Where do I begin (to tell the story of how great some gigs can be)? Let’s start on the tarmac at Lübeck airport, where I meet for the first time my travelling companion for the weekend, Mr Ian Day. We had arranged to hook-up at Stansted, but it wasn’t to be. So, there we both are waiting for my luggage. Waiting and waiting. With 40 others. But it wasn’t there. We were told it would probably come later that night. Well, I wasn’t gonna miss any of my first Zappanale for anything like a lack of clothing and masculine hygiene products, so we set off as soon as we could through the city of tiny red lites (the taxi seemed like it had to stop every 50 yards before it could get us to the train station). We did have a little time to buy some now essential toiletries, underwear (I was tempted to buy some Noblesse pants, but it doesn’t pay to advertise), a sleeping bag and a couple of disposable cameras, but before long we were on the train to Bad Doberan. The journey was relatively uneventful, so Ian and me bonded (call me old fashioned, but if you’re gonna sleep with someone, I think it’s important to get to know them first!) and within a few hours we were riding Molli to the racehorse course where the event is staged. Unfortunately, we had missed Jim Cohen’s German-language presentation on the lyrics of Roxy And Elsewhere with special guest Pamela Des Barres. I found out from writer Ben Watson that Miss Pamela was quick to clarify Jim’s introduction that she was Gail’s friend and most definitely not Frank’s groupie and, from another source, that she demonstrated how Jeff Beck once gave himself head on the dining room table at Frank’s house. Curse you, Ryanair! I managed to snap Pamela just before she left Bad Doberan, and found out that she would be back to dance on stage with the Grandmothers on Sunday. This, and many other meetings, took place during the opening sets by Germany’s Dwarf Nebula (who mainly performed music from my favourite era, the mid-to late 70s) and Hungary’s Cosmic Debris (who nearly outnumbered the audience at this point). Relaying my tale of woe to Bob Harris, he kindly offered me a pair of his jeans, while the Arf boys generously furnished me with a couple of shirts. Candy Zappa arrived during Cosmic Debris’ set and, with great gusto, joined in with their rendition of Whipping Post from the audience. Jimmy Carl Black was also there (he kindly slipped me a copy of Volume Two of the 20 Year Anthology Of The Grandmothers) and both he and Candy were courted for some while by a satellite TV crew. Noting a familiar, smartly dressed guy nearby, I asked Candy who the good-looking Al Pacino-type was. “It’s my brother, Bob!” she exclaimed, and swiftly introduced us. Clocking his nose and eyes at close quarters, I quickly realised why he had seemed so familiar! By this time, I had met Thana Harris (and her darling young son, Nathan) and Nigey Lennon, and guided Don Preston to the tent where JCB, Roy Estrada and Bunk Gardner were hanging out. This was turning into quite an event already, and I only had time to note that Cosmic Debris had a great female vocalist and played an extended version of Easy Meat with a “drum solar”. The next musical event was Thana’s set. A few weeks earlier, I had sent her a disc of instrumental renditions of the songs she got to sing on the Sleep Dirt CD to aid her practicing. It was therefore doubly gratifying to witness her beautiful performance of Flambé with Don Preston on piano (and a rhythm section of Glen Leonard and Seahag from Project/Object). They were joined by husband Bob and Mike Keneally for Planetary Tango (from Thanatopsis), and then JCB & P/O’s Mumbo for an a cappella cruise through Jimmy’s favourite, Love Of My Life. During Steve Vai’s The Boy/Girl Song, Bunk Gardner added his horn to Bob’s trumpet, and Rantin’ & Rayven did some fine scat singing: move over Cleo and Johnny. For an encore, Bob & Thana sang one of their audition pieces for Frank: Somewhere Over The Rainbow. This was truly a spine-tingling moment. By now, Ian (like most of the audience) had fallen in love with Mrs Harris. He said she seemed wide-eyed and sweetly innocent. Bob later told me that this was probably down to nerves, as she’d never really played to an audience like this. But afterwards she said it hadn’t been that difficult and, hopefully, she’ll be doing it a whole lot more now. During Euphorium Freakestra’s forgettable set (I’m sorry, but they were squirting way too much), I bumped into André Cholmondeley from Project/Object who surprisingly recognised my Dennis the Menace badge (he’s from British Guyana), and presented me with a copy of his band’s Absolutely Live CD. He then proceeded to wrestle someone to the ground (can’t remember who; can’t now read my notes). Then I bumped into Mike Keneally who told me that he’d had an unbelievably good time playing with a Finnish band a few nights earlier. I chatted awhile with Napoleon Murphy Brock’s “missis”, Cathy, who told me that Chester Thompson was currently overdubbing drum tracks for Napi’s debut album (Balls), due out in September. Pretty soon, Mike and André were on stage for what was to prove an incredibly difficult act to top (I would say that two other bands came close this weekend – maybe even succeeded – but more on that later). Yes, Friday night’s headliners Project/Object (featuring Ike Willis and Napi) gave us an incredible performance. Affable Mike was their special guest and was on stage pretty much for the duration coaxing the band on and finally turning in a scorching guitar solo of his own during a breathtaking Village/Echidna’s/Wash That Thing sequence. Afterwards I confessed to André that I had been pretty much semi-tumesced throughout – especially with Ike & Napi’s great vocal performances, and his 88-like axe solo during Inca Roads. Couldn’t help thinking what a lucky (talented) bugger he is, standing up their on stage playing this music with those guys. Other guests included Bob Harris (who acted as boy soprano during Keep It Greasy and Outside Know) and Ed Palermo (who added some trusty sax honkings to King Kong). Strictly Genteel ended the band’s set, but we soon had ’em back for Black Napkins and I’m The Slime. By this time, I was sloshing with more than a little 'chemical amusement aid' (lager, that is). Ian had already retired to our tent, and I myself thought ‘little man, you’ve had a busy day – you’d better join him’. As soon as my head hit the turf, I was out. In the morning, Ian and I both felt a little rough – and the cold showers did little to help us. But by midday, we felt well enough to go into the centre of town to witness the dedication of the FZ monument, sculpted by the Czech artist Vaclav Cesak. The Grannies sang It Can’t Happen Here, and Candy formally ‘whipped it off’ to reveal a fine bust; this lead to a great rubbing of parts – Frank’s nose, to be precise. Yes, the assembled artists and friends came forward to give his honker a little tweak. And Bob Zappa gave a little speech then. Back to the racetrack, and we caught the end of Landplage’s set. Not sure if they sang the whole thing in their native tongue, but they were warmly received by the locals. As were French guitar duo Pierrejean Gaucher and Christophe Godin. I’d previously heard Pierrejean’s version of Sleep Dirt, and was looking forward to his turn here. I wasn’t disappointed. The pair described themselves as jazz/rock (“He’s jazz, and I’m rock,” is how Monsieur Godin aptly put it), and took turns at playing lead and rhythm lines. Christophe slapped some funky bass lines on his six-string and, during Duodenum, knocked out some Vai-like licks. Pierrejean’s high-pitched picking reminded me of Pat Metheny at times – notably on Zoot Allures. They touchingly dedicated a medley of songs (commencing with The Idiot Bastard Son and ending with the aforementioned Sleep Dirt) to Thana, Bob and Nathan Harris. Which was nice. Then they sashayed into an amusing version of Ravel’s Bolero, with both their guitars laughing along. The next night, I introduced Christophe to a Swedish promoter of jazz and chamber music festivals. “Did you enjoy our set?” Christophe asked him. “No” replied the Swede. My how we laughed. Well I enjoyed it, and so did many others. Having wowed us with Project/Object the previous night, Ike Willis was back next with a group of young Italians, Ossi Duri. Their drummer is just 16, and it was great to see a new generation of FZ fans committed to tackling his sometimes difficult repertoire. They played a good solid set - starting with the The Mammy Anthem, culminating with Camarillo Brillo, and calling at Cleveland and similar places in-between. I recall a pretty decent sax solo during Zoot Allures, and their rotund road manager flouncing around in a pig’s head during Keep It Greasy.  