UGLY RADIO REBELLION: THE MUSIC OF FRANK ZAPPA
Some people think of Frank Zappa as that weird guy with the goatee who wrote strange, smutty songs as the guitarist and bandleader for the Mothers of Invention, way back when.
That's fine. Zappa never got played much on the radio, so those folks are excused for not knowing the real story.
Zappa (1940-1993) was a composer with a hefty vision, brilliantly wide range and a musicianly drive to break through boundaries, and labels, and play things exactly the way he heard them. His lengthy pieces - some with vocals, some without - straddled the wavy lines between jazz/fusion and classical music.
Yes, indeed, he did write some dirty lyrics - humor was an integral part of the Zappa ethos - but as a composer and musician, he was endlessly creative.
Which brings us to the Detroit-based Ugly Radio Rebellion, the Zappa tribute band that's playing the Wormhole Bar Friday night.
Featured in the band is guitarist and singer Ike Willis, who was on every Zappa record starting with 1978's Joe's Garage.
"There's two main types of people we see at Zappa shows," says URR founder and Berklee-trained guitarist Scott Schroen (pictured). "One is the long-time, hardcore Zappa fan that grew up on it. It changed their lives. They come to the shows to meet Ike, and to hear him sing their favorite songs.
"And the other side is the serious musician types who come to the show and scrutinize everything we do. And then walk away with their tail between their legs!"
Schroen was a Steve Vai devotee when he entered Berklee in the mid 1980s; while there, he fell in with a "Zappa cult," musicians who understood and appreciated the complex elements of Zappa's music.
Back in Detroit, he published a classified ad - "Musicians Wanted to Play Frank Zappa Music" - and through a lengthy process of audition and elimination, came up with the first version of Ugly Radio Rebellion (initially, the band was known as Uncle Meat, a nod to one of Zappa's better-known Mothers albums).
The drummer is Layla Hall, who's been at Schroen's side since the beginning. Founding bassist John Garland is sitting this tour out; his considerable shoes are being filled by Andrew Walley, whose grandfather Denny was once a slide guitarist in Zappa's band.
Percussionist Glenn Leonard is a new addition to the outfit.
Fans - and the curious - can expect to hear Mothers classics like "Hungry Freaks Daddy" and "Peaches En Regalia," as well as the more avant-garde stuff from Zappa's later years.
"We keep 52 songs in rotation, and we mix it up for each tour," says Schroen. "Myself, I know maybe 500 Zappa tunes, and I transcribed most of them.
"We've been touring with Ike for quite a while, so we get to go to Zappa school when we tour with him. And he is super open and honest, one of my best friends. And he will answer questions: His usual answer is ‘Here's how Frank told me.' So we're getting direct information.
"Ike is a guy who's on a mission. He was with Frank the longest, and he was actually with him when he died. Frank's final request was ‘Play my music.' That put Ike on the mission, and he's still on it. And that's why we're doing what we're doing." Listen & learn: www.uglyradiorebellion.com.
At 10 p.m. Friday, June 11 at the Wormhole Bar, 2307 Bull St. (NOTE: Our print edition lists this show for Saturday. That's a typo - it's Friday, June 11).
Singer, songwriter, percussionist, athlete and activist Leslie Jackson Perette - Vinx is his nickname - has a silky-smooth R&B voice (think Al Jarreau crossed with Luther Vandross), which should make this week's second installment of the Save Nashville Concert Series something special. Let's talk about his studio and touring work: Vinx was part of the band on Sting's 13-month Soul Cages tour, and was also the opening act at every show. He also worked extensively with Sting's Police mate Stewart Copeland, in the Rhythmatists, and has also made the rounds with the likes of Rickie Lee Jones, Herbie Hancock, Toni Childs, Teena Marie, Cassandra Wilson and Taj Mahal. Stevie Wonder, a longtime friend, has recorded Vinx's songs and performed on his albums. Among his better-known tunes: "While the City Sleeps" (used in TV's In Living Color), "There I Go Again" (featured in the highest-rated episode of Northern Exposure). At his home in McRae, Ga., Vinx hosts the semi-annual "Songwriter's Soul Kitchen" - where writers, musicans, producers and music educators get together to create, collaborate, yak and relax. Listen & learn: www.vinx.com.
Save Nashville Concert Series with Vinx, Stan Ray and Elliot Hauser, and Lauren Lapointe. At 8 p.m. Sunday, June 13 at Indigo Arts Center, 703D Louisville Road. $20.
The second thing you ought to know about Joey Allcorn, from Columbus, is that he’s a Hank Williams fanatic. So much so that he operates and maintains Hank Williams: The Complete Website, a virtual online encyclopedia of all things Hank (discographies, TV appearances, song lists, trivia et cetera). The first thing is that Allcorn is a singer/songwriter who’s obsessed with vintage honky tonk music – his Hillbilly Band has both a pedal steel and a fiddle, and they dress (like Allcorn himself) in classy black suits, with pressed white shirts and black neckties, and white Stetsons, and put on a show that’s right off the Ryman Auditorium stage in the 1950s. I’m not all that crazy about Allcorn’s nasal singing voice – at 29, he still sounds a bit too young to channel Ernest Tubb and Lefty Frizzell -, but his enthusiasm for real country music is obvious, and it’s kinda contagious. Anyway, I’ll take his reverent approach over the punky posing of Hank “Assjack” III any day. AND the band is smoking hot. Listen & learn: www.joeyallcorn.com.
At 11 p.m. Saturday, June 12 at the Jinx, 127 W. Congress St.