ZAPPANALE #18

 

Shuffling the j-Pod to three quarts of beer, thank you Emma for getting us hereÖleaving a day earlier than the norm, to catch the Kamp Theatre warm-up party, we learn that Ike has missed his plane (well, two) and wonít show this weekend. But itís great to see so many good friends who help lighten the mood following the Wild Man Fischer documentaíy, dErailRoaDed. Even a heavy downpour during Christophe Godinís spiffy solo set doesnít do that. But JPEG gets scared a little later by the Beefheart Projekt, Chen Unst. Playing in the back of a van, they recite the Captainís discography, make weird PC-generated noises, pound the drums like there ainít no sanity clause, and I feel like a dummy when interviewed by a local radio station about some rift with the Zappa family (I tell them they should embrace events like this, put on by fans for the fans). This night, some idiot leaves a package of puke outside our tent.

 

And so, the main event. Itís DonnnnnnieÖno, AndrťÖoh Cheri, no Laurie. Moo-ahh! Whereís all the grass gone? Apparently this is where security parked their vehicles during the recent G8 Summit just up the road in Heiligendamm. So MC Jim Cohen's kinda right: GWB did kill the grass. The Akashic Ensemble start as they did at Londonís Vortex last year, with Solo Piece (each member taking their turn to show off their electronic gizmos, one after the other). The second tune has a groovy Indian raga feel with nice guitar from Andrť and moog from Don, who told us itís a joint Pšrt/Preston composition. Very nice. Some of the audience get a little restless; I would urge them to check out Akashicís CD and Donís recent Works album to gain a better understanding of where Donís at these days. Itís a good place. Still, this being Zappanale, the band do relent and feed the hungry freaks Neon Meate Dream, Who Are The Brain Police? and Help, Iím Iraq. During their classic CCC, CJFE and IBS hold up some prompt cards, and much bemusement ensues. Seems the Arfs arenít ready for Monty & The Butchers (hell, despite being added to the line-up well before Chen Unst, they didnít even make it to the back of the festival t-shirt); the whippersnappers launch into Any Downers with the Zappateers going ape-shit down the front and, after a few numbers, suddenly the Ďofficialí cameras start to re-appear. They play a great set, expanding on their UK ZappaFest material with some new ones of their own (which most folk seem to love Ė these boys have a great future ahead, methinks) plus stuff like For The Young Sophisticate and Uncle Remus (yes, this time they have a keyboard player, though sadly he canít be heard too clearly during Cletus). They start and end Black Napkins really well, but get a little PGSORM in the middle. They also perform the first of many versions of Cosmik Debris weíll hear this weekend, but the highlight (for me) is Apostrophe. Next we get to see Monsieur Godin again, but this time with his backing tapes replaced by the excellent presence of his band, MŲrglbl. Christophe plays real nice Ďn fast in a Vai kinda way, but thereís always a smile rather than a grimace lurking on his face. Playing mainly their own material, they cover three just-learnt Zappa songs. They have no need to really as the rest of the set stands up as it is Ė and, based on the magic outro to Village Of the Sun (the lyrics to which Christophe screws up), they mightíve made more of them as instrumentals. It might just be a coincidence, but their seventh song is a wistful (with a fistful) guitar ballad (called Les Mecanismes Du Temps). At least, to start with. Realising they have more time, they really start to have fun, with a Brazilian take on AC/DCís Highway To Hell and a pretty straight run through Smoke On The Water. I Virtuosi Dal Pianeta Talento next: they remind me of FZLE from last year. Some nice percussion and harp work, and all perfectly executed, even if their set-list lacks a little imagination. After the first two numbers (Muffin Man/Peaches), theyíre interrupted by the annual Arf spiel. Time for beer - titties Ďn beer, actually - from which the band fails to steal my attention, Iím afraid. Not even when the hero returns (Napi sings Montana with their pretty vocaliser). Yes, weíve just bumped into Dr Dot backstage. She really is a lovely lady, very bright and vivacious, with a great bod to boot. For some reason, the other girls seem a little jealous of all the attention she gets. Now Iím really juiced up and looking forward to Project Object; itís obvious to everyone, they should be headlining tonight. They open with a cracking Big Swifty and just steam through a hastily-revised-in-the-absence-of-Ike set. All wonderful musicians, with the added bonus of both Napi and Don. And how marvellous to see Dot play the part of Mary during Wet T-Shirt Nite. She sounds just right. But itís young Eric Slick who stands out the most. The big debate backstage is: was he awesome, or merely phenomenal? After them, the crowd leaves in droves: no oneís really heard of Trigon.

