Venue: The Roundhouse Date: 05-07/11/10 Last week we saw a phenomenal tribute to one of the most important figures in our culture. For one weekend, the Roundhouse transformed into the humourous, funky, surreal world of Frank Zappa. For the two nights that I was there I thought that although it was not actually him playing the music or curating the numbers of Zappa artwork and memorabilia up on the walls, there was certainly a presence. His ghost was most likely pulling the strings on this event all the way through. The main feature of the first night was the performance of music from The Yellow Shark by the London Contemporary Orchestra. It was strange to know that Zappa ever went near an orchestra in his lifetime, having heard that he used to criticize them, comparing orchestral performance to prostitution. However, when you listen to The Yellow Shark, and when the London Contemporary opened up that evening, it became obvious that Zappa and orchestras were a perfect match. Gail Zappa introduced the performance with an incredibly warming presence; she didn't have to put in much effort to show the audience how humbled she was by the turnout and support for this event, and the audience returned the appreciation with loving applause and shouts of praise. Gail explained to us the inspiration surrounding The Yellow Shark, talking about the ambition that her husband had of a large metal 'halo', with microphones all around its circumference, being slowly raised and lowered over the performers. This would ideally give the listeners a unique surround sound experience, and the impression that they were in and amongst the orchestra. Until the technology for that invention comes about, we have performers like the London Contemporary to give us the next best thing. They showed us yet another extraordinary world that Zappa had created, consisting of many frantic patterns that take sharp turns, fit to be the soundtrack for an alternative Hollywood film. On the following night the Roundhouse was bursting at the seams, as masses of fans – young, old, sane and insane – filled the bars, stairs and corridors, waiting to push into the main space to hear recreations of the work of the artistic inspiration for millions. One thing that I always recall my parents telling me, about the time that they saw the Mothers of Invention back in the sixties, was that everyone there was mad, including them. I gathered the same impression throughout the evening as I looked down into the stalls, saw people looking like they were having religious experiences, and very badly wanted to join them. The Mighty Boosh Band opened the show, prancing onto the stage in wigs and dresses like the Mothers themselves from We're only in it for the Money. These performers are one of the prime examples of the importance of Zappa's music on the generations that have followed him. Amongst all the usual Boosh routines such as Old Greg and Charlie Bubblegum, lay some well played tributes to the man we were there to remember, including a cover of 'Willie The Pimp'. Following them was the outstanding band that has put in the greatest effort of keeping the name and music of Zappa alive, Zappa Plays Zappa. Fronted by his Son, Dweezil, and completed by musicians who have all been involved, these musicians in no way form a tribute band, but one that creates the most authentic experience possible of one of the legendary gigs. They attempt this partly through showing the occasional large screening of Frank playing in sync with them, which some call the 'grave to the stage' effect. Although it doesn't remove the knowledge that the man is no more, it can certainly take you that bit closer to having an inkling of what it was like to attend one of his shows. The band played a long line of hits, not to mention the album, Apostrophe (') track by track, from start to finish. There was also an appearance from Moon Unit who came onstage to play the 'Valley Girl'. The night finished with the song that was most often used to close Zappa's shows, 'Muffin Man', the ultimate form of remembrance, as the screen showed one more clip of Frank Zappa shaking hands with his audience and playing the lengthy guitar solo.