Stranded In Stereo: Guess What: Zappa Plays Zappa

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Guess What: Zappa Plays Zappa

Writer/contributor Annie reports to us this week from a reputable and wholesome festival. Joseéééé approves and endorses outdoor concert attendance.

Gathering of the Vibes
(Bridgeport CT) August 2008 - I find myself in the midst of thousands of hippies commemorating the life of Jerry Garcia by doing every drug they can manage--and drugs are in no short supply. Unregistered vendors walk around, casually calling drugs by their first names like intimate old friends: "Molly, Yayo, Chronic, Ganja Cookies, Doses, Rolls, Pharmies." Those distributing hippie crack need not say anything at all; instead they just walk through your site with huge green balloons pinched between each pair of fingers. This begins early on. These guys have been there awhile, are paying attention, and will come through as soon as your party has had a half hour to set up a tent.Day Two was Friday. The horrid sun had finally set. Dweezil Zappa was getting ready to pay tribute to his father. I decided to do the same with half our crew and a couple of tabs. We walked the mile to the stage with flouncy head-dresses made of plastic tubing and tie-on clothing. As everything began shimmering, I bowed to let small children pull on the stretchy tubes and smiled at fucked up hippies admiring the "nice hair." We stood near the edges where the crowd was thinner and listened.

Let me back up a bit: we'd spent our first day of treacherous heat waiting for the other 60% of our party to arrive, sitting on a $100 pile of pills that turned out to be a special blend of caffeine and aspirin. Herein lies a lesson to anyone who finds E for a mere $15. One of our crew made the right decision and bought doses early on. While the rest of us were busy being let down, he had been tripping his balls off, assuring me that his little baggy was full of authentic LS-Delight. This was the same bag from which I'd happily sampled.

Dweezil began singing on all matter of subjects in a voice obviously the gift of his late father. At one point he imitated Eric Cartman asking for a bag of dildos. Later he sang (predictably) about yellow snow. The jams were intense, sprinkled with analog synth, weird-ass phrases, and noises that belong better to chill electronica than jam bands. As I've never been one for the twenty-minute guitar solo, this really caught my fancy. The sun set. The shop lights at the horizon made it look like it was suddenly dawn again. I was confused. The strobe lights seemed to have a rather long exposure time. I began to dance.

I danced the entire set, weaving my head from shoulder to shoulder, pulling my huge unnatural dreadlocks out to the side. I waved my arms and boogied down. My tribe began dancing too, probably more out of joy at the heat going away than anything. Eventually, Zappa got on the mic to say they had time for one last song; fortunately it was one last song with more solos than one might expect. Would the song never end? We hoped not. Then the guitar which had been soloing just as usual started talking, proclaiming, "We are gathering the vibes! Gathering the vibes." We were incredulous, tickled, tripping like Mad Hatters.

When it was over, we walked back to the camp and recalled the moment to the people we found there, but of course those not present couldn't have understood. Of course, by that point we'd also morphed into extremely unreliable narrators. I saw a lot of incredible things that night in memory of a man so truly amazing that his son still channels him 15 years after his death. And even that remotely I was able to say "Guess what: I experienced Frank Zappa."

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