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  • Writer's pictureJim Bessman

Dweezil Zappa resists 'cease-and-desist' in replicating father Frank's music at the Beac

"Muffin Man," with Dweezil Zappa and Ike Willis

It was both trick and treat Sunday night (Oct. 30) when Dweezil Zappa brought his current Dweezil Zappa Plays Whatever The F@%k He Wants: Cease & Desist Tour 2016 to the Beacon Theatre.

Trick, because it's a historic venue for his late dad's fans, in that Frank Zappa played a Halloween show there for years up until his death in 1993. Treat, because it proved that Dweezil is continuing the tradition in the face of an ugly, incomprehensible legal situation with two of his siblings (younger brother Ahmet and younger sister Diva) over commercial rights to the Zappa name--hence the Cease & Desist part of the tour name, as well as the Plays Whatever... part.

Brief recap: After years devoting himself to learning his father's guitar playing and complex compositions, Dweezil assembled a band of young musicians and in 2006 commenced touring as Zappa Plays Zappa, gleaning a Grammy for his 2008 Zappa Plays Zappa album for Best Instrumental Performance for its take on Frank's classic "Peaches En Regalia." Then earlier this year, the Zappa Family Trust, operated by Ahmet and Diva following the death of their mother Gail, sent him a cease-and-desist letter demanding that he stop using the tour name.

This he did, to Dweezil Zappa Plays Frank Zappa, but this only brought forth another cease-and-desist letter and change of tour name to Dweezil Zappa Plays Whatever The F@%k He Wants. At the Beacon, Dweezil said he's now facing the Family Trust's request that he forgo his surname altogether.

Whatever. Dweezil still continued the tour's glorious celebration, not only of his 10th year playing his father's music, but the 50th anniversary of Frank's historic debut album with the Mothers of Invention, Freak Out! He imagined parents' horror back in 1966 after discovering that their 11-year-old spent the paper route money on Freak Out! and its then "subversive and terrifying" music as compared with the sound of '60s pop radio.

"Fifty years later it's still terrifying and subversive," the son observed. "Frank was a rock 'n' roll Nostradamus!"

With Frank's brother Bob in the house, Dweezil and his band (all in Halloween costume, except for Dweezil) went back all the way with Freak Out!'s "How Could I Be Such a Fool" and "Who are the Brain Police?" Special guest Ike Willis, fresh from his smashing Project/Object Project/Object—The Music of Frank Zappa, featuring Ike Willis and Don Preston Oct. 21 Cutting Room gig and Dweezil's special guest, regaled with "Muffin Man," from Frank's 1975 album (with the Mothers and Captain Beefheart) Bongo Fury, while Dweezil band regular Scheila Gonzalez, always a standout on horns, flute, keys and vocals, added beach ball to her repertoire, tossing one back-and-forth to vocalist Cian Coey during "Lemme Take You to the Beach" from Zappa's 1978 album Studio Tan; she also excelled at squats during "Half a Dozen Provocative Squats" from the 1971 200 Motels soundtrack, but she pretty much can do everything.

Dweezil threw in an innocuous reference to the political climate via "The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing" from 1981's You Are What You Is and closed with the perfect cover choice in The Beatles' "I Am the Walrus." The concert was heroic on all counts, the music still as fresh as anything made today--pure spectacle, trick and treat."

"To me, it's a labor of love," said the devoted son. "I want the music to carry on."



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