Frank Zappa and Other Quicksand Artists
Frank Zappa and Frank Zappa, er, Mike Nesmith.
Tonight House of Blues will be graced by Zappa Plays Zappa, led by the late Papa Frank's oldest son Dweezil, who inherited some of his father's guitar skills. Zappa Plays Zappa is the preeminent traveling Zappa tribute show going, and Dweezil's love letter to his father's body of work, which has only grown more mythic since Frank passed away in 1993.
Frank Zappa is an example of what I would call a "quicksand" artist, meaning that their allure is so strange and enigmatic that by taking just one step into the discography, you could become obsessed, embedded and maybe even a lost cause.
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That's why it took me a few years to get into the earlier part of his catalog, namely Zappa's group the Mothers of Invention's We're Only in It for the Money, Hot Rats, Weasels Ripped My Flesh, and Burnt Weeny Sandwich, and assorted oddities found on YouTube. His later-career interviews are hilarious, prophetic, and will make you miss him in the 21st century.
See? It already happened to me.
Becoming obsessed with quicksand artists isn't always a bad thing. Everyone needs a Beatles phase, a punk phase and a jazz phase. It's always fun to reminisce with friends about that summer after high school when you got a Miles Davis box set at a record-store blowout sale and actually tried to take up the trumpet...and heroin.
I have been circling the drain with the Soft Machine and Robert Wyatt lately. Don't send help.
The Grateful Dead The Dead grabbed me by the ankles a few months back after a run-in with their satellite radio channel. I ended up getting bootlegs, DVDs, and asking Quinn at Cactus Music how often he saw their vinyl in the store. He seemed concerned for my well-being. I'm good now though. I haven't downloaded a soundboard recording in like, a month. Come on guys, American Beauty sounds awesome at 4 a.m. when you are laying on your couch with a belly full of tacos.
Bob Marley I have never dipped too far into the Marley catalog, at least beyond the studio albums but I do know that getting into everything past the Legend hits disc may lead to white kids growing dreads, passing out a reggae festival, failing out of Texas A&M, and having children with women twice their age.
Radiohead Yes, there is a growing contingent of Radiohead nuts, beyond just fans of indie-rock who need to name-check them incessantly. It's moved past "these guys are fucking audio wizards" into "Do you think a plastic surgeon could mess up my eye so it looks like Thom Yorke's eye?" People are getting to the point where they are getting Dead-obsessed.
KISS I have great friends that are Kiss fanatics and go on the annual cruise and whatnot. I fully support Kiss fandom because they are fun, and I am glad they exist so I have someone to talk about the "disco" period without any derision, and just scholarly conversation.
Pink Floyd Fun is fun. Dark Side, The Wall, and then maybe you decide to be a contrarian and tell everyone who will listen that Animals is the band's true "best" album, but then you don't stop and become an exclusively "Syd" person who won't listen to anything that Syd Barrett wasn't part of. As Sergeant Elias said in Platoon, the worm has turned for you, my friend.
Ryan Adams It sounds crazy, but it's true. Adams has simply so much output that upon ingesting all of it, you will somehow own a pair of glittery platform boots, six denim jackets, and you will gain a savant-like knowledge of heavy metal. That, and you will at least cry to Cold Roses once every winter.
Dave Matthews Band It's one thing to go to the shows every summer with your college friends and get stoned, maybe own some Dave and Tim Reynolds bootlegs, and be able to recite the names of the entire band in your sleep. Fine, you dig them. But it's another to have the Fire Dancer logo tattooed on the whole of your back and bring gifts for Dave's children to the backstage area. And it can all start by buying a copy of Crash and Live At Red Rocks 8.15.95 at Half Price Books. Hey, is that you with the ProudestMonkey95 handle on Reddit?
Mike Patton I have never met a Mike Patton fan whose eyes didn't widen and gaze lovingly off into the middle distance at the mere mention of his name.
Insane Clown Posse Because there are over a dozen bands related to them through their label, and you can't just be a casual fan without irony. And because Faygo tastes good when flung from a stage. We all know one or two people from high school who are really down with the Clown. Next time you see them, shake their hand. It could have been you.
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