SUNDAY 12/23


Two days after what would have been Frank Zappa's 72nd birthday, offspring Dweezil Zappa will bring his six-years-running Zappa Plays Zappa tour to the Neptune. I had long avoided listening to Frank Zappa for a variety of shortsighted reasons. With a vast body of work—roughly 60 official albums during his lifetime, and countless live bootlegs and posthumous releases—it's easier to ignore a prolific musician such as Zappa (or the Fall, or Sun Ra, or the Mountain Goats) than waste time picking the "wrong" initial record to get into. And like many others who take rock 'n' roll much too seriously, I believed he committed the heinous and unforgivable crime of making comedic songs with groan-inducing titles like "Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?" and "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow," among others.

But now that I've spent some time listening to his earliest albums (the history major in me usually insists on chronology), there is a lot less gross-out humor than I expected and more incredibly pointed, occasionally bitter satires of the hippie era. Depending on the song, Zappa similarly chides superficial free-love flower children along with America's military-industrial complex, all while working within a musical style that I would normally consider needlessly self-indulgent and convoluted. (I can blame that one on years of punk-primitivism conditioning.) The one thing I take away from my first experience with his work is the precedent he helped set that not all unusual, inventive music has to be born from mean-spirited drug addicts. The elder Zappa obviously won't be here tonight, but if there is one person to best bring his music to the stage, it's his own son. Dweezil, an extremely capable musician in his own right, has normally focused on his father's instrumental, but no less experimental, oeuvre when performing live. Neptune Theater, 8 pm, $39.