Saint Mediocretes of Pedestrium (derekfz) wrote,
Saint Mediocretes of Pedestrium

P/O #9

Ok, this show was two weeks ago. I may well have forgotten some little details by now. But tradition and a sense of obligation insists that I must perform this task. Hence, here we go. I saw Project/Object for the NINTH time two Sundays ago in Cleveland. This is the usual report. Setlist. Commentary. I will note that I also saw Zappa Plays Zappa two days prior to this (see previous entry regarding). That was an Ok. Not the most thrilling thing I've ever seen. Project/Object was one-third the cost of ZPZ and something in the area of three times as much fun.

This was actually, as far as I know, the longest P/O show I've ever seen. They usually play two sets that are about an hour or a little longer each, with an intermission betwixt. I was not at all aware of it at the time, the first set topped an hour and a half by a hair, while the second set was about 100 minutes. The total time of the recording that was seeded on DIME (and later on Zappateers), including all the between song stuff, of course, is about 197 minutes. Wow.

Project/Object in the summer of 2009 happens to be:
Ike Willis on guitar and vocals
Andre Cholmondeley on guitar and vocals
Eric "Sluggo" Svalgard on keyboards, mini-Moog and theremin
Robbie "the Seahag" Mangano on bass and backing vocals
Don Preston on keyboards and synthesizer
Eric Slick playing drums at 20-something better than you ever will

first set
Electronic Ambience
The Mammy Anthem
Florentine Pogen
More Trouble Every Day
T'Mershi Duween, circa 1988 *
The Idiot Bastard Son
Zomby Woof
Go Cry on Somebody Else's Shoulder
Wet T-Shirt Nite / On the Bus
Pound For A Brown
Duke of Prunes
Keep It Greasy >
Outside Now

second set
Society Pages * >
I'm A Beautiful Guy >
Beauty Knows No Pain >
Charlie's Enormous Mouth >
Any Downers * >
Big Swifty
Dumb All Over
Bamboozled By Love *
I'm the Slime
Echidna's Arf (of You) >
Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?
Wild Love *

The show opened with Eric Svalgard and Don Preston providing a little spacey atmosphere via synthesizers. I labelled it "Electronic Ambience" in the set list above because just a couple days after the show, I downloaded a recording of it from dimeadozen (taped by the same guy who managed to sneak recording gear into House of Blues two days earlier and capture ZPZ) and the opening synth improv was titled as such. I liked it, and decided to use it here.

BTW, this use one of the semi-rare times P/O had an opening act. A local trio called Cuda, Renko & Cuda played their sorta-jazz-fusion kind of instrumental stuff for about 50 minutes. It wasn't all that bad, kinda cool in parts, and they did a weird psychedelicatessan version of "Norwegian Wood", but I wasn't all that into standing around and watching them. The guy recording P/O recorded CR&C's set, too, and seeded it along with the P/O set. I'll listen to it at some point.

The Mammy Anthem was thus the first actual song of the set. I know I've seen them play this once before and it was pretty badass. Maybe twice? I think that Zappa (and I guess Steve Vai and Ray White, I don't know precisely who played and didn't play guitar when it was performed live) played the monster guitar riff in this song in a dropped-D tuning. Ike and Andre did not and I felt that it lost some of its heaviness because of that, since it was played an octave above. Ike did the guitar solo over a reggae vamp. Why did I not write "reggae vamp" in my notes? I'm supposed to make note of things like that. Did I just assume I would remember? It's been two weeks from the show, I'm sort of lucky I did. Band intros followed the solo, then the main theme of the song was played again. I figured they would just segue into the next tune after the intros, but the song is worth hearing twice, so I'm not complaining.

Florentine Pogen again. For what must be like the 8th time in 9 shows. 7th, at least. Who knows. Yes, I've "complained" before about the frequency of performances of this song over the years. Basically, when they launched into this song, I had two thoughts. One was "sigh, this again" and the other was "at least they're getting it out of the way now and not interrupting an ass-kicking set with something I, personally, have grown slightly tired of hearing at almost every show." But the funny thing is, somewhere around the end of the first verse (why did I not make notes regarding when this occured!? See, that was a "joke", ha.) I was into the song anyway. It's weird how when it starts, I'm like "alright, let's get this over with", but when things are well and truly Under Way, I'm right there with it. This doesn't necessarily mean I want to keep hearing this song at every show (hey, Andre said they were giving "Inca Roads" a little rest and not playing it this tour, why not rest "Florentine Pogen" for a tour or three?), but at this point, I've pretty much accept that's the way things will be.

