Zappa Plays Zappa | 07.21 | Milwaukee

Words by: Cal Roach

Zappa Plays Zappa :: 07.21.07 :: The Rave :: Milwaukee, WI

Dweezil Zappa - Zappa Plays Zappa by Michael Mesker
The general rule with tribute bands is that you go to see a moderately priced facsimile of something you love and leave yearning for the real thing. Band members often dress and coif themselves in the manner of their heroes, creating an aura of dissimulation that renders them subject to derision in the face of serious music. Frank Zappa's formidable reputation as a live performer suggests that trying to recreate his show would be a recipe for disappointment, but his son Dweezil has avoided these pitfalls with the Zappa Plays Zappa experience by not attempting to emulate Frank, just expertly play his music. There is an undeniable continuity between the guitar styles of father and son, but Dweezil has distinguished himself as a master in his own right. Not only can Dweezil play the hell out of his dad's compositions, but like his father, Dweezil has assembled a top-notch cast of musicians who do the Zappa legacy justice. The show is a tribute but it's not a caricature or a novelty. And, it's the closest thing to a Frank Zappa show that many people will ever experience.

Dweezil Zappa - Zappa Plays Zappa by Michael Mesker
The Rave was packed with Zappateers of all ages for the fourth show of the current tour, which lacks ex-FZ band members Terry Bozzio, Steve Vai, and Napoleon Brock Murphy, who played with the group in 2006. The set opened with tight-but-standard versions of "Echidna's Arf (Of You)," "My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama" and "Dirty Love." What happened next was a unique and somewhat surreal concert experience. The big screen behind the band lit up with the image of Frank shredding through "Black Napkins," his recorded solo lancing through the air as the live band backed him. For anyone not prepared, it was an emotional shock. The band pulled it off brilliantly, staying perfectly in step, grooving with Frank's ghost as he wailed the way no one else ever could. It's hard to think of a better way to avoid having to live up to an impossible standard than this novel move.

Billy Hulting - Zappa Plays Zappa by Michael Mesker
The performances that included Frank produced some obvious highlights of the evening. He returned for "Montana," singing and careening through a monstrous guitar solo, and the Yo! FZ Raps stylings of "Dumb All Over," endearing himself to the religious right by proclaiming that "God is dumb," then punctuating the sentiment with some nimble fret work. The coolest moment had to be during "Cosmik Debris" when Frank lights a cigarette and jams silently as Dweezil plays a fantastic melodic solo of his own. Then, Frank throttles his guitar and blows minds. These were communal experiences for fan and band, admiration radiating from all corners of the dingy room, bringing the tribute concept to its most reverent end.

Joe Travers - Zappa Plays Zappa by Michael Mesker
Dweezil has amassed an impressive cast of relative unknowns to play the complicated Zappa canon. The frenetic proto-metal prog of the "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" suite was thrilling in its precision and power. "Pygmy Twylyte" was a tight full-band workout that showed remarkable synergy. "Dupree's Paradise" featured solos from all members and some eerie vocal/percussion madness, where Billy Hulting's xylophone work was particularly engrossing and Jamie Kime's guitar solo was blistering. Scheila Gonzalez (sax/flute/percussion) was brilliant throughout. The only weak spot came from Joe Travers on drums. While very talented, his style often leans toward arena rock, almost too straightforward for much of Zappa's material, though it rarely detracted from the performance.

The biggest energy boost came from guest vocalist/guitarist Ray White, who toured with Frank in the '70s and '80s. White played most of the set, bowling the crowd over upon his entrance on "City Of Tiny Lights." His stage presence was monstrously joyful, and his voice was overwhelming. His performance of "Advance Romance" was a loving conjuration of Captain Beefheart's original madness, and his outrageous interpretation of "The Illinois Enema Bandit" induced rapturous applause. There was a clear bond of respect between White and Dweezil, who was in total command of the show and played some rapturous guitar solos as well.

