Jam Central Station 7.28.12 - Frank Zappa
Posted by Jeff Modzelewski on 07.28.2012
A look at a true one of a kind artist
Hey everyone, and welcome back to another week of Jam Central Station! Before we get started, I want to remind everyone one more time to head over to the Jam Central Station Facebook page for a chance to win tickets to Hoxeyville in a couple of weeks. The winner will be announced on July 30. And now on with the show!
There are plenty of artists that I have covered (or will cover in the future) that are unique and original. Artists that pushed boundaries well beyond where conventional musicians would go. However, none of them come close to the genre-bending, line-blurring genius that was and is Frank Zappa. In an era of new and original music, Frank Zappa was light years beyond any of his contemporaries. He combined rock, jazz, and his own unique avant garde free-form sound to create music that broke through every convention of the day, and he pursued musical interests and styles that no other artist has ventured into yet. Artists of all genres list Zappa as an influence, despite a career that included no major hit records or singles. Between albums he released during his life and posthumous releases, the Frank Zappa catalog numbers nearly 100 albums, making him one of the most prolific artists of all time. He was nothing short of a creative genius, and for nearly 30 years he took his fans on musical journeys that simply could not be found anywhere else.
Zappa grew up a fan of many types of music in the 50's and 60's. In his teenage years he was particularly drawn to the early R&B music scene as well as modern orchestral music. He tended to focus on music that was far removed from the mainstream, ignoring musical fads and searching out anything outside of the norm. His early record collection included avant-garde composers, modern jazz, doo-wop, and other groundbreaking styles. As a musician, he started out as a snare drummer and focused on orchestral percussion, and was more interested in the sounds of the instrument than in typical harmony or melody.
Zappa started as a drummber but moved to guitar by high school. He joined a local band and began writing songs as well as avant-garde orchestral pieces. He also began his friendship with Don Vliet, better knon as Captain Beefheart. After school he worked as a songwriter and composer, and he worked on soundtracks for small films. Using this income he purchased his own recording studio, where he spent long hours experimenting with different sounds and techniques. He released songs independently and staged local shows. However, he was unsuccessful in getting a record deal, but his recordings and local performances were enough to make a living. However, in 1965 he was arrested for "conspiracy to commit pornography" over an erotic tape he had made and spent 10 days in jail. Shortly after that he was evicted from his studio.
Zappa joined The Soul Giants as a guitarist in 1965, and quickly took over leadership of the band. They changed their name to The Mothers and then to The Mothers of Invention. They were signed to Verve Records, releasing their debut album Freak Out! in 1966. The album was written almost entirely by Zappa, who had control over all of the studio musicians and overdubs. The band's second album Absolutely Free was less song oriented and more compositional than their debut, and Zappa had even more production control on this album. Lyrically Zappa focused on satire as well as non-conformist statements, and he was very vocal about his anger towards any sort of censorship or limits on freedom. He also released his first official solo album at this time, the orchestral Lumpy Gravy.
The band moved to New York in 1967 and took up residence at the Garrick Theater. It was here that the band mastered their live performances, moving from solos that highlighted individual members to performances of Zappa's songs. They also recorded We're Only In It For The Money at this time, a blazing satire of the hippie movement. The band's time in New York was extremely productive, and Zappa became well versed in blending live and studio music on albums, and he built up a tremendous collection of live recordings of the Mothers of Invention. Zappa also became involved in ownership of two record labels as well as producing albums for other artists. By the end of the 60's the Mothers of Invention had split up, but Zappa was turning into a true musical force.
The end of the Mothers of Invention cleared the way for Zappa to exert even more control over his music. He released Hot Rats in 1969, another defining Zappa album. Zappa brought together a new backing band for subsequent releases, dubbing them the Mothers instead of the Mothers of Invention. They backed Zappa on his next albums as well as on the 200 Motels soundtrack, a movie directed in part by Zappa. Not long after this, Zappa suffered a severe injury when an audience member pushed him off of the stage during a show. Zappa had to leave the road for over 6 months, and the new version of the Mothers mainly went off on their own.