More Trouble Every Day was, like last tour, a sort of hybrid '84/'88 arrangement, Not that there is a tremendous difference between those two, other than the addition of horns and subtraction of Simmons drums, but you know what I mean -- it's played like those versions as opposed to 60's or '74. Don Preston sang it last time, and I assumed he would again, but I think this time Don sang the first verse and Ike did the second. I did not make note of Ike singing any of it, but I know he did. Man, what is with me not writing shit down? My note taking abilities are slipping. Ike played the guitar solo over a sort of Santana vamp (cf. "Variations on the Carlos Santana Secret Chord Progression", or a I min to IV maj change with a sort of fake Latin feel, for anyone else unfamiliar), with transformed into "My Sharona" ("Saaaa-rah Pa-lin!") and back again.

T'Mershi Duween was just weird. They played the 1988 arrangement replete with non-sequitur lyric ("I've been such a good boy"). It didn't segue out of or into anything. They just launched into this weird version, it happened, and then it ended. Weird. I've never heard them play that version before, so it was kind of neat, but still pretty weird. Where are the segues? This would have benefitted from one. I mentioned this was kind of weird, right?

The Idiot Bastard Son was a thing that happened. Ike sings. Good as always. It was around this time, or perhaps a little after this time, that I was feeling like this set didn't really have any particular momentum, owing in large part to the fact that none of these songs have thus far segued into one another. Play a song. Stop. Banter. Play a song. Stop. Banter. The individual songs and performances are good or better than good, but where's the feeling like they're really on a roll? It dissapates every time a song just ends.

Talking to the audience after this song, Andre thanked everyone for coming out on a Sunday night, adding that they could have stayed at home and watched all the Michael Jackson coverage on TV. "Rest in peace, dude, but damn," Andre said, "is there anything else going on in the world?" Eric Slick noted that there's always Christmas in July on QVC. (LOL.)

Zomby Woof was good, too, and feature another admirable Ricky Lancelotti estimation from Andre, who also played the guitar solo. This song pretty much always rocks.

Go Cry on Somebody Else's Shoulder was sung by Don, who also played piano, backed only by Slick, Seahag and Svalgard. Alliteration! Slick did the intentionally-kind-of-bad-and-also-overwrought-and-therefore-hilarious falsetto backups like the last time. There was a weird derailing of the beginning of this song, as Don't keyboard refused to play the right pitches. Somehow or another, what he was playing with his right hand was correct, but the left hand part was all wrong. I don't know that this was human error on his part. He had to fiddle with and adjust something on the keyboard to get it back on pitch. Weird.

Wet T-Shirt Nite was a treat, as it always is. It was played a little more Laid Back and Groovy than other times. Kind of cool, if bordering on ever so slightly cheesy. I can't remember what, if any, improvised banter was bandied about during the wet t-shirt contest section (again, I have a recording of the show, but I prefer to just do these things from memory rather than listening to it, which will also make this whole thing take longer.) Andre guitar solo over the "On the Bus" samba. It kind of segued into the next song, at least in the sense that the end of the solo sort of dwindled off into nothingness instead of stopping cold, but it wasn't really a real segue per se. But it was preferably to a cold stop (for a dude that cares).

The full title of Pound For A Brown in "A Pound For A Brown (On the Bus". Which is something else considering the "On the Bus" that was just played, sort of. Oh, continuity. Have I ever mentioned how much I love the main theme of this song? I do. Love it, I mean. A lot. Don Preston played a keyboard solo, and so did Svalgard. Again, I have totally failed you and, more importantly, myself and, even more importantly, documentary accuracy, by failing to make any note regarding what kind of vamp these solos were delivered over. I genuinely don't remember in the slightest.

Like last tour, Duke of Prunes is essentially the "Duke of (Orchestral) Prunes", minus the orchestra. Cool to hear this again. They sound really good playing this arrangement and trying to make it sound as grand as possible with just guitars and keyboards and stuff.

Keep It Greasy ACTUALLY SEGUED OMG CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT SHIT into Outside Now. Andre played the guitar solo in the former, which was performed, as always-that-I'm-aware-of, like the Joe's Garage version, e.g. with the insane odd-time sections. Ike played the not altogether imaginary guitar solo in the latter.

After this song and before the set break, Ike and Andre busted out a nice little a capella verse of some song I wasn't familiar with at all, later revealed by a helpful replyist on DIME to be Todd Rundgren's "For Want of A Nail." Odd. At this moment, I will also take a break between sets. These things get tiring to write.

