BY FRANK DE BLASE
On Tuesday night, ex-Dirty Dozen Brass Band denizen Big Sam and his new group, Funky Nation, didn’t just entertain, it commanded and demanded participation, reciprocation, and overall elation from the packed Harro East Ballroom crowd. It was a little less New Orleans than I had expected, but it had folks on their feet, reaching for the ceiling throughout the show. This band is a powder keg with no fuse.
The evening continued with a classic big-band bang thanks to The Jack Allen Big Band in the Big Tent. As always, Allen drove the bus, conducting his band through the music’s sweet subtleties. Besides its fearless leader’s charm, this band’s reed section is creamier than caramel in a sauna. Good music to put you in the mood.
The question going through my head — along with Wynonie Harris’ “Don’t Roll Those Bloodshot Eyes At Me” — was could Zappa really do Zappa? Was Dweezible feasible? The answer is, kind of. Dweezil Zappa brought his painstakingly accurate send-up to his dad, the late Frank Zappa, to Kodak Hall last night. Whether it was show-opener “Sexual Harassment in the Workplace” or the bass-heavy “Apostrophe,” the band was deadly accurate.
However, it was also plagued by sound issues with its monitors, which Zappa explained as soon as the band hit the stage. This was unnecessary, as it took the steam out of what could’ve been an explosive entrance. The drummer even stormed off the stage before the show got underway and a feeling of tension remained throughout the show. Still, all in all, the music was excellent and loud. Zappa’s guitar sounded great, even on a fantastic rendition of Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption” followed by “Somebody Get Me A Doctor” sung by a cat in spandex and a blonde wig. It was kind of how I remember my prom date.
Slipped into Abilene post-Zappa, where they boogied real slow with the blue light way down low to dig NYC’s Clinton Curtis. The band reminded me a lot of The Dave Matthews Band, only here the band members took turns soloing. It was funky and fun with a hint o’ jam.
Wednesday night I’m going to see that wild and crazy guy and The Steep Canyon Rangers at Kodak Hall. Where will you be heading?