He returned to the road playing gigs with a big band setup before moving on to smaller arrangements. In 1974, Apostrophe became his biggest hit album, going up to #10 on Billboard. He also moved back into detail-oriented jazz fusion around this time with another version of The Mothers. Multiple live albums from this period were also released. A split between Zappa and longtime manager Herb Cohen resulted in a lawsuit, and another lawsuit with Warner Bros. resulted in Zappa not releasing any material for over a year. Because of this, Zappa spent much of the mid to late 70's on the road in a variety of setups.
By the end of the 70's Zappa had regained control of nearly every aspect of his musical life. He formed Zappa Records, where he would release his next few albums. Sheic Yerbouti and Joe's Garage were both released around this time, and are two of his most revered albums. Zappa also ran into numerous roadblocks at this time around the content of his lyrics, both for their sexual nature and other offensive content. Zappa vehemently defended his music and lyrical content and his right as an artist to express himself.
Do to a conflict with Zappa Records distributor Phonogram, Zappa founded Barking Pumpkin Records, the label where he would release most his material for the rest of his life. He continued to change up his band to include the best musicians that he could find. Steve Vai even toured with the band in the early 80's. You Are What You Is was a more rock-oriented album with strong political commentary, and then went on to release a trio of instrumental albums. In 1982 his biggest single, "Valley Girl," was released on the Ship Arriving Too Late To Save a Drowning Witch album. The song was also nominated for a Grammy.
With the complete creative freedom that he had, Zappa was able to move between rock, jazz, and orchestral music as he saw fit. He released two albums with the London Symphony Orchestra playing his compositions and also worked with other orchestras on a limited basis. By the mid 80's, Zappa had discovered the Synclavier, an early synthesizer that allowed Zappa to find the perfection that he was looking for. By the late 80's he had the opportunity to remaster and re-release earlier works. He also won his first Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance with Jazz from Hell. He toured in 1988 with a new band, and the tour produced 3 separate live albums.
Zappa was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1990. He focused his remaining years primarily on orchestral music, and his work was recognized throughout Europe at this time. His last public performance was as a conductor in Frankfurt Germany of some of his orchestral music. He died on December 4, 1993.
Frank Zappa will be remembered as a musician, a political commentator and satirist,and a devout believer in free speech and freedom of expression. He was one of the most vocal opponents of the PMRC in the 80's and testified at a Senate hearing regarding "obscene" music. He encouraged his fans to vote and participate in the political system as well, despite his hostility towards many politicians. He even considered running for president before his cancer diagnosis prevented it.
Frank Zappa's influence on music likely can't be overstated. Without Frank Zappa, bands like Phish and The Flaming Lips likely wouldn't exist, at least not in their current form. His music is still popular enough today that his son, Dweezil Zappa, performs and tours playing his father's music as Zappa Plays Zappa. Frank Zappa continues to be a force in modern music, nearly 20 years after his death, and he likely will remain that way for many years to come.
Austin City Limits looking to expand
After Coachella had tremendous success by expanding to two weekends, it looks like Austin City Limits is looking to follow suit. The festival is in negotiations with the city of Austin to discuss expanding to two weekends as early as 2013. There are still a number of points to be negotiated, but Coachella proved that the two-weekend model can be very successful. I'm not at all surprised that ACL is headed in this direction.
Yonder Mountain String Band announce dates
Yonder Mountain String Band announced a run of fall dates this week. This will run take them through October up to Halloween.
