I've written before that I'm not exactly a Zappa freak, but I do understand the man's greatness, and after Saturday night I understood it a little better -- as I realized that here was an (as he wished to be remembered) American Composer whose music could be played and enjoyed by any kind of musician or music fan. Some tunes I barely recognized-- all tunes I enjoyed. If I leaned anything that night, its that this is a body of work I am definitely going to need to more fully acquaint myself with. And anybody who knows Brian probably is in shock that we've been married this long and I haven't done this already, especially since I walked down the aisle to "Watermelon and Easter Hay" and our recessional was "Peaches en Regalia" (known to Stella as "Theme from the Jules Show.")
The Tempermentals -- lead by a guy who sounded like FZ himself, in both vocal tone and phrasing, otherwise gave this vibe of "The Georgia Sattelites jam with the Mothers of Invention" sound. "Nice treatment," I heard another guy in the crowd say, clapping appreciatively. That's the kind of crowd this was: they didn't want to hear note-for-note covers, but rather intrepretations that captured the spirit of the man's work. And Dr Chow's Love Medicine, who was on next, delivered that. The Daves from Eat the Mystery joined them on horns ( and that includes bullhorn!) and like many bands, played selections from their regular set -- and it just so happens that Dr Chow has a lot of Zappa in their regular repertoire. "Dirty Love" stood out on this particular night.
Skirt followed, and what was this? Judy Garland (and this is not Dorothy, but cigarette-smoking, Let-Me-Run-Over-That-Clanging-Trolley-Already, Judy) sings Zappa. Picture that clear, showbiz, trained, perfect voice singing "Why Does It Hurt When I Pee" and you'll get the idea. Another nice treatment of the work. And then finally the Danglers, going electric, (Dave on electric 4-string bass, Jason with a guitar), pointing out that since they don't rehearse 7-days-a-week like the original Mothers did, they would fall short of the greatness, did anything but fall short. In fact, I expected them to excel, and they did. The only reason I can't write more was that it was all I could do to hold a conversation with friends while a blocking rehearsal of "Alien Vs. Predator" was going on in my intestines -- and we ended up leaving halfway through the set. There will continue to be Zappa fests, and I know the Danglers will continue to be part of them.
Sunday I started to feel better, and so we trudged out to our family's favorite xmas tree lot to pick ours. We always go this late in the season for a couple of reasons. 1) We have our Christmas party in January, and we need the tree to not be a fire hazard by then. 2) Our other tradition is that the tree stays up as long as the Packers are "still in it" (or in some years, until at least Christmas, whichever comes last.) This year, it still might be around for the Super Bowl, so the week before the actual Holiday seemed prudent. 3) Our family never used to put up the tree until about a week beforehand. We refuse to get caught up in this whole "Christmas Time Starts in August" retail thing. And when you have kids, the tree just keeps reminding them about Christmas and all the presents they want, and it's nice to put off that nagging as long as possible. 4) We've just been too damn swamped and busy, both at home and at work. Saturday night, even if I wasn't sick, I had to miss a dear friend's party, and I wanted to tell him, "Please don't have a party during December. It's all I can do to remember to make dinner half the time." But we got our tree, and decorated it while watching "Family Guy." How's that for a mix of wonder and cynicism?
Tuesday night I visited Dr Lumberhorn at his O'Keefe's House of Hamburg office for my monthly prescription of irreverant bluegrass, which helped me crack my neck and ease a lot of the personal stress I've been going through. (That project at work I'm not supposed to talk about is also easing off, at least for now, and that's helping too.) In the spirit of the season, they were giving away their CDs, T-Shirts, and such, and it took awhile for this concept of "free stuff" to sink in with the crowd. "We'll give you a quarter if you take this stuff," they said, in their trademark self-depreciating way. (That of course promted a response: "If I take 8 things, will you give me two bucks?") But once it did sink in, the stocks quickly disappeared, and the tip jar was full. One enthusiastic patron took "anything on that table is free" to the letter and picked up the generously filled tip jar (you can count on good ol Catholic guilt to get people to "pay" for "free" stuff -- it worked on me!) and said, "Well you said that anything on the table was free." The band of course played along merrily (even though the looks on their faces indicated a cross between "DOH!" and "Oh Shit!"), while the tip jar taker looked dead serious and the rest of us in the audience looked on in disbelief ready to transition to horror. Fortunately she didn't take the cash, but I was a bit worried for the band. I mean, to a fellow musician, even touching The Tip Jar, even in jest, is right up there with stealing from the Salvation Army bell ringer on Christmas Eve. You just Don't Do It, I don't care how much the band good-naturedly laughs over it. Especially since none of us paid cover.
Anyway, there were plenty of folks enjoying pre-holiday fun at O'Keefe's that night, and rather than describe the show (which was enjoyable and fun as I've come to expect from these guys), I think I'll just publish this picture which pretty much summed up the evening for me:
Speaking of O'Keefe's, phone calls were made and a Dr Chow Holiday party will be going on this Friday night, which, if I can scrape up a sitter on Christmas Weekend with 48 hours notice, I'll be at. Otherwise, I'd have set out for a lovely evening with the Five Card Studs (at the Cactus Club).
Saturday, Jimmy Von Milwaukee gathers his Leo Feldman Gallery denizens for his annual Christmas Craft show at 823 N. 2nd, across from the ARCW and behind George Webb's. It's Saturday night and Sunday all day. This year's theme for the self-proclaimed "Craft Show From Hell"? Season's Geinings -- A tribute to Ed Gein! From the press release:
A Jack of all trades and master of all, Ed Gein was a Freelance Artist, Innovator, Sculptor (a Architect of bone artifacts), Performance Artist and a Outsider Artist who came from the DL (down low) town of Plainfield, Wisconsin.
Oh, and ghastly serial killer too. The press release points out (in bold type, just in case), this is an adults only show. Yeah, right, like I want to have to have this conversation with Stella real soon: "Well, sweetheart, some people have issues. You know, how those mean kids in school have issues like parents who hit them and such so they think that they need to hit everybody else? Well, there was this guy named Ed Gein who had issues. His mom used to get on his case a lot, but instead of just talking back to her, he he dug up bodies and killed women himself and made outfits and lampshades with their skin and dinner with the rest of their body parts. I wouldn't recommend this as an effective way to deal with disagreements with your mom."
Saturday night we have Bucks tickets, and then later, John Kruth is in town again, and this time we will NOT miss him. He'll be at the Highbury pub on KK, which seems to be the place for that crowd (Jeff Hamilton, Paul Kneevers, et al). I will have to catch Paul Wall and his Nice Outfit (at the Mad Planet Saturday night for a CD release party) another evening, for I am NOT missing Kruth again. But score one for the Nice Outfit -- they were on WMSE's Local/Live this week and -- passing the ultimate test of a great dirty pop band -- they sounded great on the car radio.
Sunday: Stella and I will settle in during the late matinee showing of the Nutcracker Ballet at the PAC, and if we can score tickets this late, maybe we'll make a day of Christmas Culture and hit A Christmas Carol at the Pabst.
Monday: Christmas eve, and with that brings Paul Host's Christmas Show on WMSE. Christmas eve is when we do the family thing, and there's nothing like driving over the river and through the woods, with Paul and his amazing Christmas collection on the radio.