Monday, January 23, 2012

Zappafest convergence

freddie lee at zappafest by V'ron
freddie lee at zappafest, a photo by V'ron on Flickr.
Zappafest takes on a different flavor every year. This year it was at the Y-Not-III, a place I'll admit I haven't been to in years. In fact, I think the last time I was in there was to see Dr Chow's Love Medicine long before Brian had joined. They switched the location of the stage, and there's bars both upstairs and downstairs with an excellent selection. (I chose a very nice weissbier called 312, from Goose Island brewing). Anyway, this year there were only three bands for Zappafest, and I've seen the Dr Chow Zappa set a bunch of times now, so I admittedly heard a muffled version of "Harder than Your Husband" and "Miss Pinky" while I was downstairs, catching up with the queen of Milwaukee Prog, Julie Brandenburg, on some gossip. Nothing to print here, nothing you haven't heard already. We raised a glass to the recently departed Larry Kennedy and headed back upstairs.

Julie's playing with the Freddie Lee Band these days (among other things like composing serious musical pieces, teaching music in the schools, and still wielding a mighty sewing needle) and they were the next act up. Freddie Lee, who used to be known as "Feedback Freddie" has been around Milwaukee for ages and I concurred with Brian on the realization that, "Hey, I don't think I've ever seen him in aclub." And that was a fact. Freddie plays at so many outdoor concerts and shows, I can't believe I've never seen him in a dark club. He was a fixture at Locust Street for awhile, he's always seems to have a slot at Summerfest, and gee, I think we just take him for granted. The Riverwest legend has a lineup of younguns (well, younger than him), but they've got the chops to hold their own, and he's generous with letting them have their musical say, so you have this band that's really good, but hard to pin down. The fact that they could easily pick up their axes and crank out some Zappa classics attests to their variety. It was a nice pick-me-up on a rainy, slushy night when I normally would have just as soon stayed home. Glad I made it out to hear Freddie's smooth voice take on Frank, and it made me realize I need to check them when they're not restricted to one artist's vision. I need to check out his most recent release, "Here's Your Hat, Man." According to his Facebook page, the title came from a "scary experience on the highway retruning from a performance on a snowy/icy afternoon. The vehicle slid and eventually lost control, flipped over on its side and finally came to a stop at the freeway wall. No one seriously injured, yet very shook up." I can imagine that one silent moment when everybody looked at each other in relief that they were still alive, and the tension must have been released when a bandmember said, "Here's Your Hat, Man."

However, Saturday's set was a short one (as tribute night sets tend to be) and thus this is a short blog entry, but there's a matter of convergence I have to point out. Lee, as well as a good portion of the people in the room, is an oldschool progressive, as evidenced by the sentiment on the button he had pinned to his hat. I was -- and still am -- reveling in the wonder that was 1 million (that's six zeros, folks) signatures delivered to the the state to recall Scott Walker, further digging me out of a cynical political bent I've had hanging over my head for years. I've recently reconnected with a lot of my old politico friends, and I'm marveling at the fact that this whole movement isn't based on slick, glam talking points being force fed to an apathetic public. It's a truly grassroots movement. It kills me that the media keep on saying "Democrats presented 1 millions signatures..." when, while the DPW will benefit from this movement, this wasn't a democratic party thing at all. This just came up from the grassroots, oldschool style, people just getting off the couch and saying, "For cryin' out loud, this is ridiculous." It was accomplished oldschool, and it needs to continue oldschool. Everybody's all wondering who's going to run against Walker, but that's not really the next step in this oldschool process. No, folks, I think the big priority --- especially now that I'm living in a state where voter registration is actually going to be a big deal -- is getting people registered to vote and making sure they have their correct identification, because I'm not counting on that voter repression bill to get repealed anytime soon. So the convergence? Here's Frank Zappa reminding us to do it, and in a few cases, why (as if we all need reminding):

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