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 411mania » Music » Columns

Jam Central Station 7.26.14: Frank Zappa
Posted by Jeff Modzelewski on 07.26.2014

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, over 20 years after his death, and he likely will remain that way for many years to come.

Primus drummer suffers heart attack
Tim Alexander, drummer for Primus, suffered a heart attack this week. He underwent surgery heart surgery and is on the road to recovery.

In other Primus news, the band announced that they will be releasing a new album this year. The album is currently untitled but it will include their interpretations of Willy Wonka songs that they played at their recent New Years show.

Phish announce fall tour
Phish will be touring this fall, primarily out west. The band announced their dates through their Halloween run in Vegas.

October 17 Eugene, OR—Matthew Knight Arena
October 18 Seattle, WA—Key Arena
October 21 Santa Barbara, CA—Santa Barbara Bowl
October 22 Santa Barbara, CA—Santa Barbara Bowl
October 24 Inglewood, CA—The Forum
October 25 Chula Vista, CA—Sleep Train Amphitheatre
October 27 San Francisco, CA—Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
October 28 San Francisco, CA—Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
October 29 San Francisco, CA—Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
October 31 Las Vegas, NV—MGM Grand Garden Arena
November 1 Las Vegas, NV—MGM Grand Garden Arena
November 2 Las Vegas, NV—MGM Grand Garden Arena

Farm Aid announces lineup
The 2014 Farm Aid will take place at the Walnut Creek Amphitheatre in Raleigh, NC on September 13. The event will feature many returning acts as well as some new faces. The lineup will include Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds, Jack White, Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Delta Rae, and many others.

Umphrey's McGee announces tour
Umphrey's McGee announced a run of fall dates. These dates primarily focus on the midwest although they will be spending Halloween in Boston.

October 22 Cleveland, OH—House Of Blues
October 23 Niagara Falls, NY—Rapids Theatre
October 24 Pittsburgh, PA—Stage AE
October 25 Grand Rapids, MI—The Orbit Room
October 29 Binghampton, NY—The Forum Theatre
October 30 Wilkes-Barre, PA—FM Kirby Center
October 31-November 1 Boston,MA—House Of Blues
November 6 Kalamazoo, MI—State Theatre
November 14-November 15 Live Oak, FL—Bear Creek Music Festival
December 3-December 7 Punta Cana, DR—Dominican Holidaze
December 30-January 3 Atlanta, GA—The Tabernacle
moe.down adds artists
moe.down added what will likely be their final additions for the event. The new additions include Gogol Bordello, Lotus, Soulive, and Jerry Douglas. They'll be joined by moe., O.A.R., Les Claypool's Duo de Twang, Rick Robinson Band, and many others.

Southern Ground Festival adds artists
This year's Southern Ground Festival will take place from October 11-12 in Charleston, NC. The festival recently added the North Mississippi Allstars, Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn, and Greensky Bluegrass. The festival already had confirmed Zac Brown Band, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Gov't Mule, Blues Traveler, and many others.

Yonder announce dates, guests
Allie Krall and Jake Joliff will continue to tour with Yonder Mountain String Band through August. The band confirmed that they will continue to be a part of the group for the short term. Jerry Douglas will also be a part of a few of their upcoming shows.

August 21 Jim Thorpe, PA - Penn's Peak *^!

August 22 Baltimore, MD - Rams Head Live *^!

August 23 Black Mountain, NC - Pisgah Brewery *^!

August 27 Richmond, VA - The National *^

August 28 Charlotte, NC - The Fillmore Charlotte *^

August 29 Wilmington, NC - Greenfield Lake Amphitheater *^
August 30 Norfolk, VA - The NorVA ^

August 31 Charlottesville, VA - The Jefferson Theater *^
September 5-7 Hancock, NY – Catskill Chill*
September 19-20 Lyons, CO – Kinfolk Celebration *^
October 16-18 Ozark, AR – Mulbery Mountain Harvest Festival
December 11-15 Puerto Morelos, Mexico – Strings and Sol
(*) Allie Kral on fiddle
(^) Jake Jolliff on mandolin
(!) Jerry Douglas on dobro

Lettuce confirm dates
Lettuce confirmed a tour that will run through the month of October. They will be playing a couple of shows with Gramatik and a couple with Soulive as well as their own headlining shows.