Wasn't that a nice little intermission? I did a few dishes. Now for the second set, which opened with Andy, about which I don't have much to say. It was good and stuff. That's a problem with having gotten myself into the trap of doing these song by song comments. I don't always have something. And if I don't say enough, it might give the impression that I was somehow not satisfied with the performance on the song. What do I do here?

Fifty-Fifty is a song I am always happy to hear them play. Ants in my pants. Andre guitar solo. Svalgard keyboard solo. Why did I not write either of those things down? Man, I was kinda terrible with taking notes this time, was I not?

You Are What You Is be a terrific album, and the second side in particular is a sweet little slice of musical adventure, a suite of vocal oriented songs with sort of basic pop/rock backing music, with the expected odd Zappa-esque-as-only-Zappa-himself-could-do-it twists in there. Sometimes it seems weird when I do these commentary things and I mention Zappa. It seems somehow out of place, despite the fact that playing Zappa music is what Project/Object do as a band, and that's all they do. But I just go from one song to the next, mentioning things about the performance and I might mention this album or that tour or whatever, without ever mentioning that it is all Zappa music. At any rate, one of the higlights of this show was 5 songs in a row (out of 6) from the second side of You Are What You Is, by the names of Society Pages, I'm A Beautiful Guy, Beauty Knows No Pain, Charlie's Enormous Mouth and Any Downers? Every song segues into the next. Momentum! Remember when the first set didn't have it? I sure do. The one time that waxpumpkin came along with me to see P/O, they played a couple of these songs. But without consulting old notes, I can't be certain which ones they did and didn't play. I'm pretty sure "Society Pages" and "Any Downers?" were the brand new ones here (for my ears, I mean). Let's just go with that. I, and I would imagine most other people, assumed they would go right into "Conehead" to complete the side, but the end of "Any Downers?" (which featured an Andre guitar solo) left us in suspense. Ok, where are you taking us, if not to "Conehead"?

Big Swifty, that's where. The main theme was followed by a Svalgard solo on Rhodes over the 11/8 vamp (cf. You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 1, then a Don Preston synth solo (I want to assume over the same vamp, but again, my notes fail me and thus fail us all.) Andre led some of the great conducted improvisation that I always look forward to. I'm not sure what happened next. I wrote "jazz vamp" in my notes, but what does that mean? Was there a solo over it? What happened between the conducted improv and the closing theme, and why can't I remember it. I would apologize, but again, NOBODY READS THESE FUCKING THINGS. It's mostly just that I let myself down by keeping patchy notes and not remembering shit later! Oh, it must have been here that Andre "conducted" the improvisation by pretending to play basketball. This sounds really corny and kind of stupid on paper, but to see it and hear it was hilarious. Andre mimes dribbling, shooting a basket, making it or missing it, someone passing him the ball back, etc. and the band interprets this action with music. Again, this sounds pretty stupid, but the audio-visual presentation was very funny.

Dumb All Over was performed a tad more sloppy in the lyrics/vocal department than the last time I saw them play it. Otherwise good.

Bamboozled By Love, Ok? Ok. This gives me a chance to illustrate an important point of distinction between a Project/Object show and a Zappa Plays Zappa show. I will let a little rant that I let myself go off on in a post on Zappateers speak for me.

As I mentioned above, ZPZ did "Bamboozled". And that was a nice surprise and everything (again, my dad brought home Tinseltown Rebellion when I was maybe 5 years old, and that shit is pretty much in my DNA at this point) and boy, that Ben Thomas sure does have soul in his plaid shirt and cargo pants and everything. But two nights later, P/O also played "Bamboozled". And I've never heard them play it before. And Ike Willis sang it. And it was heavy and angry. And it rocked my balls. And it was about the song and the groove and the dirt ('neath which the bitch might even be buried), not a neat and tidy presentation. ZPZ are, as almost anyone would admit, a very talented group of musicians, but too often on Friday night, what they played just lacked joy. They play almost everything almost perfectly. But it doesn't feel alive. "Bamboozled By Love" should make me stomp my foot a little and maybe cause me to throw in a few air cymbal hits and hope nobody saw me do that because the groove is so fucking righteous. P/O does that, or at least did it on this occasion. ZPZ makes me feel joyous that they're playing "Bamboozled" (and the way they bring it up to '84/'88 speed and do the Yes vamp, then bring it back down to '78/'79 speed is kind of a nice touch), but after the initial shock, instead of rocking out, I'm nodding politely to the beat.