10/3 Raleigh, NC—Lincoln Theatre
10/4 Athens, GA—Georgia Theatre
10/5 Chattanooga, TN—3 Sisters Bluegrass Festival
10/6 Memphis, TN—Minglewood Hall
10/9 Louisville, KY—Headliners Music Hall
10/10 Columbia, MO—The Blue Note
10/11 Ozark, MO—Harvest Fest
10/12 Ozark, MO—Harvest Fest
10/13 Ozark, MO—Harvest Fest
10/17 Milwaukee, WI—Pabst Theatre
10/18 Indianapolis, IN—Vogue Theatre
10/19 Chicago, IL—House of Blues
10/20 Chicago, IL—House of Blues
10/24 Burlington, VT—Higher Ground
10/25 Burlington, VT—Higher Ground
10/26 Philadelphia, PA—Theatre of the Living Arts
10/27 Silver Spring, MD—The Fillmore
Bassnectar announces tour
Bassnectar will be taking his party on the road throughout this fall. He announced a set of dates that run from late September through November.
09/27 Greensboro, NC—Greensboro Coliseum
09/28 Fairburn, GA—CounterPoint Fest
09/29 Baton Rouge, LA—Sugarcane Village
10/03 Columbus, OH—Lifestyle Communities Pavilion Indoors
10/04 Bloomington, IL—U.S. Cellular Coliseum
10/05 Lawrence, KS—Burcham Park
10/06 St. Louis, MO—Bass Center VII – The Chaifetz Arena
10/08 Jackson, MS—Jackson Convention Complex
10/10 Little Rock, AR—Riverfest Amphitheatre
10/11 Tulsa, OK—Tulsa Convention Center
10/13 Austin, TX—Austin City Limits Fest
10/17 Tempe, AZ—Marquee Theatre
10/18 Los Angeles, CA—The Palladium
10/20 San Francisco, CA—Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
10/24 Reno, NV—Summit Pavilion
10/25 Boise, ID—Revolution Center
10/26 Portland, OR—Rose Quarter
10/27 Vancouver, BC—UBC Thunderbird Arena
10/31 Calgary, AB—Big Four Building at Stampede Park
11/02 Fargo, ND—Concert Hall at The Venue
11/03 Minneapolis, MN—Target Center
11/05 Pittsburgh, PA—Stage AE
11/07 Detroit, MI —The Fillmore Detroit
11/08 Detroit, MI—The Fillmore Detroit
11/15 Amherst, MA—Mullins Center
11/16 Montclair, NJ—Wellmont Theater
11/17 New York, NY—Terminal 5
11/18 New York, NY—Terminal 5
Mickey Hart added to Hoxeyville
The Mickey Hart Band will join the Hoxeyville Music Festival, set to take place August 17-19. This is in addition to Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers as well as 7 Walkers featuring Bill Kreutzmann.
Gov't Mule announce dates
Gov't Mule will be heading out west in September. They'll be playing a handful of dates in Colorado, California, and Nevada.
09/12 Englewood, CO—Gothic Theatre
09/13 Denver, CO—Fillmore
09/14 Vail, CO—Gerald Ford Amphitheatre
09/15 Telluride, CO—Telluride Blues & Brews
09/18 Los Angeles, CA—Club Nokia
09/19 San Diego, CA—House of Blues
09/21 San Francisco, CA—The Warfield
09/22/12 Reno, NV—Grand Sierra
July 26-29, 2012
Performers include: Michael Franti & Spearhead, Leftover Salmon, Matisyahu, Galactic, Punch Brothers, Toubab Krewe, Drew Emmitt Band, and many others.
Newport Folk Festival
July 28-29, 2012
Ft. Adams State Park
August 2-5, 2012
Rancho Del Rio & State Bridge, CO
Performers include: Railroad Earth, Elephant Revival, The Contribution, Honkytonk Homeslice, Poor Man's Whiskey featuring Michael Kang performing "Dark Side of the Moonshine," Danny Barnes, and a special Nershi's Joint Set.
Newport Jazz Festival
August 3-5, 2012
Ft. Adams State Park
Performers include: Tedeschi Trucks Band, 3 Clarinets, Gretchen Parlato &Lionel Loueke, Pedrito Martinez Group, and many others.
August 3-5, 2012
Performers include: The Black Keys, Snoop Dogg, Justice, Sugar Rios, Florence + The Machine, The Shins, MGMT, Garbage, and many others.