You’ll note that by now some tunes had been repeated a few times by the different bands with similar instrumentation. Thus it was a joy to behold the Ed Palermo Band (reduced here from 20 to 8 pieces) blow the roof off with the likes of Penis Dimension, Run Home Slow and Regyptian Strut. The audience were noticeably impressed with Ed’s breathtaking arrangements, which included a tenor sax solo in King Kong lifted from the Ahead Of Their Time CD. Candy Zappa was in fine voice for Let’s Make The Water Turn Black, Evelyn, A Modified Dog and Directly From My Heart To You, and was ably supported by the omnipresent Ike Willis. Just when you thought things couldn’t get much better, Thana Harris and Mike Keneally strode on for an audacious trot through Spider Of Destiny. Mike stayed to help John Tabacco (Nigey Lennon’s musical partner) sing Magdalena, and later struck out on his own to grind his axe and vocal chords during Shove It Right In. For the band’s encore, they wheeled out Jimmy Carl Black to relay his ‘green pear trip’ before playing (you guessed it) Holiday In Berlin (Full Blown). I think by and large the audience were surprised at how good Ed & Co were, and could be seen for a goodly while after queuing up to buy his CD and chat with the man. Nobody was sure what to expect next from the Lewinskys. A mainly female band featuring a fiddle player and the perky talents of Scott Thunes’s sister Stacy (a dead ringer for her sibling, but with loads more hair on her head and far less on her ears). They announced that they’d never played any Zappa songs before but, as they were being joined by Scott and Mike Keneally tonight, they were gonna give it a go. They started with I Have Been In You  (thankfully sung by one of their male members) before launching into a thundering Willie The Pimp with JCB up front on the M.I.C. and Scott pumping out the familiar bass line at the back. Mike and (that-man-again) Ike sang Magic Fingers before permitting the Lewinskys to spotlight one of their own tunes (Liquor Store). Scott got to play a bit of a solo during My Guitar; Mike impersonated Johnny Cash again for Ring Of Fire; the girls sang another of their songs (Nicotine, Caffeine & Alcohol); and they ended with a magnificent (and brave) stab at Valley Girl (Stacy as Moon, and one of her German colleagues adding some dialogue for the home crowd). I guess you could say the Lewinskys kinda prostituted theyselves by allowing Mike and Scott and FZ to dominate, but all had a good time. Totally. I’m sure. When the Ozric Tentacles finally came on, I went backstage and talked briefly with Scott.



He’s not so much a scary musician as scary full stop. I managed to utter a few inanities before he went to check out the Tentacles “good groove” (Keneally was already out front digging them in the mosh-pit). I went back to our tent and, instead of sheep, Ian and I counted the number of notes played by the bass player. I made it 4½. Having lost my programme with my luggage, I completely forgot that today’s performers would start earlier than previously, so Ian and me went to the seaside for a brief paddle in the Baltic. By the time we got back, we’d missed Jazzprojeckt (has had most everyone else, seemingly), Vaclav Cesak, and Beistelltische (shame, I’ve heard their all-vocal shenanigans before and would likened to have seen them). Can’t remember much about Sweden’s Arne Fruit Quartet (the sun was getting to me – Ian told me that their lead singer wore an unnecessarily offensive T-shirt at Zappanale #11), but France’s Nasal Retentive Orchestra were notable for their exorcism of the ghost of Le Pen – hey: be a c@?t, vote National Front – via a frozen chicken (which they injected with lighter fuel, ignited, and then axed to bits before making the water turn black). Ian and I listened to the rest of their set from the backstage area where we chatted for about 40 minutes with Ike Willis. He compared his role at Zappanale to that of an all-rounder in baseball (“Helping out wherever I’m needed”; he later fixed an amp during Lennon/Tabacco/Zappa’s set, and played a Wurlitzer-like organ solo for them during 50/50). I of course sang Take Me Out To The Ball Game. I asked him what Frank was going on about when he mentioned the phrase “We’re Beatrice” in The Real FZ Book, and Ike patiently explained that Beatrice Foods was one of about four huge conglomerates that bought up most of the companies in the US and at one time every TV ad appeared to end with this corny old phrase – much to Frank and Ike’s amusement. Didn’t know that – but then I never understood half of Billy The Mountain either. Noting that he was reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, we spoiled the mood slightly by informing him that Douglas Adams was now no more. He didn’t know that. I managed to get a Beatles Top 10 out of him – and the fact that Uncle Frank used to change his kids diapers – before