Festival MOO-AH! 2013
Every year when we travel home from Zappanale, Uncle Ian, Canadian John and I talk about hosting our own Zappa-related event in the UK. But in 2012, Uncle did a lot more than talk about it – he acted (enlisting my help to secure the bands and run the online publicity machine; he pretty much did everything else himself). And didn’t we have a lovely time? Just a shame that I felt like poo on day one (sympathetic pains for Her Maj’s horrible anus?), though the music and the good people in Corby (most of whom had travelled far and wide to be there) certainly lifted my spirits.
Just like for the Zappateers UK Festival in 2007, I’d hooked up with a young band and was proud to have them kick things off. Gumbo Variation (for it be they) started with an impressive four-piece rendition of The Grand Wazoo, with Joe Burns on electric drums. All very talented guys, they then ran through some of their own complex pieces (Et Alias was one I recognised from their Facebook page), before giving Peaches a new flavour. To The Sun is another catchy self-penned one, and I would love it if they could follow Monty & The Butchers to Zappanale.
I’d discussed the running order with Uncle beforehand, and I think we did the right thing in having the Bavarian guitar wizard Chato Segerer follow them on the main stage – being largely a solo performance did not mean a quieter more laid-back set. Oh no. Thurston Moore and the brothers Reid would have been proud. But before him we had a brief moment with the lovely Hannah Faulkner in the Acoustic Corner. A belting voice, and a nice distraction from the changeover occurring on stage.
Chato opened with Deathless Horsie and his own Inner Peace before switching from guitar to piano for an impressive T’Mershi Duween. He then introduced Annemarieke Schoonderwaldt on violin for his special re-arrangement of Kreegah Bondola (Let’s Move To England), with Ke playing some splendid Shankarisms and Chato again slipping between keys and axe. Another guest (the dynamic Viking, Jan Barfod) helped out on Sue Egypt, the first of two from the Captain’s Doc At The Radar Station – the second being Flavor Bud Living, expertly pulled-off by young Chato whose faithful Zappateer following were soon hailing the messiah. But he’s really just a naughty – and talented – boy. (Tee-hee.)
It was good to see the lads from Nottingham again, this time on their home ground. Since Zappanale, Just Another Band have replaced one of their vocalists with Vic Reeves (sorry Neil, maybe it’s me but I seem to keep seeing Jim Moir everywhere lately: on guitar in the Magic Band, on the bench next to Roberto Mancini, and in the mirror). Anyway, new guy Neil adds to the theatricality of this band ten-fold and rather than hit us with Billy The Mountain straight off, we got a tribute to the Bonzos with We Are Normal and Canyons Of Your Mind (and why not: Vivian Stanshall would’ve been 70 this month, bless his dark brown overcoat). Sandwiched betwixt these fine pieces they shoved Honey, Don’t You Want A Man Like Me? right in. Bonus. Then, as per Zappanale, BTM was a delight to viddy. Hopefully we’ll see them again very soon.
Haven’t seen ZAPPATiKA since their lengthy set with Ike Willis in Bad Doberan a couple of years ago. Here they were a lot more together and, though I was starting to wilt a bit along with all those who’d seen the Magic Band in Manchester the night before, they pulled out a few nice surprises in their all-Zappa set – like We Are Not Alone and a slice of Watermelon during City Of Tiny Lites. Fun was had by all, including most definitely the band.
So, the end of day one and the only real disappointment was the turn-out.
The FoolZ asked if they could practice before their sound check, to further break-in new drummer Marco. Being privy to this was another bonus and, feeling a whole lot better now, I was itching for things to get underway.
The FoolZ soon got things off to a flying start, and it was great to hear them rattle off Alien Orifice with ease. Other stand-outs (for me) were You Didn't Try To Call Me and Ms Pinky. It’s about time they played Zappanale again: they seem to be a band that we all know and love, but they almost seem to be taken for granted somehow. For shame!
Next was Uncle’s wild card: local band Hogwash (known as Sweet 70s outside of Corby), a glam rock covers band. And they were absolutely brilliant. A total break from FZ and, like Grupo Go at Mosae last year, they had everyone up dancing and singing along to Ballroom Blitz, All The Young Dudes, Spirit In The Sky, Delilah (SAHB version, natch), 20th Century Boy, Hi Ho Silver Lining and Bo Rap. Again, great musicians with tongues firmly in their cheeks (and cucumbers snugly in their spandex).
It was a very real privilege to be asked to introduce the Muffin Men (thanks Unc). As I said, I’ve seen this band live more than any other in a wide variety of different locations – and they always satisfy. Although the Fab Four had apparently only assembled for the first time in awhile the night before, they’ve played together so often over the years, they know exactly what they’re doing. I always knew they’d be the highlight of the weekend, and they didn’t disappoint. After a traditional Zoot/Yellow Snow/Napkins intro, Rhino got to open his lungs on an always enthralling Pygmy Twylyte and San Ber’dino. This followed by a brief snatch of The Great White Buffalo in tribute to the Indian before Cold Winter Gale had the mosh-pit awash with Vikings and Mancs. The final triumvirate of Eat That Question, Whippin' Post and Village Of The Sun saw Chato guest, and all too soon they were done. (Thankfully they’re hitting the road again in April – woo-hoo!)
And so, the final act, and again something very different: the Spanner Jazz Punks. Main-span Dan is a very polite and unassuming individual offstage, but as soon as he slaps the ole face paint on and dons his stage threads, he becomes the idiot bastard son of Ian Dury meets Baby Jane: a genuine charismatic front-man (and multi-instrumentalist) you can’t take your eyes off – although there’s lots going on around him vying for your attention too. I’ve long wanted to see this band in action and it’s something that requires your undivided: a music hall mixture of popular song (including I Am The Walrus, as now available on the excellent On Broadway: Covers Of Invention CD from Cordelia Records!) and Dan’s strange comedic interludes. And they also slipped in We Are Not Alone (what were the chances of two bands playing this?) and an always beautiful Blessed Relief. A fine fine end to a fine fine festival.
A lot of the music from this weekend can now be seen and heard online, which is great if you couldn’t make it. But it’s no substitute for actually being there, so shame on you if you didn’t bother to travel a few miles to witness this – only to watch Ant & Dec instead?! I’m not convinced that the location was the issue here: ZAPPATiKA played to just a dozen people on the Saturday – in London. And it's not as if Bad Doberan is the most happening place on the planet. And that was in part what we were trying to achieve here: bring a flavour of the Zappanale to the UK for those who've yet to experience it. I know of a dozen or so folk living in England that I fully expected to be there, but weren't. So thank God for the Zappateers, and a special thanks to all those from the Mainland (and Ireland!); we all had a superb time, didn’t we?
Snaps: IBS, Prof Ekers, Canadian John. Festival courtesy of Uncle Ian – mwah!