August 3-5, 2012
Performers include: Black Sabbath, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Black Keys, Jack White, Bassnectar, Florence & The Machine, At The Drive In, Justice, and many others.
Outside Lands Festival
August 10-12, 2012
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA
August 10-12, 2012
Snow Ridge Ski Resort
Performers include: Multiple sets of moe., Umphrey's McGee, SOJA, and many others to be announced.
August 17-19, 2012
Performers include: 7 Walkers, Greensky Bluegrass, BoomBox, The MacPodz, The Ragbirdz, and many others.
August 23-25, 2012
August 23-26, 2012
Camp Hidden Meadows
Performers include: Zach Deputy, Brothers Past, The Motet, Euforquesta, That 1 Guy, and others. Headliners yet to be announced.
Music on the Mountaintop
August 24-26, 2012
Grandfather Mountain Campground
The event will be hosted by Railroad Earth. Other artists will be announced later.
Summer Set Festival
August 24-26, 2012
Performers include: Umphrey's McGee, Pretty Lights, Big Gigantic, Lotus, Nas, Black Star, Excision, Zed's Dead, Matt & Kim, Rebolution, and many others.
Dark Star Jubilee
August 31-September 2, 2012
Performers include: 3 nights of Dark Star Orchestra, Mickey Hart Band, 7 Walkers, Donna Jean Godchaux Band with Jeff Mattson, Keller Williams, The Infamous Stringdusters, Cornmeal, Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk, Donna the Buffalo, Rumpke Mountain Boys, and many others.
The Werk Out Music and Arts Festival
September 20-23, 2012
Performers include: 2 nights of The Werks, ekoostik hookah, Rusted Root, Everyone Orchestera, EOTO, DrFameus, The Heavy Pets, and many more.
September 22, 2012
Performers include: Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds, Jack Johnson, ALO, and many others.
October 5-6, 2012
Mann Music Center
Performers include: The Disco Biscuits, Diplo, A-Trak, RJD2, Paper Diamond, Papadosio, and many others.
Harvest Music Festival
October 11-13, 2012
Yonder Mountain String Band will host the event and perform multiple sets. More artists will be announced later.
Austin City Limits
October 12-14, 2012
Performers include: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, The Black Keys, Jack White, Florence + The Machine, The Avett Brothers, Umphrey's McGee, Big Gigantic, Bassnectar, The Roots, Gotye, Weezer, Thievery Corp., and many others.
Hangtown Halloween Ball
October 26-28, 2012
El Dorado County Fairgrounds
Performers include: Railroad Earth (3 shows), The Del McCoury Band, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe performing a Beastie Boys tribute, Blind Pilot, The Travelin' McCoury's featuring Keller Williams, Emmitt-Nershi Band, The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, and many more.
November 8-11, 2012
Spirit of the Suwanee Music Park
Live Oaks, FL
Performers include: Umphrey's McGee, Soulive, Lotus, Perpetual Groove, Break Science, The Heavy Pets, and many others.
Strings & Sol
December 12-16, 2012
Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa
Yonder Mountain String Band will perform 3 shows, and Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, and The Infamous Stringdusters will each be performing 2 shows.
December 16-19, 2012 (Bahamas)
December 19-23, 2012 (Jamaica)
Departing from Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Performers include: Pulp, Hot Chip, Yeasayer, Girl Talk, James Murphy, Sleigh Bells, and many others.
December 17-21, 2012
Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa
Umphrey's McGee, The Disco Biscuits, and STS9 will each perform two shows. STS9 will also perform a special midnight set commemorating the beginning of the new Great Cycle of the Mayan Calendar.
Island Exodus IV
January 16-20, 2013
Gov't Mule will host the event and perform multiple sets. No word on other performers.
Jam in the Sand
March 1-5, 2013
Breezes Grand Resort
Dark Star Orchestra's first Jamaican event. This event will feature multiple DSO shows as well as three Keller Williams sets and other activities
April 12-14, 2013
April 19-21, 2013
As always thanks for sticking around. You can find more Jam Central Station on FacebookTwitter. Until next week, Jam On!