Jerry Outlaw is a shape-shifter. He can morph into any kind of guitar player. Hendrix? Blues? Sure. Metal? Heavy metal? Easy. Punk? Jazz? Rock? You name it; Jerry can do it, brilliantly. But he is in his best shape channelling Frank Zappa.
Outlaw is the leader of Bogus Pomp, “a great band dedicated to bringing the best possible performances of the most incredible music ever written.” OK, that is from the band’s Facebook page, but it is spot-on. Bogus Pomp plays the music of Mr. Zappa almost exclusively. There are numerous Zappa “tribute” bands throughout the world, although “tribute” isn’t really a fair descriptor. There is Zappa Plays Zappa, of course, led by Frank’s son Dweezil. Project/Object and the Ed Palermo Big Band are two other leading proponents of this vitally important music.
However you care to rank them, Bogus Pomp is one of the major internationally recognized leaders in the business of continuing to breathe life into this music, because “you CAN do this on stage anymore.” And it must be done. And they do it brilliantly.
Bogus Pomp performs at seemingly random intervals, but Zappaween is a distinctly non-random event, celebrating Frank’s legendary New York Halloween concerts. That tradition actually began in 1972 at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic NJ (I know; I was there). After trying Chicago in ’73, Frank settled on New York and its rabid fans, performing his legendary Halloween show there eight times from ’75 to ’84.
2015 marks the 20th anniversary Zappaween show (State Theatre, St. Petersburg, October 31st, doors at 8). Let that sink in for a moment. Jerry and compatriots have done this more often than Frank, and always to similarly frothy audiences. Bogus Pomp has had a storied career, including performing on three occasions at the premier international Zappa festival in Germany called Zappanale. They have been joined onstage by Ike Willis and Napoleon Murphy Brock. They have performed as a combo, as a bigger band (eight to ten musicians and guest vocalists on occasion), and as part of the Bogus Pomp Orchestra a number of times.
The “regular” band includes Outlaw on vocals and guitar; David Pate, tenor sax, bass clarinet, flute; James Hall, trombone; Rick Olson, keyboards; Alex Pasut, bass; Matt Cowley, drums; and Dr. Dave Coash, vibes, marimba and more. The Zappaween band will expand to include Ross Jobson, keyboards; George Bernardo, vibes, marimba, percussion; and Ward Smith and Pat Buffo, vocals. With these boys, it’s not torture, and it never stops. You won’t want it to, in any event.
On September 26th, the Bogus Pomp Orchestra put on a stunning performance at the Palladium in St. Petersburg, the septet joined by 16 outstanding musicians from the Florida Orchestra and others. It was a brilliant show highlighting the majesty, depth and insanity of Mr. Zappa. The conductor for the performance was Dr. David Coash, percussionist with the Florida Orchestra and Zappaphile.
The “Holiday in Berlin” medley with “Mom and Dad” was amazing (and we will shortly run out of superlatives). Lowell Adams had a magnificent cello solo, followed by an equally great violin outing from Dan Campbell. Coash took a nice spin on the marimba. After a terse, wildly rocking “Approximate,” Coash (or was it Outlaw?) said, “And now for something completely different!” Indeed! It was a gloriously relaxed reading of “Twenty Small Cigars,” with the first of numerous outstanding solos from David Pate, this time on tenor sax. “Little Umbrellas” was a logical successor.
Throughout the proceedings, the seven-piece band meshed seamlessly with the 16 orchestra members (including Dee Moses on bass!). It was time to rock out a bit with a perfect medley of “King Kong > Little House I Used to Live In > King Kong.” Coash tooted on a little toy horn from time to time while conducting, and great solos poured out from Outlaw, Campbell and Pate (tenor again).
And the set closed with the impossible tune, the one from Jazz from Hell that could only be realized on the Synclavier. Except that several excellent groups have performed “G-Spot Tornado” with great success. Bogus Pomp NAILED. IT. In the middle of the tune, things slowed to a loping reggae beat, then regained original pace.
The lobby was a-buzz during set break in anticipation of the second set. Outlaw delivered a tasty solo on “Zoot Allures,” and that was followed by an unbelievable “Let’s Move to Cleveland Medley” incorporating “Young and Monde > Harry, You’re a Beast > Orange County Lumber Truck > Oh No (abbreviated) > Orange County Lumber Truck > Lumpy Gravy.” Rick Olson had a great Hammond B3 solo somewhere in the midst.
“Pound for a Brown” emerged with a great synthesizer solo from Olson, then more Pate and Outlaw. On “Big Swifty,” Pate grabbed his soprano sax and blew it up, and Jim Hall had a great trombone solo in the vicinity of the “1812 Overture.” “Who Are the Brain Police?” was appropriately slow, deep and dark.
A gorgeous Absolutely Free medley was followed by “Watermelon in Easter Hay,” “Sofa #2” and “Strictly Genteel” as the perfect closer. Outlaw stepped up to the mic to offer this:
“We’re doing this for the beauty of it.”
Thank you, Jerry, David, Bogus Pomp and Frank.
And Halloween is just around the corner, er, I mean, ZAPPAWEEN!
[SET 1: Uncle Meat, Black Napkins, Peaches En Regalia, The Idiot Bastard Son, Holiday in Berlin Overture, Mom & Dad, Holiday in Berlin (Full Blown), Aybe Sea, Approximate, 20 Small Cigars, Little Umbrellas, King Kong > Little House I Used to Live In > King Kong, G-Spot Tornado; SET 2: Zoot Allures, Let’s Move to Cleveland Medley with Young and Monde > Harry, You’re a Beast > Orange County Lumber Truck > Oh No (abbreviated) > Orange County Lumber Truck > Lumpy Gravy, Pound for a Brown, Big Swifty, Who Are the Brain Police?, Absolutely Free Medley with Mother People > America Drinks and Goes Home > Absolutely Free, Watermelon in Easter Hay, Sofa #1, Strictly Genteel]