October 5 Austin, TX – Austin City Limits
October 7 Oxford, MS – Lyric Oxford (w/ Gramatik)#
October 8 Tuscaloosa, TN – Jupiter (w/ Gramatik)#
October 9 Baton Rouge, LA – Varsity Theater (w/ Gramatik)#
October 12 Austin, TX – Austin City Limits
October 14 Jackson, MS – Duling Hall #
October 15 Atlanta, GA – Egyptian Ballroom at Fox Theater#
October 17 Memphis, TN – Minglewood Hall#
October 18 Ozark, AR – Harvest Fest#
October 20 Bloomington, IN -Bluebird Theater*
October 21 Cleveland, OH – House of Blues*
October 22 Pittsburgh, PA – Mr Smalls*
October 23 Rochester, NY – Water Street*
October 24 Boston, MA – House of Blues*
October 25 Burlington, VT – Higher Ground*
October 26 Montreal, QB – Virgin Mobile Corona Theatre*
October 28 Albany, NY – Upstate Concert Hall*
October 29 New Haven, CT – Toad's Place*
October 30 Washington, DC – 9:30 Club*
October 31 New York, NY – Terminal 5 (w/ Soulive)
November 1 Philadelphia, PA – Electric Factory (w/ Soulive)
(*) w/ Exmag
(#) w/ Late Night Radio

Beats Antique, Shpongle, and others team up for tour
Beats Antique, Shpongle, Emancipator, and Lafa Taylor will be heading out on tour together this fall. The tour will be called the Creature Carnival Tour and will run from mid-October through early November.

October 15 Madison, WI—The Orpheum
October 16 Fargo, ND—The Venue
October 17 St. Paul, MN—The Myth Nightclub
October 18 Chicago, IL—Riviera Theatre
October 19 Chicago, IL—Riviera Theatre
October 21 Boston, MA—House of Blues
October 22 Washington, DC—Echostage
October 23 New York, NY—Best Buy Theater
October 24 Wallingford, CT—The Dome at Oakdale Theatre
October 25 Philadelphia, PA—Electric Factory
October 26 Syracuse, NY—Shed at the Market
October 29 Nashville, TN—Marathon Music Works
October 30 Asheville, NC—Asheville Civic Center
November 1 Ft. Lauderdale, FL—Revolution
November 5 Magna, UT—The Great Saltair
November 7 Las Vegas, NV—Brooklyn Bowl
November 8 Los Angeles, CA—Shrine Expo Hal

Jeff Austin Band confirms tour
The Jeff Austin Band will be touring this year. The band will include Austin, Danny Barnes, Eric Thorin, and ross Martin. They are also expecting to release an album early next year.

August 1 Bridgeport, CT—Gathering of the Vibes
August 9 Alta, WY—Targhee Bluegrass Festival
August 16 Bond, CO —Yarmony Grass
August 22 Nederland, CO—NedFest
August 23 Keystone, CO—Keystone Resort
August 24 Crested Butte, CO—Center for the Arts
September 5-6 Arrington, VA—Lockn' Festival
September 12 Utopia, TX—Utopia Festival
September 13-14 Danville, IL—Phases of the Moon
October 21 Flagstaff, AZ—Orpheum Theater
October 22 Phoenix, AZ—Musical Instruments Museum
October 23 Los Angeles, CA—The Mint
October 24-26 Placerville, CA—Hangtown Halloween Ball
October 28 Arcata, CA—Humbrews
October 29 Eugene, OR—WOW Hall
October 30 Portland, OR—Mississippi Studios
October 31 Seattle, WA—Nectar's Lounge
November 1 Bellingham, WA—The Green Frog

Rodrigo y Gabriela announce tour
Rodrigo y Gabriela will be playing a decent number of dates in the U.S. this year before heading over to Europe in November. They're out supporting their recent album 9 Dead Alive

