Thursday, October 10, 2013

Zappa Lives in Londonderry

On September 28, five musicians hit the intimate stage at the Tupelo Music Hall in Londonderry, NH and offered selections from one of the greatest music catalogs of all time. The band was The GrandMothers of Invention; the songs were by the incomparable Frank Zappa.

With the 20th anniversary of Zappa’s death approaching, former Mothers of Invention members Napoleon Murphy Brock (who served a 10-year stint in the group beginning in 1974) and Don Preston (whose time with Frank goes all the way back to 1967’s Absolutely Free) are on a mission to bring genuine representations of Zappa material to today’s audiences. Billed as The GrandMothers of Invention, the duo (joined by guitarist “Mad” Max Kutner, bassist Dave Johnsen and drummer Christopher Garcia) keep up a rigorous touring schedule more intense than most outfits half (well, actually, make that one-third) their age. Presenting a show centered around Zappa’s 1975 album One Size Fits All (with some Roxy & Elsewhere and Burnt Weeny Sandwich gems added for extra awe), The GrandMothers showed the full room of amazed fans at the Tupelo what is possible when musicians of the highest-possible caliber come together to pay tribute to an unsurpassed visionary.

While it is understandably impossible to pick out highlights from a set this magical, I will submit that “Po-Jama People,” “San Ber’dino” and “Florentine Pogen” were slightly more transcendental than the rest. And there aren’t enough adjectives in the world to describe the playing of the immeasurably gifted Don Preston, who at 81 is still representing the Mothers with inspiring aplomb.

Don Preston 

Additionally, the performance brilliantly illustrated just how much of an impact Zappa’s music has truly had on subsequent generations of players. It was easy to hear shades of Fishbone, Bad Brains, Primus and countless other artists who have followed Zappa’s lead in taking music to new and exciting stratospheres. On this night, The GrandMothers effortlessly proved that Frank’s music was never confined to a particular time and place – it is truly timeless.

An engaging frontman, Brock made the show a lighthearted affair with silly moves and constant jokes. While The GrandMothers brought plenty of fun to the table, they absolutely meant business with every single note they produced onstage. It was truly remarkable how spot-on they were in re-creating One Size Fits All’s complex compositions. Absolutely stunning.

Napoleon Murphy Brock 

I could go on, but there are times when words fail and the heart takes over. Don’t read about this band – feel this band. Take the time to hunt down live clips of The GrandMothers Of Invention online and get a taste of what this group has to offer. If you’re impressed by what you see on your computer screen (how can you not be?), then go HERE and HERE to here on find out when they’re playing your area. The GrandMothers live to play these songs, and anyone who truly loves music needs to catch one of their shows as soon as possible. They are as real as it gets, folks.  

Joel Gausten with Don Preston (Photo: Chris Gillen)


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