by Austin Webb
Mannequin legs, lava lamps, a stack of burnt-out television
sets, a toilet bowl and a row of music stands were piled in the southwest
corner of The Hive last Friday night for An Evening in the Spirit
of Frank Zappa.
Staying true to that spirit, over 30 Concordia music students performed
spaced-out jams, social commentary, performance and conceptual art, and
satires of performance and conceptual art, all composed or inspired by
the man whose distinctive portrait hung above the stage for the entire
Its been a great success, said music instructor Michael
Pinsonneault, the events emcee and sometime saxophonist. He also
teaches Music History 498 Frank Zappa: Composer and Social Critic,
a special topics course he developed last year.
The course recognizes Zappas significance as the most emblematic
musician of the late 20th century, particularly in terms of his engagement
in popular culture and social consciousness, said Pinsonneault,
who came under Zappas influence first as a musician and later as
a social critic. I decided that instead of an exam, it would be
more fun to have the students do a performance as their final project.
Pinsonneault and his students werent shy about showcasing Zappas
more controversial side. Early in the evening they played a selection
of his songs about stupid people.
The set included Jewish Princess, Valley Girl, and the unforgettable
Bobby Brown. In true Zappa fashion though, the set was introduced
as the worst of the worst and a complaints box was offered
around to the impressively packed house.
Most of the students involved seemed relaxed and happy to be wearing funny
hats and singing songs about anatomy and beer while at the same time showcasing
their musical chops.
This is going to be great, said second-year electroacoustics
student Dan Coole, as he waited in the wings, preparing to play bass on
a medley of Zappas more sexually-themed songs.
The musicians also embraced much of the composers conceptual work.
For one piece, an empty picture frame and a bowl of fruit and vegetables
stood at the front of the stage. The audience was instructed to place
any of the produce into the frame while the band played an appropriate
sound. Naturally, eggplant called for glissandos.
Among the evenings many musical highlights was jazz performance
student Jeff Richards barn-burning guitar solo on Muffin Man.
Apart from bringing down the house with his distinctly Zappa-esque electric
wah-wah guitar, Richard also bore an uncanny resemblance to the late composer.
People have always told me I play like him, said Richard after
the show, but Ive also heard that I look like him. The
music class inspired Richard to demonstrate his devotion to Zappa; back
in September he began to let his beard and hair grow in anticipation of
last Fridays performance.
This is the most fun Ive had playing music in my life,