July 25 Camden, NJ—XPoNential Music Festival – Wiggins Park
July 28 Cockeysville, MD—Believe in Music Festival
July 27 Newport, RI—Newport Folk Festival
July 30 New Brunswick, NJ—State Theatre
July 31 Vienna, VA—Filene Center At Wolf Trap
August 2 Bridgeport, CT—Gathering of the Vibes Festival
August 5 Wilmington, NC—Greenfield Lake Amphiteater
August 6 Charlotte, NC—The Fillmore Charlotte
August 8 Nashville, TN—Ryman Auditorium
August 9 Atlanta, GA—Chastain Park Amphitheatre
August 10 Louisville, KY—Iroquois amphitheater
August 13 Grand Rapids, MI—Meijer Gardens
August 14 Milwaukee, WI—Riverside Theater
August 15 Minneapolis, MN—State Theatre
August 17 Morrison, CO—Red Rocks Amphitheatre w/ Nathaniel Rateliff
October 8 Miami, FL—The Fillmore Miami Beach
October 9 Clearwater, FL—Ruth Eckerd Hall
October 11 Charleston, SC—Southern Ground Music & Food Festival
October 12 Birmingham, AL—Iron City
October 15 Houston, TX—Bayou Music Center
October 16 Austin, TX—Moody Theater at ACL Live
October 18 Grand Prairie, TX—Verizon Wireless Theatre
October 21 Indianapolis, IN—Egyptian Room at Old National Centre
October 22 Madison, WI—Orpheum Theatre
October 24 Chicago, IL—Chicago Theatre
October 25 Detroit, MI—The Fillmore Detroit
October 27 Burlington, VT—Flynn Center for the Performing Arts
October 28 Northampton, MA—Calvin Theatre
October 29 Boston, MA—Orpheum Theatre
November 21 Hamburg, Germany—Grosse Freiheit 36
November 25 Euralille, France—L'Aéronef
November 26 Paris, France—Zenith Paris
November 27 Marseille, France—Le Dock des Suds
November 30 Leeds, United Kingdom—O2 Academy Leeds
December 1 Cambridge, United Kingdom—Cambridge Corn Exchange
December 2 Manchester, United Kingdom—O2 Apollo Manchester
December 4 Bristol, United Kingdom—Colston Hall
December 5 Birmingham, United Kingdom—Symphony Hall Birmingham
December 6 Glasgow, United Kingdom—O2 Academy Glasgow
December 8 Utrecht, Netherlands—TivoliVredenburg- Grote Zaal
December 10 Lyon, France—Halle Tony Garnier
December 11 Rennes, France—Le Liberté
December 12 Talence, France—Espace Médoquine
December 14 Zurich, Switzerland—Xtra
December 15 Thonex – Geneve, Switzerland—THONEX LIVE
March 21 London, United Kingdom—SSE Arena, Wembley

July 23-27, 2014
Floyd, VA
Performers include: Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite, Ms. Lauryn Hill, ray LaMontagne, Thievery Corporation, Ziggy Marley, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Buddy Guy, Robert Randolph & The Family Band, and many others

Gratifly Festival
July 24-27
Westminster, SC
Performers include: Papadosio, Opilio, Gratifly Symphony, Earphunk, Earthcry, The Human Experience, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, and many others.

Gathering of the Vibes
July 31-August 1, 2014
Seaside Park
Bridgeport, CT
Performers include: Widespread Panic, John Fogerty, moe., Umphrey's McGee, The Disco Biscuits featuring Mickey Hart & Bill Kreutzmann, Ziggy Marley, Dumpstaphunk, and many others.

August 1-3, 2014
Grant Park
Chicago, IL
Performers include: Eminem, Outkast, Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys, White Denim, Broken Bells, Lorde, The Avett Brothers, Forster the People, The Head & The Heart, Trombone Shorty, Chromeo, and many others.

Werk Out Festival
August 7-9, 2014
Legend Valley
Thornville, OH
Performers include: The Werks (3 nights), Papadosio (2 nights), Emancipator, Future Rock Zoogma, Dopapod, Zach Deputy, and many others.

Outside Lands
August 8-10, 2014
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA
Performers include: Kanye West, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The Killers, The Flaming Lips, Spoon, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Chromeo, John butler Trio, Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers, and many others

Arise Music Festival
August 8-10, 2014
Sunrise Ranch
Loveland, CO
Performers include: Galactic, Grateful Grass, Nahko & Medicine for the People, and many others

Peach Music Festival
August 14-17, 2014
Montage Mountain
Scranton, PA
Performers include: Allman Brothers Band (2 nights), Bob Weir & RatDog, Trey Anastasio Band, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Lotus, JJ Grey & Mofro, The Revivalists, Dopapod, The Infamous Stringdusters, papadosio, and others.

August 15-17, 2014
Wellston, MI
Performers include: Greensky Bluegrass, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Steppin' In It, The Ragbirds, and many others.

