YMCA Scheveningen, 31/3/2018

A review

Writing about music is particularly risky area, similar to explaining the colors to the blind. On the other hand what’s so difficult about it? Besides, everyone writes nowadays, right? Massively!  You can see it yourself, daily, in any place. No, really, just look around, all those modern Shakespeares, Dostoyevskis and Hemingways…of whatsapp, twitter and facebook tirelessly type millions of meaningless letters and (even worse!) emoticons, trying to pass a “message” to another writer who has exactly the same NOTHING to say…errr, but where is the music?

Well, no music yet, just NOISE we mostly hear. The noise we are being flooded with via “Talents”, “Idols”, “Voices of…”,  and (absolute worst ever) “Toppers” or What-Else-Have-You-TV shows,  and crappy radio stations (too many to count) by hours of buzzing,  inferior, trashy sounds that pretend to be “a music”, this is where we live now.

But then among all of those, suddenly a little gem appears: a group of people who decided they do not want to add to the overwhelming choir of noisemakers, instead they decided to provide a quality message. A case outstanding on its own. (And, surprise, surprise, they DO NOT rap!)

This does not happen often nowadays, mind you.

As we all know, but let me quote that: “music is the best”, isn’t it?

So, here we are, at St. Alfonzo’s….errr…   with a group of folks whose passion is to play and expand the fantastic world of Frank Zappa compositions to next generations.

(Reality check: when it was the LAST time you heard Zappa song in the radio? Or TV?)

A band, created by best musicians you haven’t probably heard about in your entire life. They are not (yet) having a smash hit, they are not in Saturday Night Live, RTL Late Night, Hart van Nederland, etc., etc. Nope, they are just a group of people who know that it is important to pass the good music to audiences and have fun with it altogether.

On a side note, I just think it had to begin just exactly same way in 60ties – there was some unknown band, playing a gig in a small venue in the middle of nowhere (but you still need to pay your parking ticket every 2nd hour!)  gathering mostly local folks, who were too lazy to do anything else than sip a beer in the pub and then….legends were created, fans were following and the fame have grown… Beatles, Stones, Floyds, Who, Bowie, Zeppelin, Maidens, Jackson, Prince, Rammstein…Zappa, they all started nowhere and became world icons.

Ok, we are talking about a tribute band, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but STILL. J

I knew they existed already for some time, yet series of unfortunate events disallowed me to experience the 2000 Motels live. And when I finally had a chance, the experience was astonishing!

To a small club on an Easter Saturday evening (new Zappa tradition?) we arrived, and to our surprise the venue was so intimate we could even talk to band members before the gig, so it was finally confirmed they are human beings and not Sy-borgs.

And the show, the music, the performance?

One must realize that playing Zappa music is very challenging – those are not 3 chords, boom-boom-pah, jump-jump, songs. In fact, Zappa created complicated compositions, with various tempos and chords progression even within one track, so only skilled musicians could live up to the task. Original Zappa bands members were exceptionally talented (and they rehearsed literally for months before any tour was taking place). We are talking about master levels of any instrument. Here with 2000 Motels it is no different.  Ok, they probably have not had the luxury of months of paid time to rehearse all nuances and play each song in reggae or metal version, yet still, the band manages to deliver a fantastic experience and show for more than 2 hours!

All that is more than any Zappa fan can expect nowadays, given the fact that it is not too many times one actually can experience Zappa songs live. Apart from Dweezil works, does anyone else really plays his music to the world? The way it was supposed to be?

Knowing that Dweezil does not come to Europe as much as we would like him to, 2000 Motels are an unique chance to experience Zappa music, once again live, played with passion, skill and humor!

A set of 20 songs is a good start and the choice goes for the entire span of Zappa’s career. You can listen to tracks from first albums (“Take off your clothes when you dance”, “Let’s make the water turn black”, “Ms. Pinky” through some biggest hits like “Penguin in Bondage”, “Muffin man”,  “City of Tiny Lites”, Camarillo Brillo” and some less obvious choices like “Oh, no” or “Magic Fingers” or “Uncle Remus”.  All those delivered with very good interaction with the audiences thanks to the frontman abilities to do so.

