Another Zappanale has come and gone… and I wasn’t there. It seems fair to say that I knew Zappanale during its adolescence. It had grown beyond its humble beginnings, but hadn’t become a mature stop on the European Festival Circuit, which it what it is becoming, or has become. That is not a problem. I think big is good, and if this year is any indication, the festival is still bringing in a great mix of alumni, top shelf professionals, and the regular FZ-loving local bands that always seem to crank out the Frank with gusto (if not flawless intonation). The last Zappanale I attended was Z20 in 2009, and it was a great time, and I love my Zappateer buddies, and the beer is excellent, and yet I still have a lot of mixed feelings about it. In ’09 Terry Bozzio was paid a lot of dough to basically avoid all human contact, clog up the main stage with his drumiverse for a full day of other band’s performances, and then put on the same fucking clinic he would run at the fucking Modern Drummer wankfest. Thanks, Terry. You used to be an OK musician before you decided you were a Musician and not a drummer. At least you didn’t pull out an acoustic guitar and try to sing “Angie”. Mad Props for that.
I hope to go back to Bad Doberan, enjoy Zappanale, and get tore up on Rostocker beer in the hot sun and then swin the the coldest damn water I have ever swam in. But if I don’t, I can at least say that I did it already, multiple times, with elan.
The aftermath of the Zappanale holiday, alternately known as Zappadan, usually brings out the reflective side of the fans and the festival organizers. Case in point: Recently Thomas Dippel, ARF Society honcho, and a guy I think of as a friend, wrote:
If you want to stage a festival honoring Frank Zappa – you might have to reckon with the Zappa Trust, headed up by Frank Zappa’s widow, Gail. His widow should finally stop putting hurdles in our path and help us further promote this fantastic music. Frank would probably agree. He was all about freedom of expression and was opposed to censorship. I’m not sure he would dig the way his legacy is being micromanaged.
I agree. The ZFT should be able to tell the difference between sincere homage and scamming. I don’t think that will happen, ever, and here is why: back in the early days after the tragic death of FZ, there was this official release called “Frank Zappa Plays the Music of Frank Zappa”, which despite the cute title and barely catchy packaging was really nothing more than an official bootleg released by Dweezil Zappa. I get a vague sense of nausea every time I see the CD box. Yes, it was a Zappa performance, and yes the sound quality was a cut above the audience-tape variety sound that hardcore enthusiasts were familiar with. But there was no way in hell that it was a FZ project. First, Frank would have done a load of editing because there is a lot of noodling on this particular gig. He may have seen it as more than just a live recording, perhaps extracting a solo as a standalone composition, or done something asynchronous to add some texture to the otherwise uniform corduroy of the mobile truck recording. Whatever it was to be, it would have had continuity with the FZ process. None of that was in the cards.
And this motif continues to this day, with Joe Travers afraid/unable to emulate FZ, Dweezil unable to emulate FZ, the guys who actually worked for FZ sent off to exile on some mysterious island for wanting to actually get paid, and the public getting regular doses of legal bootlegs in professional packaging in exchange for princely sums of legal tender.
Anyhow, back to the friendly climes of northern “Yurrip”…
To many FZ fans it is a bit odd that there is an independent festival in the former East Germany that showcases a lot of interesting music and has the audacity to invoke Zappa’s name in any sort of way, while there is no such festival in the composer’s home country. Odd, that. In a land where every jagoff stoner jamband rodeo becomes its own little bong-a-palooza empire, and modernist groups like Bang On A Can manage to run multiple concert series and feature the music of people like Conlan Nancarrow… the Trust in charge of a composer with one of the deepest and most varied catalogs in the whole of the 20th century manages to endorse a coverband, reeking of nepotism and cheap cologne, and not a tremendously good one (IMO) at that.
Not exactly what I would call a harbinger of a bright future full of tolerance and creativity.