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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Zappa Plays Zappa pays tribute to the legendary Frank Zappa

On Friday, Sept. 25, Zappa Plays Zappa is set to take the stage at Madison’s Barrymore Theatre.

Zappa Plays Zappa is a touring tribute by Dweezil Zappa to his late father, Frank. Frank Zappa’s more than 30-year career saw dozens of studio and live albums released, with material that stretched from rock and jazz to even classical music.

Dweezil’s ensemble, Zappa Plays Zappa, is a sprawling group of multi-instrumentalists, currently consisting of Zappa plus five more musicians faithfully re-imagining Frank’s extensive catalog.

On this tour, the group is performing the entirety of One Size Fits All, the 1975 release by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, one of Zappa’s earliest groupings. 

The extremely experimental album opens up with a bang on “Inca Roads,” an expansive track that stretches over eight minutes with intricate playing and dynamics between Zappa and the legendary George Duke. Duke, who would later go on to collaborate with jazz titan Stanley Clarke, lends a jazzy sensibility throughout the whole album that punctuates Zappa’s humorous and clever lyricism.

The lyrics throughout One Size Fits All are constant demonstrations of Zappa’s creativity, while the playing typifies the attention to detail that Zappa’s music requires. With the many movements of Zappa’s work, it’s no wonder the perfectionist didn’t allow his band members to partake in drugs. 

In addition to running through all of One Size Fits All, the band is set to perform a selection of other works from Zappa’s catalog. Past nights on the tour have seen the band dig into The Grand Wazoo, Apostrophe (‘), Waka/Jawaka and Sheik Yerbouti among others.

The band will be performing at the Barrymore, a beautiful and underappreciated theater in the Atwood neighborhood on the east side. The about 1,000-seat theater has phenomenal sound, a good layout and a strong selection of beer that’s more than competitively priced—a trifecta for putting together a strong concert venue.  

Frank Zappa was one of the most nontraditional guitar players of all time, and with a nigh un-master-able style, it was left to his son to pick up the slack, something he does with aplomb, as Dweezil is a phenomenal guitar player in his own right. With just one guitar player in Zappa Plays Zappa, Dweezil more than handles the difficulties of performing his father’s music.

While Zappa’s music may have a steep learning curve due to the numerous time signatures, occasional atonality, meandering song lengths and out-of-left field song topics like “Titties and Beer,” Zappa Plays Zappa does an excellent job of giving listeners a full crash course in Frank’s music while still adding their own special touches.

Zappa Plays Zappa will play the Barrymore Theatre on Friday, Sept. 25 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are still available.

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