So, yeah, "Bamboozled" was some heavy shit. Ike Willis is The Voice, Ok? That's one of the things that just made this performance, and made it ass-rocking in a way that ZPZ was just not. It is not simply the fact that Ike Willis sang on the original Frank Zappa album recordings. I guess that does help. It certainly makes it a cooler experience. But it's also the fact that he just has the kind of voice to just sell the shit out of this song. ZPZ's boy wonder Ben Thomas does not. At all.

Hey, RDNZL! I've never heard them play this either. It's nice that after 8 or 9 shows, they still play stuff I haven't heard. Andre played the guitar solo. Don did a synth solo after that. Nothing really to add about this, other than it was pretty great.

I'm the Slime included a few choruses of Parliament's "Let Me Ride". Svalgard played an organ solo in lieu of featuring a guitar solo in this song. The first time that happened, I was like, "what?" But I'm totally cool with it now.

"Village of the Sun" was not played, but Echidna's Arf (of You) was, followed-as-would-be-expected by Don't You Ever Wash That Thing? As I've mentioned in past reports, this is something I look forward to at every show, because DYEWTT always ends up featuring awesome conducted improvisation and fucking random crazy shit. #9 was no exception and didn't let me down in the least. Don Preston keyboard solo. Sluggo solo on Rhodes. A totally impromptu, "WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT ABOUT!?" chorus of "Call Me Al" with ridiculous slap bass from Seahag. Random James Brown vocal samples. Ike conducting improvisation gets pretty far out. Here's another big fucking difference between a P/O show and a ZPZ show and I have to, once again, let my previous rant on Zappateers speak for me here, both because it says a lot and because I don't want to try re-phrasing and re-typing these thoughts from memory.

P/O also closed their second set with those same songs [Echidna's>Wash]. They're a slightly more ragged group with slightly different instrumentation. They get shit on all the time for being "sloppy", but this reporter doesn't see it (don't get me wrong, I can remember some specific instances where specific members of P/O made some errors or got a sloppy on a particularly complex run in a way that made me cringe, but look, when it comes to playing certain marimba lines in "Inca Roads" on a keyboard instrument, I'm not really expecting perfection out of anyone). They can play Echidna's Arf and DYEWTT with the best of them, as far as I'm concerned. ZPZ has some decent soloists, too. But DYEWTT is something I look forward to in any P/O show because it's always gonna have some improvisation, and when improvisation happens with this group in this song, at it's very best, it approaches a kind of genuine brain-melting insanity that's kind of amazing that the group and the audience actually manages to survive. Scheila Gonzalez can kick mucho ass on the sax and the rest of ZPZ can lay down a respectably funky 50/50 vamp during King Kong for her to do it over, and I very much enjoy that experience, and when it's over, some other kind of enjoyable wacky will ensue, but that experience just doesn't quite throw my brain into a blender the way P/O does when things happen like Andre "conducting" improvisations by pretending to play basketball (sounds stupid on paper, is hilarious in action), James Brown vocal samples appearing out of nowhere, and half the band breaking into "Call Me Al" for no particular reason before rapidly descending back into the madness of conducted improvisation with Ike Willis absolutely laughing his ass off at what the band produces when he waves his hands around. You might argue with the musical quality of these events, but the fact that they happen at all is just...

How do I put this into words? I do appreciate what ZPZ does, but my feelings for them as a performing outfit under Dweezil's direction are.. well, sometimes it's more about what they DON'T do that is the problem. They're so fucking talented. Why does so much of what they do end up feeling so safe? I think this is something that FZ tried to avoid. Even boring (well, by some people's starndards) FZ tours, or show after show with too many of the same songs, they might be repetitive, they might get boring, but they don't feel so safe and clean and dressed up in nice clothes to look presentable.

Warts and All, you know what I mean?

See what I'm saying?

I would hesitate to really call this the end of the second set and call the next song an encore, because when half the band doesn't even leave the stage and there's no more than a minute or two rest before the last song, I hesitate to even call it an encore. But for the sake of just being contrary, I guess, let's say that the band performed Wild Love for an encore. Wow, going out on another song I've never seen them play before. It was pretty good. Solid, vocals-wise.

All things taken into account ("Society Pages" medley - solos / improvisation in "Big Swifty" - first time hearing them do "Bamboozled" AND "RDNZL", back to back, no less - ridiculous improv in DYEWTT - another new-to-these-ears song played for an encore), the second set of this show was honestly one of the very best of any of the 18 sets I've now seen them play. The first set had it's flaws, mostly just what felt like a total lack of momentum over the course of the set, but the second one was, how you say in your language, Shit-Hot. It should be fun to listen to the recording of it.
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