“It wasn't very large/ There was just enough room to cram the drums/ In the corner over by the Dodge/ It was a fifty-four/ With a mashed up door/ And a cheesy little amp/ With a sign on the front said "Fender Champ"/ And a second-hand guitar/ It was a Stratocaster with a whammy bar/ We could jam in Joe's garage/ His mama was screamin'/ His dad was mad/ We was playin' the same old song/ In the afternoon 'n sometimes we would/ Play it all night long…” – from Joe’s Garage, Act I by Frank Zappa.
Other pre-eminent postmodern composers wallowed in their fascination with the serious departure their work took from the modernist tradition. Meanwhile, Zappa successfully combined fiercely virtuosic rock and roll conceits, self-deprecating irreverence and epic experimentalism to create works—that despite continuing criticism from some academic corners—positioned him as one of the great artists of the 20th century. As you travel out into Burque’s realm of rock this weekend keep in mind the dirty, delirious deconstruction undertaken by Mr. Zappa; what you hear in the next few days may have been impossible, may have never happened without his pervasive, perverting influence.
While speaking in glorious terms of the effect the past has had on the present, allow me to draw your attention to the musical culture in our own town. It’s during such a sonic sojourn that one may come upon the name Lewi Longmire. His father was the smoking lead guitarist of one of Burque’s first authentic rock and roll outfits, King Richard and the Knights. Lewi’s no slouch himself; his band Apricot Jam sat at the top of the heap of rootsy, folk-inflected jam bands in the ‘90s (sorry Withdrawals). The dude and his current project, Lewi Longmire & the Lookouts, return to Low Spirits (2823 Second Street NW) on Thursday, Oct. 1, for a gig guaranteed to make you believe the term “Americana” is more than a marketing strategy designed to make the acquisition of musical materials part of the myth of American exceptionalism. Longmire can lay it on all right, his arch lyricism and fastidious instrumental capabilities make for musical moments both mythic and memorable. Though he’s firmly and successfully taken root in the great Northwest, his visitation here should be cause for celebration. Former Apricot Jam band mate and current local king of the electrified bass, James Whiton, opens. $5 and a 21+ ID will get you through the doors at 8pm. The concert begins at 9pm.
Although Frank Zappa traipsed off this mortal coil in 1993, his oeuvre is vibrantly and vividly performed all over this damned world. The maestro’s oldest son, Dweezil Zappa plans on proving that proposition on Friday, Oct. 2, at a recital of sorts to be given at the Albuquerque Journal Theater at the National Hispanic Cultural Center (1701 Fourth Street SW). Zappa Plays Zappa features lovingly reconstructed and outrageously presented interpretations of the elder’s massive repertoire. The son’s take on such a lofty subject is worthy of note not because of its attention to what was but because of its awesome, rocked out pronunciations of what will always be. Zappa was a master showman, incredible guitarist and exacting band leader. His son is similarly bent, navigating the Zappa landscape effortlessly with a set list that has lately include PoMo jems like “Inca Roads,” “Cosmik Debris” and “Florentine Pogen.” Tickets for this demonstration of how music becomes life cost $30; a VIP ticket will run ya $72. Whatever price you pay, be prepared for a life-changing event. If Zappa performs “Evelyn, A Modified Dog” be prepared to be blown away. It’s an all ages event that begins at 8pm, but be warned, there will be naughty language aplenty.
Not much is known about the mysterious Burque-based Norteno singer/songwriter who calls himself El Gringo. Just kidding, well mostly anyway. Shawn Kiehne, whom the Gray Lady recognized a few years ago as a symbol of the transition traditionally Mexican musical forms are making in the good ol’ USA, performs at Caravan East (7605 Central NE) on Saturday, Oct. 3. El Gringo’s compelling mix of American-brand country/western conceits and the borderland badassery of Los Tigres del Norte makes for a musical experience that is like totally a toda madre y super padre tambien. With recent sonic scores like “El Corrido del Gringo” under his big, shiny rodeo belt, Kiehne’s mysterious, cross-cultural persona continues to demonstrate the power of a genre sometimes overlooked but nonetheless vital to our local musical community. Thoreau, New Mexico country rockers, Night Breeze, featuring the haunting guitar and vocalizations of Dennis Yazzie opens. For merely 10 bones, 21+ listeners will have the opportunity to boot-scoot and rock out all at once. What could be better, I ask? The show starts early, at 5pm, but will no doubt continue until early the next morning.
Let Sunday be a day of luxurious rest and Monday be a normal day at work as you prepare to experience motherfucking Helmet at Launchpad (618 Central SW) on Tuesday, Oct. 6. Helmet, the long-term project of alt-metal magician Page Hamilton, is touring to remind listeners of the excellence and exterminating essence of a recording known as Betty, which was released 21 years ago. Known for making the most of elaborate time signatures and spooky minor-key tuning, Hamilton used Betty as a platform for exploring places previously forbidden from expression in the metal universe. The album used jazz, blues and unhinged guitar gymnastics to define a sub-genre that would later be called post-metal by rock critics unfamiliar with the findings of Frank Zappa on the work he did with Captain Beefheart (like on Metal Man Has Hornet’s Wings, for Crissakes). But no matter what it’s called or where it’s roots spread out from, Helmet’s work on Betty is provocative, thoughtful and totally fucking rocking. Pieces such as “Wilma’s Rainbow” and “The Silver Hawaiian” not only evoke Zappa’s lyrical influence, but serve as a primer on the direction popular postmodern music took as Frank waned and the millennium loomed. Helmet will perform two sets at Launchpad, performing Betty in its entirety beginning at 9:30pm. Tickets for this 21+ evocation of eternity are $15. Doors are at 8pm and the flight into evermore begins at 9:30pm.
Zappa was keen on experimentation and appropriation but had an unabashed belief in instrumental competency too. That’s something all of this week’s chosen acts have in common. That sort of diffuse influence means that for a nominal service charge—you, dearest Albuquerque concert-goer—could reach nirvana on any chosen night. No foolin’.