It is common knowledge that improvisations were always the big part of Zappa shows (Dweezil does them too), all those special moments when musicians can showcase their skills and abilities separately and altogether. Those always have a special place in any Zappa fan heart.  I hold them dear the most.

And 2000 Motels have them too! I was so excited to hear how they work around solos and improvisations on (almost) each song. And here comes the most pleasant surprise:  The solos is “Tiny Lites” with very unusual guitar passages, in ”Trouble every day” and “Penguin”, they were energetic, almost frantic and definitely long, long exactly as needed to last.

There were 3 absolute gems of performance that deserve special commendations and praises:  those being “Bamboozled by love”, “Sexual harassment in a workplace” and “Village of the Sun”.

“Bamboozled” has put me in a state of excitation by its funky beat, played faster and with more emphasis on the bass, than I have ever heard, in fact it was so funky that even Prince would be satisfied.  It was hypnotic, addictive, compelling and trancy, I wished it lasts much longer than it had! Definitely one of the strongest points of the evening.

Then there was the “Harrassment” and boy, how fantastically that one sounded! The song is fully instrumental (for those who might not know, are there any?) and there are at least 2 brilliant versions of it, one by Zappa himself, another by Dweezil, I am not sure which one is better.  However “Harrassment” by 2000 Motels is equally fantastic, equally strong and bluesy and (maybe because I was so close to the stage) growling deeply within audience. I was totally amazed by it.

And then…the top of the evening, the “Village of the sun”. A song that could go unnoticed among other Zappa hits, maybe even something one can live without, but 2000 Motels have changed my view on that forever! It was a mesmerizing moment, when both keyboard solos and guitar appeared out of nowhere, it blew me totally out!

It was the most NON-expected sensation of the evening, it was so much different than anyone could imagine! (mind you, there are couple of versions of it obviously, but NONE of them like by 2000 Motels!)

So, at the point when you expect something like Echidna’s Arf beginning, suddenly a slow, calming keyboard sounds fill the space and you are immediately put miles away, almost in Eden, or other peaceful place, where you clearly recognize deep bass lines, beating the smooth rhythms, delicate drums in distance just emphasizing the beat and then you are slowly getting drown into sensational keys which (brilliant on themselves), are setting the mood and later slowly give up space for one of the most thrilling and mesmerizing guitar solos I have heard in my life, one out of this planet!

I have heard many fantastic guitar solos by Vai, by Blackmore, by Prince, by Zappa, Gilmour or Satriani, but this one, this one puts Jan among all of them! It was like a waterfall but with calming notes, a cascade of passion and energy, equally deep as soothing. The notes were not rushed, executed in precision to the very last one, bringing the deepest sensations. So delicate, yet most powerful of all solos on that evening…I stood there, hypnotized,  hoping that it never ends, I almost felt those notes going through my body, I was floating on them, letting my mind completely out of that very place and moment…and then….I was cursing myself that I did not have my phone recorder on!

An absolute masterpiece that one was!  A world class musical experience that I can’t get enough of. If You Tube was a vinyl record, my constant re-plays of that snippet on 2000 Motels site, would erase every note out of it and none of you could have ever heard the (so far) most beautiful performance of 2000 Motels.

“Muffin Man” has ended the show, very, very powerfully, but I was still contemplating that “Village” version and still cursing myself that I have not recorded it live…

And that was it, cut off suddenly, 2 hours passed like a minute, left me happy that I could feel (not only listen to) Zappa’s music, fueled for next months, and I could see by happy band members faces, they were satisfied too!

Nevertheless I only got more appetite and expectations, anticipating what is to come? And there is certainly a LOT of it, since 2000 Motels are just starting their adventure.  There are many, many more beautiful Zappa songs to be again played live…I can’t wait for “Zomby Woof”, Torture never stops”, “I am the slime”, “Black Napkins”, “T’mershi Duween”, “The ocean is the ultimate answer”, “You are what you is”, “Dumb all over” , “In France”, Titties and beer” and “Bobby Brown” or “King Kong”, just to name a few, you get a hint guys, don’t you? J

Next one is in September and I plan to be there for sure!

If you wish to experience a good Zappa show, you can’t miss it! Even if you have never heard of Zappa, it is a perfect starting point do educate yourself and fall into the beautiful world of his compositions.

Przemek Nowak