I can’t say enough about the nostalgia value hearing Zappa holds for me. Whether it’s Frank Zappa streaming through my speakers on an idle Sunday morning, or watching Zappa Plays Zappa perform at Boston’s House of Blues for the second time in just a few years, I feel an undeniable connection to the past when the music comes on.
As the show kicks off, Dweezil Zappa takes a moment to scan the audience, quickly finding an 8-year-old boy in the front row who is experiencing Zappa for the first time. It’s a heartwarming notion, parents sharing the music of Frank Zappa with their children, and one that I’ll notice several times throughout the night. This music is generational, and amazingly, it’s done something that all art attempts to do, yet rarely accomplishes. It’s become cross-generational.
As the band prepares to kick off Roxy & Elsewhere, playing the full album in honor of its 40th anniversary, we hear rolling applause as Zappa announces “For some of you under 40, you haven’t had the chance to hear this record performed live. The good news is, you get to tonight!” And with that, they’re off.
I have to tell you, there’s never a dull moment. The band plays straight through the album before moving on to other fan favorites, and with each new track, the musicianship of those on stage is absolutely staggering. The talent in this room far surpasses any expectations you could hold, and with each note I’m taken aback. It’s awe-worthy, but it’s also humble and inspiring.
Through it all there is hardly pause for speaking to the audience. However, don’t mistake that for lack of audience interaction. Though not traditional, this show illustrates how the music really does speak for itself. There is no filler, no need to constantly speak. The connection IS the music. It is the way it connects us and it is the way nostalgia bonds us.
As I look to my side I notice a man who has brought his wife and teenage children to the show. And with every moment the band plays, this man becomes more and more excited. He’s dancing fervently, a huge grin plastered across his face. And he looks back at his son, with this beautifully chaotic grin, and his eyes say it all. This is his moment. This is his nostalgia. This is his past, connecting with his present. And he’s lucky enough to share it with his family. Nostalgia. Bonds.
And that’s part of the magic of Zappa Plays Zappa. For those fortunate enough to have seen Frank Zappa perform, tonight will serve as a reminder of what once was, and what still can be. It is both a trip to the past, and a jolt into the future. However, for those of us who can only experience Frank’s music played live through ZPZ, the effect is almost opposite. Because as I come home and fire up Roxy & Elsewhere, I can’t help but be transported back to the only live Zappa experience I know—ZPZ. In this way, Dweezil Zappa and the incredible musicians associated with ZPZ over the years have created their very own niche of nostalgia for the younger generation. They’ve given us something we may never have been lucky enough to experience otherwise. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
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