Monday, September 30, 2013

They're Not Only in It for The Money

The current lineup of Grandmothers of Invention is, from left,
Napoleon Murphy Brock, Max Kutner, Chris Garcia,
Dave Johnsen, and Don Preston.
Photo courtesy of Max Kutner.

Well, I tried. I had two passes to last night’s performance by the Grandmothers of Invention at the Sellersville Theater, and despite my best efforts ― emails to friends, and, when they received no response, a posting on Faceboook ―I found no takers for the second one. If you haven’t guessed, yes, my feelings are hurt, but it was my friends’ loss, because the group put on a lively, satisfying (if very loud) show.

The band had members, only two of whom actually played with Frank ― 81-year-old Don Preston on synthesizer and iPhone, and the irrepressible Napoleon Murphy Brock, who acted as master of ceremonies, plays tenor sax and flute, and got a good aerobic workout with his high-stepping choreography. (He’s more audience-friendly than Frank ever was.) Chris Garcia hidden in his fortress of percussion, channeled the voice of Captain Beefheart, and Dave Johnsen, formerly of Project/Object, had a few shining moments on bass, but it was the young Max Kutner who stole the show, standing in for Zappa on guitar. If his solos lacked Frank’s fierce intelligence, they surpassed his virtuosity, and nearly every one was greeted with a standing ovation. Much of the time, Napoleon seemed content to stand aside and let him go.

The band played all of One Size Fits All (minus “Sofa II” in German), and a suite from Burnt Weeny Sandwich, along with a few random selections. In the twenty years since Zappa’s death (has it really been that long?), his heirs have boiled away his obsessions and his anger, distilling the silliness and the razor-sharp music making that have become his legacy.

Long live the Grandmothers.

Oh, and fellows, if you’re looking for someone who can do the German lyrics to “Sofa,” I’m available. Ich bin Eier aller Arten, after all.

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