Zappa Plays Zappa Plays Roxy & Elsewhere at The Egg

One of Frank Zappa’s classic albums, Roxy & Elsewhere, was on display for a packed house on Tuesday, February 25th at The Egg in Albany. Dweezil Zappa noted after “The Torture Never Stops” that the album is “40 years old and it’s still from the future”, a bold statement and reflection on Frank’s influence that has hardly ceased since his untimely death in 1993. Tonight, it would be a look at the past and a glance into the future of Zappa’s music through the lens of the band that is keeping the sound alive and fresh for the next generations.

Zappa Plays Zappa at the Egg. Photo by Jim 'JT' Gilbert (www.jtgphoto.com)
Zappa Plays Zappa at the Egg. Photo by Jim ‘JT’ Gilbert (www.jtgphoto.com)

Leading off Roxy with “Penguin in Bondage”, baritone Ben Thomas channeled Frank’s voice greater than expected – it was almost spooky how much he sounded like him. “Pygmy Twylyte” was almost too short but provided an aire of familiarity for some of the uninitiated audience members who are familiar only with certain covers provided by Zappa’s jamband descendants. During “Dummy Up”, there was a fair amount of “Albany-style twerking” between Thomas and saxophonist/flutist Scheila Gonzalez, who rolled up and mimed smoking a high school diploma. Chris Norton played daredevil during “Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing?”, standing on his swivel chair and juggling, with moderate success. He returned to playing the xylophone parts of the song on his keys, doubling as a percussionist, a role he shared with drummer Ryan Brown.

The horror movie inspired “Cheepnis” had Dweezil a little chatty while “More Trouble Everyday” received a standing ovation from the crowd. Prior to “Be-Bop Tango”, Dweezil remarked “If this is The Egg… then the stage must be the yolk”, and delved into the long exploration that to the untrained ear would be considered a musical mess when it was easily the highlight of the night. “Tango”, from which Phish’s “Reba” could have been conceived in the dorms at UVM, was accompanied by Thomas dancing while playing trombone, with Dweezil noting about this jazz, “It’s not dead, just very smooth.” And with that, the album was complete and anything else that was to come was gravy.

Zappa Plays Zappa at the Egg. Photo by Jim 'JT' Gilbert (www.jtgphoto.com)
Zappa Plays Zappa at the Egg. Photo by Jim ‘JT’ Gilbert (www.jtgphoto.com)

The rest of the show had varying tempos, a few familiar hits (“Baby Snakes”, “Florentine Pogen”) and found deeper, longer compositions, specifically “The Black Page” (#1 & #2) as well as the stand alone, stripped down trio performing “Apostrophe”, and Peter Jones coming out for the vocals on “Debra Kadabra”. By the time the band came out for the encore, fans knew to expect even more familiarity in fan favorites that were nowhere to be found in the main set. “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow” and “Cosmik Debris” segued into each other, eliciting huge applause from the crowd. Dweezil then went democratic and asked the fans to vote on the last song of the evening, with the two most popular choices being “Whipping Post” and “Muffin Man”. Naturally, the original, “Muffin Man”, took top honors and closed out the night with great fanfare and a buzz in the crowd as they slowly departed into the Swyer Theater lobby. Frank Zappa may be dead, but his legacy and music will never fade away with son Dweezil heading up Zappa Plays Zappa.

Setlist: The Torture Never Stops, {Roxy & Elsewhere} Penguin in Bondage, Pygmy Twylyte, Dummy Up, Village of the Sun, Echidna’s Arf (Of You), Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing? Cheepnis, Song of Orange County, More Trouble Everyday, Be-Bop Tango {Roxy and Elsewhere} I’m So Cute, Baby Snakes, Teenage Wind > Teenage Prostitute, Apostrophe, Debra Kadabra > The Black Page #1 > The Black Page #2 > Florentine Pogen

Encore: Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow > Cosmik Debris, Muffin Man