Zappa Plays Zappa – Take Two

It was 2 years ago to this week we extended our Honeymoon a few days extra to have an overnight in London. Zappa Plays Zappa planned a show there. It would have been the perfect end to a perfect Honeymoon. Sadly it was rescheduled for later in the spring. Luckily we did get to hang with Emily’s old friends and I got to see Kyle. So two years later we celebrated our Anniversary in DC for a night of great food, drink and Zappa music.

Zappa Plays Zappa is Dweezil Zappa (Frank’s 2nd oldest) playing his Father’s music for younger audiences. Hearing about this originally was quite moving and inspirational. Because reissues in Ryko simply isn’t enough for Frank.

After dropping Lily off for her first overnight with any of the parents, we headed to Dupont to The Tabard Inn. If in DC, I can’t recommend this hotel and restaurant enough. We almost had our wedding there, but there would have been serious family drama if we had to whittle the guest list down to 45 people. Regardless we had a spectacular dinner complete with fancy names for everything and wondrous wine that got me tipsy. After dinner we hopped in a cab and made it to Warner Theatre with minutes to spare.

Emily hit the bathroom and I started surveying the stage and started computing all the gear and how it would equate to song choices. Not that there was any correlation at all, but it was simply fun to do anyways. Now because Zappa’s catalog is rather vast it was virtually impossible and unrealistic to actually come out with an guess. 60 records in 27 years. That’s over 2 records a year. Not to mention the 20 or so records that were released after his death in 1993.

The first song was an instrumental. The person to the left of me thought it was going to be Peaches. I would have loved it as Hot Rats is one of my favorite records. Sadly it was another instrumental, however this one, I believe, was from the late 80s. An era I am not largely fond of from Zappa’s catalog. Luckily the next song was a keeper and even had Frank up on the screen sharing a solo with his song. In a Flaming Lips kind of way. Luckily they only did this for one song so it didn’t become gimmicky.

At this point I was moderately in tears and quite overwhelmed seeing all the love for this man. I was not the only one. I feel a little alone in my love for this composer. None of my friends really know his music. So it was beyond exciting to see a house full of people who felt what I felt.

Initially I thought we’d stay for a chunk of songs. I thought we’d be bored with it. But we stayed the full 3 hour set. Wildly Dweezil never broke a sweat. Even after at times playing Frank’s solos note for note. His ability to channel Zappa’s playing amazed me. It’s true, if anyone would be able to do this, it would be his offspring, but still. Seeing Dweezil play his father’s Gibson SG brought chills to me.

And of course the musicians he played with were phenomenal. Aaron Arntz played keyboards and trumpet. He was sort of a Beck-ish mad scientist. But could comp the jazz like no one’s business while at the same time churn out some insane synth patches. I firmly believe that Scheila Gonzalez stole the show. She played keyboards, saxes, flute, oboe, harmonica and sang. She also was in to the music, I felt, the most. Pete Griffin, on bass, looked like he’d be in the newest Indie Rock craze band. But could rip out Zappa licks while rocking like a hurricane. Billy Hulting covered the mallets and percussion. While he was amazing and soulful, he didn’t have the charisma Ruth Underwood possessed. But I am not biased and I know it’s not a fair comparison. No. And you can’t fault him for that. He was simply amazing. Perhaps I just wish there were more songs that highlighted the mallets. Jamie Kime reminded me of Brian Eno and Ric Ocasek. But his guitar work was meticulous. Joe Travers was on drums. He was a little flat and unemotional. But of course, could play it all. Ray White was the guest at our show. I totally couldn’t think of his name when he walked out so when Emily’s asked who he was I said ‘Napoleon Murphy’, but she knew it wasn’t him, as Napoleon was tall and slender. Again, another reason why I married this wonderful woman. Dweezil was only short of genius. His guitar work was incredible. He could do almost everything Frank could do, if only lacking breath. There were times I wish he would simply take a break and let his guitar vibrate out a little. I guess this is the curse of most guitarists, but man, aside from his occasional cocky side, there were times when I’d look away and think Frank was on that stage. Now that is breathtaking.

Highlights included hearing Hot Rats, Suzy Creamcheese and a few cuts from The Yellow Shark. Oh and and Emily calling out all the funny fans doing funny things.

After cabbing it back to The Tabard Inn we closed the bar out and hung out with some incredible people that worked there over some more beers. It was the perfect closer to a perfect Anniversary.

That and Lily did pretty good with the parents. Yay Lily!

2 Responses to “Zappa Plays Zappa – Take Two”


  • Found your blog via Blogtimore…

    I love the Tabard too. We got married there in April 2005 and had a terrific evening. The quality of the food in the restaurant carries into their catering as well. I do understand the headcount pressures though. We had 40 people at our (unconventional, due to family quibbling over different religious traditions) wedding but were able to manage because we both have small families.

    I wish I’d know about the Zappa show. My husband is a huge fan and really would’ve enjoyed the show.

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