zappa plays zappa

The other night Michael and I got a rare opportunity to see some live music down in Portland (Maine.)

First, we grabbed a bit of mediocre Mexican food and downed a couple of beers then headed up a rugged brick sidewalk to the old State Theatre. As we were entering, we passed by a middle-aged man with his son. The boy must have been eight or nine and was grasping a floppy orange and black stuffed tiger. There were a few other fans there with their kids to see Zappa Plays Zappa, an eight-piece band lead by the genius composer’s son Dweezil Zappa.

The scene was somewhat reminiscent of a late Grateful Dead concert, the warm house packed with salt and pepper-haired men—and some women—in t-shirts and Levi’s who’d become thick in the middle over the years. I sat next to a man and his gangly teen aged son whose smooth blond hair boasted a perfect wave of sky blue at his forehead. The boy munched on popcorn from a greasy paper bag while his dad drank a beer.

When the lights went down the crowd cheered wildly as a slim frizzy-haired fortyish man in skinny jeans, sneakers and a purple v-neck t-shirt entered the stage humbly following his fellow band-members. For two solid hours the musicians rocked the house with zany lyrics, full, round, sometimes beautifully dissonant voices, brilliant orchestral arrangements including horns, woodwinds, keyboards, guitars, a bass and two superb percussionists making utter love to a cluster of drums, snares, cymbals and a marimba.

It was difficult to stay still in my narrow seat. The music moved me. I kept looking over my shoulder, fondly, at a young barefoot couple dancing with reckless abandon on the cool cement floor. The happy pair, both with curly long hair and fair, childlike faces, took me back to my years living in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. I wished I could have joined them. They were the only ones dancing amongst a sea of mostly motionless white folk.

But by the time the last song ended, the crowd was on its feet whistling, applauding and screaming for more. My face hurt from smiling the entire show. The band happily returned for an encore and took the house down as the audience finally danced in their seats.

Within the dark sultry scene of giddy fans, colored lights and spectacular music flowing into my brain I still thought of Calvin. At one point the percussionists played mind-blowing solos on the drums and marimba. I wished I had Calvin on my lap or seated next to me, as I dreamed of a day when he might have a taste of the wondrous thing called live music—my cure-all for any kind of blues.

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