Summer Set Music & Camping Festival
August 15-17
Somerset, Wi
Performers include: Bassnectar, Umphrey's McGee, Kaskade, Disco Biscuits, Wu-Tang Clan, Big Gigantic, Chromeo, Cherub, and many others

Camp Barefoot
August 21-23, 2014
Bartow, WV
Performers include: Beats Antique, Papadosio, Lettuce, Kyle Hollingsworth Band performing a tribute to Motown, Dopapod, Kung Fu, The Motet, Zach Deputy, and many others.

August 29-31, 2014
Snow Ridge Ski Resort
Turin, NY
Performers include: moe. (3 headlining nights), Lotus, O.A.R. Les Claypool's Duo de Twang, Soulive, Twiddle, Aqueous, and others.

North Coast Music Festival
August 29-31, 2014
Union Park
Chicago, IL
Performers include: Bassnectar, Kid cudi, STS9, Snoop Dogg, Dada Life, Zeds Dead, Dr. Dog, The New Deal, and many others.

Lockin' Music Festival
September 4-7, 2014
Arrington, VA
Performers include: Furthur, The String Cheese Incident, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers,The Allman Brothers Band, Phil Lesh & Friends, Widespread Panic, Umphrey's McGee, Wilco, Bob Weir & Ratdog, and many others.

Phases of the Moon Festival
September 11-14, 2014
Kennekuk County Park, IL
Performers include: Widespread Panic (2 nights), Tedeschi Trucks Band, Gov't Mule, Galactic, Leftover Salmon, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, and many others.

Farm Aid
September 13, 2014
Walnut Creek Amphitheatre
Raleigh, NC
Performers include: Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds, Jack White, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and many others.

Catskill Chill
September 5-7, 2014
Camp Minglewood
Hancock, NY
Performers include: Yonder Mountain String Band with Allie Kral, Lettuce, Shpongle, Karl denson's Tiny Universe, Papadosio, Dopapod, Particle, The Heavy Pets, and many others.

Grand Point North Festival
September 13-14, 2014
Waterfront Park
Burlington, VT
Performers include: Grace Potter & The Nocturnals (headlining both nights), Lake Street Dive, Trampled by Turtles, The Devil Makes Three, Dr. John, Caroline Rose, and many others.

Harvest Music Festival
October 16-18, 2014
Mulberry Mountain
Ozark, AR
Performers include: Yonder Mountain String Band with Jerry Douglas, Trampled By Turtles, Railroad Earth, Lettuce, The Devil Makes Three, Dumpstaphunk, Elephant Revival, Cornmeal, and many others

Hangtown Halloween Ball
October 24-26, 2014
Placerville, CA
Performers include: Railroad Earth (3 nights), The Meter Men, Leftover Salmon, The Jeff Austin Band, The motet, and many others

Suwannee Hulaween
October 31-November 2, 2014
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oak, FL
Performers include: String Cheese Incident (3 nights), Thievery Corp., Big Gigantic, Beats Antique, EOTO, Greensky Bluegrass, and many others

Bear Creek Music & Art Festival
November 13-16, 2014
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oak, FL
Performers include: Umphrey's McGee, Lettuce, Dumpstaphunk, The New Mastersounds, Break Science, Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds, Turkuaz, The Main Squeeze, Tauk, and many others

Strings & Sol
December 11-15, 2014
Puerto Morales, Mexico
Performers include: Yonder Mountain String Band, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, The Infamous Stringdusters, and Greensky Bluegrass

Jam Cruise
January 6-11, 2015
Departs from Miami, FL

Tropical Throe.down
January 9-13, 2015
Grand Lido Resort
Negril, Jamaica
Performers include: moe., Floodwood, Conehead Buddha Horns, and Ha Ha The Moose.

Island Exodus
January 14-18, 2015
Grand Lido Negril
Negril, Jamaica
Gov't Mule will host the event

Panic en la Playa Cuatro
January 24-28, 2014
Hard Rock Hotel and Casino
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Widespread Panic will host this event

One Big Holiday
January 31-February 4, 2015
Hard Rock Hotel
Riviera Maya, Mexico
My Morning Jacket will host the event

Thanks again for stopping by. I'll be back next week with more jam. Until then, check me out on Facebook and Twitter for up to the minute concert announcements. Until next week, Jam On!


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