted his most Frank-like solo, and while I didn't want or expect Dweezil to play like Frank, no solo on the Zappa Plays Zappa DVD was as pedestrian (on a high technical level) as many of the fleet finger exercises he settled for in New Orleans.

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