 

The big hit of Saturday is Team Zappa from Norway. A great horn section and a mighty vocalist who sings the shit out of some of Frankie's finest. Muscular, precise and in yer face is my description. Even without the vox (the lead man is ably supported by a slinky female) they're great. There's some nice vibes during Dupree's Paradise, great horn stabs and funky guitar adorn Keep It Greasey - the song they repeat as their encore - and lovely keyboards decorate a fine Zoot Allures. They look as whelmed as us. Yoy! I Have Been You sung in Norwegian sounds like they're singing "in my rear end-ahh!" If there's any criticism, it's the "oh yeah" vocal ad-libs. But overall, a majestic opening. Last time Octafish played Zappanale, I wasn't as won over as everyone else seemed to be. But they've grown on me considerably and today they turn in a great performance, including their wondrous rendition of G-Spot Tornado. They are followed by Ben Watson's quiz. Given the comments made by HRH Princess Helena Rooneystein about my royally assisted victory at Bradford-on-Avon, I stand in front of the stage and complete the answers on my lonesome. Hey, it's multiple choice and I'm two wrong uns! Before reading the questions, Ben - assisted by Saint Esther - reads a list of offences from the lady whose digs they were at the previous day. It's all good stuff and gets us smiling afore friends of DOOT!, Kimono Draggin'. They play mostly their own material, but throw in Foxy Lady, Electricity (with an animated Stephen Chillemi on vox), Hocus Pocus and a bit of Muffin Man. A hoot, they cause Pete Brunelli to dream of chicken wings that eve, while J-Roc ponders the manufacture of ant farm beer glasses. But before then, John and I are accosted in the toilets and asked the immortal question: ďWhoís the best Poppa?Ē Sex Without Nails Bros give me nightmares. Like last time, we are again promised the complete Roxy & Elsewhere album. But instead we get the hits with the usual histrionics from Poppa Bro. Napi does join them for a stirring Pygmy Twylyte (wherein he repeats his Message rap) and Uncle Remus, but they sing a few more from Roxy and elsewhere without him. I can't hide my disappointment. Iíve no idea what Space Debris played, as they donít have Ďsongsí and set lists. But they were totally jamming. Kiss Prudence goodnight, Keith.

