“The adventures of jiggery pokery”
Most seemed to agree that this year was one of the better festivals for some while. Although musically it was no better or worse than recent ones, it was more a case of it being a particularly relaxed affair - no bands overlapping on the main and mystery stages, so more time to chill and chat.
This year, Uncle Ian and I decided to go old skool, eschewing our usual backstage privileges and camping with the hoi polloi. And it seems there were hardly any tents out back this year. The downside of course was that we didn’t get to mingle so readily with the artistes, which is always useful for someone who runs a website purporting to have its finger on the pulse. But then, being out front you get to find out more of the unusual and mischievousness insider gossip that you might not otherwise.
Anywho, our journey together started in ole Lunnon Town with HRH Princess Rooney. Together we all went to the Proms to see the Aurora Orchestra perform G-Spot Tornado and The Adventures Of Greggery Peccary. What amazed me about this was that far more members of the orchestra were needed for the former. While the latter was beautifully played à la the Roundhouse rendition, baritone Christopher Purves was woefully under-rehearsed and missed a few cues.
Similar can be said about Zappanale headliners, Banned From Utopia. While it was absolutely mind-blowing to see Tom Fowler and Ralph Humphrey on the same stage, Ray White did note that they’d only all met up for the first time for a couple of hours previous and, coupled with some technical gremlins, the band’s performance wasn’t the spectacular display many had hoped for. They are all great musicians and there were many, many great moments (notably from Mike Miller & Albert Wing), but there were also some strange ones – like the way Society Pages ended so abruptly. But I am certain that with a tour under their belt, they will very soon be kicking ass all over the shop.
On the Thursday night, we checked out the Jimmy Carl Black documentary, Where’s The Beer. Watching Jack & Jim interact is like watching an episode of Grumpy Old Men – and similarly, Don & Bunk come across like Waldorf & Statler, It’s both funny and sad. Liked it a lot. Given that it includes some Bavarian language, it had sub-titles: in German, man! But I am assured by the film’s producers that (i) there will be a version with English sub-titles, and (ii) the DVD will contain tons of bonus material.
Before the festival, I was contacted by Kevin Crosby, who I hadn’t spoken with for a few years (older readers may recall his IBS midi-file that welcomed browsers to my home page). He told me he would be performing with PoJama People feat. Ike Willis and we would finally get a chance to meet. And we did indeed. Had a nice little chat with he and fellow Po-peeps Alli Bach and Glenn Leonard (aka ‘Glennard’). I’d brought along a couple of nice black and white photographs of Glenn taken by the late Peter Mackay at Zappanale #13, realising a little too late that handing them over at a festival might not have been the greatest idea. So I put them back in the tent and sent them by snail mail to him as soon as I returned home. Glenn found my use of the phrase “jiggery-pokery” amusing and included it in the band’s set later that weekend. Did I mention that Ike didn’t make it this year? Again?
Anyway, what did I think of the other bands this year? Anton And The Head Cleaners pleased me with their jokey banter, mainly instrumental originals and copious band introductions (keyboard player Oli Illi became a sort of secret word for the weekend). Dangerous Kitchen has an excellent vocalist/front-man in Holger Auer, and I was quite taken with this eight-piece; we sang along to Peaches and had a good time. Ali N Askin & Band impressed on the mystery stage before Sebkha-Chott’s big dramatic performance of Thing-Fish on the main stage. This was a sight to behold indeed. Clearly some of the cast weren’t too familiar with Frank’s libretto, with Rhonda’s references to ‘Henry’ bemusing and confusing throughout.
So that was Friday.
The highlight of Saturday was undoubtedly The Tap Page by Alli Bach. With a little help from her old man, Glennard, Alli thoroughly entertained us on the mystery stage with her tap shoes, finger-cymbals and vocal dexterity. I think it’s fair to say that most of us fell in love with Ms Bach as she ripped through The Dangerous Kitchen and songs from The FZ Songbook Vol. 1, before giving us all a, err, happy ending – both singing (to Bolero!) and tap-dancing The Black Page.
Others raved about Kazutoki Umezu KIKI Band from Japan, but not me. While they were undoubtedly very fine musicians, I was just not impressed by their actual music. My main observation regarding Polka Streng was that their vocalist sounded a little like Robert Wyatt. Or someone who has had a drink/stroke.
Yes, BFU, the festival headliners, also played that day. And while it really was a treat to finally feast me minces on Ralphie, see above for why I was not totally whelmed. Oh, and The Z3 also played – though they started a little after midnight. And I was knackered and only caught their first few hours! But they too attracted much praise for their funky and exuberant set, performed on just guitar, Hammond organ and drums. They’re like a US version of Tarentatec, only they keep their clothes on. I hope they come back soon.
And on the Sabbath? Well, the day just flew by and it was really only Studio Dan (a seventeen piece ensemble) and PoJama People that caught my ear. Glennard had a right old time ad-libbing Frank’s lyrics (“Ike can’t happen here...”, etc.) and impersonating Robert Balboa, Sr. Such a huge shame that he passed away the following month. May you rest in peace, Glenn.
So that was 24. My main impression of the whole weekend was that four strings don’t seem to be enough for most bass players these days.
After the festival, I was asked to contribute to a book celebrating the festival’s 25 years. Here’s an excerpt from my piece:
“I’ve met so many great people over the years, had many a mad conversation with them, and made some truly good lasting friendships with a good number of them (like my brother from another mother, Amaretto Mick Zeuner). Now that’s what makes Zappanale unique.
The late great American writer Kurt Vonnegut oft mourned the demise of the extended family: well, distant cousins, we’re out here every year in the district of Rostock – join us, where there’s never any trouble or excessive rowdiness, despite the large quantity of chemical amusement aid consumed (and I’m mainly talking German beer here).
Yes, a splendid time is guaranteed for all.”
I hope to see you all next year.