Dweezil Zappa - Zappa Plays Zappa by Michael Mesker
"Cheepnis" was amazing, showing some Frank influence but with a more melodic sensibility, almost Jimmy Page-esque. "Carolina Hardcore Ecstasy" was another Dweezil highlight, indicating perhaps a bit of Vai rubbing off as he played around the rhythm section and reached some tremendous peaks. In the end, Frank naturally won out with his Baby Snakes solo during the essential "Muffin Man" but Dweezil still held his own.

It's useless to rate ZPZ against FZ. You know going in that it can't stack up, and toward the end tunes like "Joe's Garage" and "San Ber'dino" really pronounced the absence of their creator. But, overall, this is a nostalgia trip that brings a lot of happiness to those who miss Frank. His presence is there in his songs, and anything that brings them to life is a blessing.

JamBase | Milwaukee
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[Published on: 8/14/07]

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mhc10 Tue 8/14/2007 05:10PM
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This is not just a tribute band, this is the closest thing to Frank as you get. I saw the Cincinnati show, and it was amazing.

matthau starstarstarstarstar Tue 8/14/2007 05:13PM
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Great review nailed it. I witnessed ZPZ in Boston a couple of weeks back, and was totally blown away by the validity and creativity of the show. This one far transcended the standard tribute was a spot-on trip down memory lane, done with love, affection, and intelligence. That being said...who knew Dweezil Zappa could shred? The guy played some mindblowing guitar. Seriously folks, while he might not be FZ, Dweezil can certainly hang with just about anyone. Go see this show, it's a true original....just like the master, FZ himself.

Rebacreates starstarstarstarstar Wed 8/15/2007 12:04AM
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Saw the 10klf show... changed my life!!

Absolutely amazing!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Wed 8/15/2007 04:27AM
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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

how wonderful!! I wanna see =)

msb696 starstarstarstarstar Wed 8/15/2007 04:38AM
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Great article. I saw ZPZ in Baltimore and it was a great show as well.

AdCo Wed 8/15/2007 06:50AM
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that was one hell of a review, great job.

hatfieldsbro starstarstarstarstar Wed 8/15/2007 07:57AM
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this is one of the better reviews on this site! better give'em raise jambase

RothburyWithCheese star Wed 8/15/2007 07:58AM
Show -11 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
delaneyira starstarstarstarstar Wed 8/15/2007 08:18AM
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Thank you Dweezil. Im 23, and most of the music that people my age are listening to just is unacceptable. Thank you for trying to show my generation what it means to be a musician. Thank you jambase for highlighting this show. Its more than just a regular concert. Its like going to see a symphony orchestra recreate a master composer like bethoven or tchaikovsky. The attention to detail by every member in the band is something that we just dont get from the radio. All you people out there that go to alot of concerts and are in it for the music and not just the scene owe it to themselves to check this out. Bring the youngsters, its educational as well. Keeep doing anything, anytime, anywhere for no reason at all...

diggy Wed 8/15/2007 09:50AM
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Zappa rules....No Zappa = no Phish, and no jamband scene as we know and love it today. Ol' Juggsy McCree up there really has no soul... but that won't stop him from talkin'...too bad.

AdCo Wed 8/15/2007 11:45AM
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^^ heh...heh...

Flyingbird73 starstarstarstarstar Wed 8/15/2007 11:48AM
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Kudos to Diggy and Guitardave, pretty much summed it all up. Any day sprinkled w/ some FZ is a day well spent. Miss you Frank.

diggy starstarstarstarstar Wed 8/15/2007 02:42PM
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Still talking...see, I told you.

Thanks for contributing!

Unkl Russ starstarstarstarstar Thu 8/16/2007 08:41AM
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Unkl Russ

Right on the money, Cal. I was a big Zappa fan in the 80's (OMG, Frank & Jerry on 8/18/84!!) and must have seen a dozen shows. FZs recorded music is great, but the live experience was over the top. I was skeptical as to how well Dweezil could pull this off, but I was not disappointed. And when Frank popped up on the big screen and started ripping it up, I got a bit teary-eyed. This was a fun show that showcased FZs amazing talent with a very tight band. Good stuff!!!