he had to go and help someone else out. Now regular visitors to my site will know that Nigey Lennon and me correspond a fair bit – in fact it was me who introduced her to the Arf Society, which lead to her and Candy and Bob and Ed Palermo’s appearances here – so forgive me if I sound a bit biased, but I thought the Lennon/Tabacco/Zappa band played a great set. They were under pressure to play more FZ and had to drop Pirates Of Old Northport, on which I was scheduled to sing a verse. But they still played mainly original material, including two new songs from their sequel to Billy The Mountain (which, with Nigey’s help, I’ll probably understand a bit more). John Tabacco sang most of the songs performed, including Jelly Roll Gumdrop and encore 50/50. He also sang (with a knowing wink to me at the side of the stage, ‘cause he knows I like it a lot) his beautiful Two Steps Forward, One Step Back that ended their set proper. Surprisingly, someone in the audience yelled, “Play something we know!” after a blistering version of Cosmic Debris, sung by Candy with help from Ike Willis. Maybe the tuba solo threw him? [It’s a Zappanale tradition? Oh, how sweet!] Nigey sang a couple of tunes (including Wino, Man – the comma being crucial here), and Jimmy Carl Black – wearing his waistcoat from 200 Motels – sang a duet with Candy on Nigey’s new C&W tune, Stolen Cadillac. Another highlight. ‘Twas only a shame that Nigey’s slide guitar could hardly be heard. After LTZ, Jim Cohen (who I should have mentioned earlier, is the excellent bilingual MC at these happening’s and pretty much holds them together) and Ike Willis relayed Lenny Bruce’s Lone Ranger-Unnatural Acts routine before, one-by-one, the Grandmothers West started to fill the stage. They had a lengthy warm-up/soundcheck that included Don Preston playing The Rite Of Spring and the theme from Star Trek, and Roy Estrada shouting, “Right there!” For those who haven’t been paying attention, the Grannies this time out was: Don, Roy, Napoleon Murphy Brock, Bob Harris and Bunk Gardner. They were aided and abetted by Project/Object’s part-time drummer Glen Leonard and guitarist André Cholmondeley. Having heard the Don dominated line-up from late-2001, and heard from Bob Harris that he would be mainly playing his trumpet, I was a little apprehensive about whether Don would let Napi sing! But I needn’t have worried. It was like being transported back in time to the Mothers’ 10th Anniversary tour, as Mr Brock dramatically sang a string of their early smash-flops. He’s so energetic that watching him wore me out. Needless to say, with this line-up they could play almost anything from Frank’s extensive catalogue, but the most recent tunes played were a couple of Don’s compositions  (during The Eternal Question – which of course featured Jimmy Carl Black complaining about his WOIIFTM dress– Bunk relayed his ‘fudge story’). Napi, Bob & Bunk impersonated the Fowler Brothers unison blowing during an excellent Son Of Orange County, and Napi’s lady Cathy, Jimmy’s wife Moni and the ever-lovely Miss Pamela (she’s the same age as Robert Plant, but she’s definitely weathered better) demonstrated fine Terpsichorean abilities for a large chunk of the band’s performance. A real nice surprise was Roy Estrada singing In The Sky (which of course used to be a part of Uncle Meat all those years ago). This just might have beaten the Project/Object and Ed Palermo sets, but mainly because there were so many ex-Mothers up there and it was the last night and everything. Ian and me stayed for a chat backstage with all the lovely folk there, and Miss Pamela showed me her James Dean tattoo (like a Bishop’s diocese, it’s on the back of her neck). All them as wanted hugging was hugged, and that night (morning?) not even a bunch of inconsiderate folk playing Sid Vicious’s My Way full blast at 4 a.m. outside our tent could wipe the smile from my face. All too soon we were travelling back to Lübeck and my luggage. Miss Pamela flew to dear Old Blighty with us – she is in the process of negotiating a deal with publishers over here to issue a special edition of her book, I’m With The Band – so Ian felt duty bound to inform her about my nocturnal ‘heavy breathing’. I wonder if that will get a mention in the reprinted book? Well, reality soon hit us as we waited for about an hour for our luggage to get off the plane at Stansted. And that’s the end of the story. Will Zappanale #14 be even better? Can’t wait to find out.




Home                     News                     Other Diaries                   Reviews