The Mothers return as The Grandmothers Of Invention
The legend of the master of music Frank Zappa continues to live on decades after his death. Three original members of his band The Mothers Of Invention (now under the name of The Grandmothers Of Invention) perform to a lucky crowd at London's Under The Bridge.
Ever-present is the memory of not only Frank in all his bizarre freakishness, but his multitude of incredibly unique musical creations still being played today with stunning capability by some of his original band members from The Mothers Of Invention. What many people know of Mr Zappa stretches only so far - often remembering him for his controversial lyrical content, strange humour and indefinably individual musical style. Well, yes everybody! Zappa had these things in abundance, but my my I have to inform you there is SO much more to his creations than you might think. As a big fan myself, I really must tell you all that there is usually a Zappa song you will like if there’s one you haven’t warmed to. His style and compositions vary so damn much, you could potentially find yourself in a sea of confusion if some sneaky bugger were to switch from one of his records to the next at a pot smoking ‘hang out’. Regardless as to whether you are in the realms of ‘sky high’or not (something Frank was in fact not into at all) Zappa’s music was and still is as bloody diverse and explorative as you can get. It often takes a few attempts for some to enter into Zappaland willingly, but it is a guarantee that once you are there, you’re there to stay,
and you will realise some profound things about what a fully fledged musician really is or can be.
Founded in 1964, The Mothers began their musical journey together with Frank as their mastermind leader demanding that they play all original material. The band would gain popularity through playing in California’s underground music scene in the late 60’s, then soon after they would sign with
Verve Records and release their debut album
Freak Out in 1966. The Mothers would then proceed to be the definition of prolific, releasing a series of albums such as
We’re Only In It For The Money and
It was never far from a secret that Frank was a fan of keeping things new and fresh. He would change the line up of his band many a time, bringing in and showcasing different talent. Today we are still able to witness some of the most consistent and essential parts to The Mothers that come in the form of the wonderful
Bunk Gardner and
David Parlato. Having successfully wowed crowds worldwide back in 2012 with a tour of Zappa’s infamous album
Roxy & Elsewhere, and
One Size Fits All, The Grandmothers Of Invention decide to embark on another tour, and lucky for us, they came to the cosy and personal venue
Under The Bridge in the grounds of Chelsea Football club in London. It’s clear to see that these men may be a little more grey these days, but their wit, musicianship and performing capabilities are that of a twenty year old. Age just don’t mean a thang.
Starting out with a nice touch of Q&A’s with the audience for half an hour, Don, Bunk and David conversed with the crowd about their times working with Frank. It was a wonderful thing to hear words from those who worked so closely with the main man and to get each of their own anecdotes about times gone by. Commenting on Frank’s varied taste in parallel genres, Don conveyed and confirmed just how much of a unique brain it was that Mr Zappa had on his shoulders. A mind so beautifully creative and nonconforming to societies conventional thinking, a mind so determined in its own thoughts and creations, and most importantly, a mind totally ahead of its time, creating some of the most intriguing and masterful compositions to have ever been heard. “I mean, this guy loved classical music, but then he also loved Doo Wop!...”
Displaying some of Frank’s best work with the more obscure-for-the-ears stuff,
Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue won first prize for entrancing atonal composition techniques, bending the mind as everything fitted and yet feels so alien all combined at the same time. Timing and togetherness are key in any song by Frank, and here, The Grandmothers showed that they still got it. Conjuring up some of the old classics taken from the bands debut album back in 1966, The Grandmothers played the comical and yet nostalgic
Who Are The Brain Police? Continuing in the vein of comedic, (which of course is a very substantial part to Frank’s music) the very amusing track
Call Any Vegetable, taken from the 1967 album
Absolutely Free, displayed beautiful melodic notes from Bunk on the flute - Bunk as ever a multi-talented and competent hero onstage.
The talent throughout this live band was really a beautiful thing to listen to. Guitarist joining the old Mothers
Max Kutner, played alongside Bunk, Dave and Don with professionalism and groovy flare, letting the wah wah’s and delay effects waver into the air amidst the crisp and timely notes played on the keys by Don. David’s smooth bass notes were always noticeable and perfectly in time with the complex drumming neatly played by
Christopher Garcia at the back of the stage. Bunk’s sax playing was always at such wonderful heights - it was a stunning sight to see and hear. An audience favourite of the night had to be
I’m The Slime from Frank’s superb 1973 album
Over-Nite Sensation. This was a chance for the whole band to not only stay tight and composed for the verses but to then totally let go and have a good old crazy jam towards the end. This lyrical delight of a song was a treat for the ears telling a poetic poignant story about ‘
the slime oozing out of your TV set’. The guitar solo that exits this track really was played amazingly by Max – hats off to him, Frank’s playing was always a highly skilled affair. This fantastic musicianship I have spoken of, was continued throughout the bands set; a particular stand out track being
Orange County Lumber Truck which just had the most mesmerising sax playing in it with funky and nifty keys woven into it from Don. Nearing the end of the bands set, we much to my surprise, all got a little section of
The Rite Of Spring, soon followed by possibly one of Frank’s most recognisable tracks
Peaches On Regalia.
Again, one really can’t say enough how impressive these old boys are. This is not at all to say that age should hinder your ability to still play wonderfully skilled music, but it
is definitely to say that not everyone can manage it, and these guys are carrying the baton proudly, for still being just as good as they ever were. They contribute their love, passion and talent to the everlasting legend of Frank’s music that still to this day is timeless. With their help, they keep it even more timeless, and as current as ever. All photos by