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Columns > John Zinkand - Improvise

Published: 2009/01/25
by John Zinkand

ZPZ: You Cant Fit on Stage Anymore

Ive seen Zappa Plays Zappa a few times. Dweezil and the band have never failed to impress with their meticulously rehearsed faithful renditions of Frank Zappas complicated, convoluted, and downright crazy music. Previous tours have included past band mates of Franks such as Terry Bozzio and Steve Vai coming on stage for certain segments of the show. A video of Frank playing a guitar solo over what the band was playing live was one of my favorite features of past tours, as well. And while Zappa Plays Zappas most recent tour, You Cant Fit on Stage Anymore, does include a former Zappa road warrior by the name of Ray White on guitar and vocals, this tour was very different from anything this band has done so far or any band, for that matter.

While none of the Zappa Play Zappa shows have ever been cheap – an average price tag is about fifty bucks for the evenings entertainment (but usually a very long evening of three to four hours of music), this tour cost even more. Some might think, Shouldnt this tour be called the Were Only in it for the Money tour? During these trying economic times upping the cost to one hundred dollars could seem a risky move, but the bands angle in making this decision was quality over quantity. Yes, a hundred dollars is somewhat expensive for an evenings entertainment, but during this tour the hundred dollars earned you a little bit more than the average concert.

Ive a friend who lives in Seattle who might be the definitive Zappa Plays Zappa super fan. If youve seen the ZPZ DVD, youve seen my friend Michael. He is the bespectacled, balding, and bearded man who is in the front row in much of the footage. He was kind enough to invite me up to Seattle to see a show at The Triple Door by his favorite live band Zappa Plays Zappa. When this tour was announced, I saw that the band was coming to Portland but opted to skip it due to the hefty price tag and the choice of venues (The Hawthorne Theater is a pretty grungy, dingy place almost unworthy of Franks lofty music). My buddy came down to Portland to see that show, however. And when he offered to pay my way to the next nights show in Seattle, how could I resist? (It was actually tougher to resist than you might think since Garaj Mahal was playing in town that night and there was no 3 hour drive in the rain involved to check it out. But Im very glad I chose the rainy drive to see Dweezil and the band in Seattle.) But I digress. Why was the ticket price so darn high, you ask? For starters, this tour was played at venues that generally hold four hundred people or less. Seattles show was at the very posh venue known as The Triple Door, for example. This intimate theater is basically a jazz supper club with tiered booth seating all the way down to the front of the stage. During the entire evening a waitress kept us well satiated with food and beverages while the band played their hearts out. The show’s intimacy might be selling point enough for some to fork over the hundred bucks, but wait.theres more!! Each person who bought a ticket to the show was given a laminate as their ticket to take home as a souvenir (and to make you feel special, I think). On each laminate/ticket was a special code and the special code had two purposes. After the show (the band said it would be eight days after, but its been taking a little longer), one can enter the code into the live download site for a free download. And the other even more nifty function of the code on the back of the laminate was the raffle entry. At each performance the band randomly gave away one Hagstrom guitar signed by the entire band. But wait.theres even more!! Upon Dweezil reading off the winning code, the recipient of the prized guitar walked on stage to retrieve it, but only after jamming for a few minutes with the band!! In Portland, the winner was a girl who didnt really know how to play, so Dweezil helped her out a little bit. But in Seattle an older gentlemen won and he had no problem laying down several hot licks with the band. Go Jeff!!!!

While this tour was definitely geared more towards the Zappa loving die-hards, one cant argue that the hundred dollar price tag was pretty darn justified. Instead of being in larger venue where sight lines can be obscured or the room can be uncomfortably crowded, these shows were in cozy, comfortable, intimate venues where band interaction was free and easy. The fact that the ticket also includes a one-in-four hundred chance of winning a brand new guitar after jamming with the band, as well as a free download makes it well worth the price of admission. Not to mention this band is so incredibly tight. Dweezil is a very gifted guitar player and the band only gets better and better. The show I saw included such perfectly played gems as "Flakes">"Broken Hearts Are for Assholes," "Andy," "Cosmic Debris," "Joes Garage," "Peaches En Regalia" and "Im The Slime" just to name a few! Its nice to see bands coming up with creative approaches to touring, and the You Cant Fit on Stage Anymore tour was incredibly innovative and very successfuleven in these trying economic times.

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