This past Saturday was the third time I’ve seen Zappa Plays Zappa, and it was the best show so far. That’s saying a lot, because the first two were incredible performances, and I had high expectations for this one as a result.
A couple of things made this show special. First, they played the entirety of Apostrophe, after a great rendition of “Gumbo Variations” from Hot Rats. Apostrophe is one of the greatest rock and roll albums ever recorded. There is not a bad song on the record, and a whole bunch of brilliant ones. It was my introduction to Zappa (if you don’t count “Valley Girl,” which they also played on Saturday), and it holds the top slot in my ranking of Zappa records. So I was really excited to see them do the entire record, and they did not disappoint.
Writing a summary of Rothbury is kind of like explaining the Lord of the Rings trilogy to my 4-year-old daughter. I can give her a broad overview of some of the plot points and make some specific comments about some of the characters, but there’s just no way she’s going to understand without so much extra exposition that it’s pointless to even make the attempt. Not to mention that there’s just some stuff you’re not going to go into regardless.
That said, let’s delve into just a few details that should help set the Rothbury scene:
1. Rothbury is dirty in every way imaginable. (Not to mention literally; showers cost $10.)
2. Everyone is getting fucked up pretty much all the time.
3. I don’t know how you could have more fun at a concert — I never have.
To put that last point in perspective, consider that I am 36 years old and have been to well over 100 big-name touring act shows in the past 23 years since my first (Springsteen). I can’t even begin to estimate how many bar shows I’ve attended in that time. I have seen damn near every classic rock icon, plenty of indie rock, lots of metal shows, and even a handful of legendary jazz artists. So for Rothbury to compare this well to my better-with-age memories of Lollapalooza 2, Clash of the Titans, or some of the old-school Pine Knob shows when nobody cared what you brought in to the show, well, that’s saying something.