Now the big question is, will Sunday match Friday - which has easily been the best for music so far. Things commence well with Polytoxicomane Philharmonie, but the day sees some technical hiccups which threaten to spoil things. Polytox play originals, but slip in Grandchild Of Mr Green Genes and Peaches. During second song, Opinion, their female vocalistís microphone gets broken and a new one is plugged in directly rather than through the Preamp/FX, so theyíre kind of gutted. Anyway, a very theatrical performance Ė lotsa stage props and such. Fun. I was hoping for great things from Swedenís The Great Googly Moogly, but their fellow Scandinavians beat them into a cocked hat with their performance the previous day. They seemed to chat too much, lacked guitar during the first half of their set (most notcieably during the Yellow Snow suite) and (horror of horrors) they replaced Frankís beautiful axe-work on Any Kind Of Pain with a sax solo. So it was left to Jazzprojekt Hundehagen to raise the temperature. Now theyíve played every Zappanale Iíve been to, and each year they impress me more and more. But this year they seem to have gone to a whole new level. They start with a bunch of Mahavishnu Orchestra pieces (Meeting Of The Spirits, Dawn, The Way Of The Pilgrim, HopeÖsound problems mean a restart for Sister Andrea) and, to my mind, they should stick with them as I am kinda disappointed when they launch into Watermelon (yes, you heard right). But by the time the violin goes into a great solo during Zoot Allures they convince me that this is (of course) a wise move. We hear a rumour that the Mahavishnu Project might be on next yearís bill, so I wonder what Jazzprojekt will come up with then to amaze us? Now, Iíve owned Harmonia Ensembleís Meets Zappa CD since it came out 13 years ago, and Iíve loved it since. So I was very excited when their name appeared on the bill. And I wasnít disappointed. I think there was general agreement that they were pretty damn wonderful. Just keyboards, cello, drums and clarinet Ė how do they manage to make such a joyous sound? Next Ben announces the quiz results in reverse order: my pals Erik Palm, HRH and Mr Tim Cohen all do very well, and I come second. Asked by Ben if I thought I was going to win, I say truthfully no as I knew Iíd ballsed-up some of the answers Ė which I blame on the German beer (getting a little cheer from the locals). Anywho, the winner is an Italian mini-Frank called Jaromil. Later I congratulate him on his win and he confesses he only knew one of the answers (that Tanino Liberatore painted the cover of The Man From Utopia) and that the Zappateers - including the legendary Jon Naurin - have done all the donkey work for him. Ben guffaws: ďYou were defeated by a collective! How poignant.Ē Bloody socialist. And so to the headliner: the Chad Wackerman Trio, featuring Mike Miller on guitar and Doug Lunn on bass. Iíve spoken to both guitarists beforehand and, aside from being lovely people, theyíre both fired up about playing in this new band with Chad. Chad himself has told me he hopes to establish the group with a proper studio record and/or DVD. For this gig they will be playing some of Mikeís newer songs from his next release. No Bad Dog, and ďno Zappa covers. The rest of the set is filled with my tunes. The band has been playing gigs at the Baked Potato in LA - it's a really fun band. Hope you like it!Ē And I do, but this is the sort of music I prefer to sit and listen to at home (like The Outsidemenís Band Overboard; thanks for that, Mike Ė great stuff!) rather than in a dusty protection teamís car park. So while I find them more exciting than the recent Allan Holdsworth QEH gig, I find myself wandering up the hill to watch the sun set with Ben, his lovely wee daughter Iris, and big John. But Iím drawn back and watch the end of the show, where Mike slips in an Inca Roads quote. I must admit, I did think that Chad couldíve been persuaded to also knock-off the Black Page. But I guess no one asked him. Chad later tells me that Mike had to use a spring reverb which the crew constantly triggered causing reverb explosions throughout each tune. Like they say: 18 and still learning. And so to the traditional finale. This time they have Andrť Cholmondeley run things, and it goes really well. No Paul Green to dominate. Monty and the boys find their way to the front of the stage to gyrate (all the instruments are in use, see), and I spot some of the guys from Ossi Duri up there too. Eat That Question and Iím The Slime (with Napi) get performed and itís not at all the chaos it has been on previous occasions. Nice one, Andrť.

 

 

Well, I guess thatís the diary done. It was another great festival overall, and the network of friends keeps getting bigger and the laughs louder. And even though I didnít come first in Benís quiz, I still went home with the greatest prize of all: the hard drive containing all of the music played at the festival; please buy the CDs when theyíre done. And it was good to hang with the Zappateers, who had planned to record a version of the IBS with The FoolZ for my project at Big Blue during the festival, but too much LŁbzer got in the way I think. So happily The FoolZ recorded an instrumental acoustic version when they returned home on the Wednesday, and great it sounds too. So please buy that CD too when it comes out on Cordelia Records early next year. Thanks, as ever, to the other two fabs: Ian and J-Roc. High fives to our new travelling companions: Adam, Chris and HRH. Big hugs, as always, to Thomas and Wolfhard.

 

See you next time?

© 2007 The Best Poppa

 

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