FunkLizard Thu 8/16/2007 09:05AM
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I was at the first show of the first US tour and another one in AC. Can't wait till next time. Go see em soon, have your head blown.

manida Thu 8/16/2007 02:49PM
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saw the Albuquerque show last night---AMAZING AMAZNG AMAZING! One of the best shows Ive seen in quite a while.

blower starstarstarstarstar Thu 8/16/2007 06:02PM
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Frank Zappa is a musical and intellectual genius and hopefully I get see this act.

MotherMcCree's UptownJugChampions on the other hand is the same person as Kellerhead and goes by many other names while he attepts to trash talk, and like usual he illustrates a complete lack of class. I wish mommy would shut off his computer and take away his cheetos. Or maybe jambase should implement a policy that if you get 100 down thumbs in a 4 day period your IP adress gets banned.

diggy Thu 8/16/2007 06:21PM
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I couldn't agree more......

ChrisChuck1 Sat 8/18/2007 03:23PM
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"the current tour, which lacks ex-FZ band members" Who do you think Joe in Joe's garage is, It's Joe Travers. Ray White is responsible for guitar on I don't even know how many Zappa albums and tours, not to mention the fact that he is the guy who replaced Steve Vai. So tell me how does this tour lack EX-FZ band members. Think before you speak!!!

ChrisChuck1 Sat 8/18/2007 03:33PM
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by the way, saw ZPZ last year at HOB Las Vegas it was amazing, that was the night that Terry Bozzio blew out his bicep, and I think that Napoleon was acutally channeling Frank from beyond the grave. I am seeing the second coming of ZPZ tonight at HOB Las Vegas and i am HYPED, anyone with a chance to see any of the remaining shows I STRONGLY SUGGEST IT, you won't be dissapointed

bhoadley starstarstarstar Sun 8/19/2007 05:46AM
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The Boston show was off the hook. I was really wary when i heard that there would be more playalongs with FZ videos but the band really pulled it off flawlessly. Ray White was tremendous as well. Waaaay better than his KVHW days.

gmoo Sun 8/19/2007 06:59PM
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Who comes on a Zappa message board and talk trash. You are a loser, Mother's Mcgree/Kellerhead.

edgehead starstarstarstarstar Wed 8/22/2007 12:38PM
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I'm really glad to see all the support and enthusiasm for ZPZ. Dweezil's intentions are pure and this band is spectacular. However, he is still treating this project too much like a Zappa greatest hits show. I am a huge Zappa fan and I am not faulting Dweezil for his project in general. However, in execution he's paying too much attention to Zappa history instead of Zappa essence. Frank retained an enormous repertoire and played songs from every corner of his catalog all the way through his last tour in ’88. No matter what era a song came from it possessed the essence of that line up of musicians. ZPZ does a tune from ’67 and it sounds exactly like the ’67 record. Frank never bothered with this approach and he kept the music vibrant and alive. Last year’s tour had ZPZ performing what were originally spontaneous live routines (vegetable, cheepnis, etc…) exactly like the record. OK, it sounds like I’m bitching but I’m not. ZPZ could spin records all night and I’d still be glad they’re exposing more people to Frank’s music. What I’m getting at is Project Object. Napoleon Murphy Brock is back with them after ZPZ last year and Ike Willis is still there. They play real Zappa music. It’s organic, spontaneous, and stunningly keen to the Zappa essence and honestly makes ZPZ seem like a straight up tribute show. Plus just before Frank died he told Ike to keep the music alive. All I’m saying here is ZPZ is great but the real deal is PO. As Frank would say, “They’re essential”.

PCPrabbit Mon 8/27/2007 11:08AM
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trey wishes he was zappa (but who doesnt)

O1Roggae Thu 8/30/2007 08:55AM
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play in miami again please

guitardave starstarstar Wed 9/5/2007 01:09PM
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USC has cemented his status as the biggest jackass to ever get on a message board.