Project/Object in Sellersville, PA last night
- Long, rambling concert review follows - read at your own risk:
It's been a while since I've seen Project/Object, so last night I
made the two hour drive to Sellersville. It was sort of a last
minute decision, so I didn't order tickets in advance, assuming
they'd have plenty at the door. Turned out to be a foolish move
on my part - I did manage to get in, but ended up in the second
to last row of the theater. At least I got a ticket - I'm pretty
sure the show sold out shortly after I arrived. Would have sucked
to have driven two hours and not gotten in. Especially after
having to circle the theater for 15 minutes looking for a
parking spot. If you go to the Sellersville theater, go early.
Every time I've seen Project/Object in the past, it was always in
a bar or nightclub, so it was a very different experience seeing
them in a theater. The Sellersville theater is fairly small. It
looks like a tiny movie theater (about 25 rows of seats with
around 20 seats in each row) that was converted to host bands.
The acoustics were great (best I've ever heard P/O sound) and
it was nice to be able to sit through the show, but it really
sucked being so far from the stage. Made it hard to "get into"
the show. Plus the theater had poor ventilation, so by the
middle fo the show it was so hot and stuffy that I was having
trouble staying awake. Fortunately the B.O. of the guy sitting
next to me was quite bracing. The theater floor isn't sloped
very much, and the seats aren't staggered, so I spent a good
bit of the show looking at the bald spot of the guy in front of
me. If I ever go there again, I'll be sure to order tickets
early and try to get down front.
There was an opening band that started promptly at 8pm: Igor's Egg
from Philadelphia. They were really good. Guitar, bass, drums,
keyboards and violin. Kind of a jam-band base, but they
incorporated just about every style of music there is. I heard
some reaggae, klezmer, funk, fusion, country, cartoon music, etc.
All over the map. Their lyrics seemed on the silly side, but it
was hard to make out most of what they were singing. Unfortunately
they only got to play for around 45 minutes because the theater has
an 11pm curfew and P/O had to get on by 9 to have time to play a full
set. I should have bought Igor's Egg's CD while I was there, but I
figured I already have enough CDs of obscure proggy bands playing
that type of music.
Anyway, there was a brief between-band intermission, so I went
out to the lobby to use the men's room. There was a long line,
so I waited. When it was my turn, some guy barged into the tiny
bathroom just after I had entered, much to the dismay of all
the guys who were waiting in line. I guess he didn't realize
that's what they were all waiting for. Some people are clueless.
They were selling beer and wine in the lobby, but I figured if I
was going to have any chance of staying awake for the long drive
home, I better stick with caffine, so I bought an overpriced coke.
Project/Object started up promptly around 9pm, and played a single,
two-hour long set. I didn't know that they theater had a curfew,
so by 10:15 I was wondering when they were going to take a set
break. But they just pushed on, stopped around 10:50, then came
out and played an encore of "Peaches and Regalia" (the drummer
managed to nail that opening drum fill, which was nice) and then
they were done.
The band was made up of the usual suspects, with bandleader Andre
and ex-Zappa bandmember Ike Willis fronting the group and providing
most of the vocals and guitar. I always think of Ike as a vocalist
and forget how good he is on guitar. But he's great - he was even
playing a bunch of Steve Howe riffs during the sound check; maybe
he's trying out for a Yes cover band. The other regular was the
keyboardist, who I think is named Jordan, but he was kind of hard
to see because he was wedged into a back corner of the stage. A
couple of times during the show, he switched to mandolin and got
to come out from behind the keys for a while.
In addition to Ike, the band featured two other ex-Zappa sidemen:
the venerable Don Preston on keyboards and Ed Mann on percussion.
At one point in the show, everyone else left the stage, leaving
Don and Ed to play a duet. A lot of people around me left to get
another beer during this, which amazed me. Don is 77 years old,
we may never get another chance to see him play, and these people
go out for a beer. Rediculous. Anyway, the duet was very cool,
starting out as a spacey improv and then shifting into a Zappa
instrumental that I recognized but just couldn't put a title to.
An on-again, off-again member of P/O, Robbie "the Sea Hag", was
on for this show. Normally he plays guitar, but this time played
bass. As Andre put it, "Give him anything with strings and he'll
play the hell out of it", and sure enough he's just as impressive
a bass player as a guitarist, playing flawlessly and even throwing
in some string popping here and there.
The drummer was Eric Slick, a young man who has made a name for
himself playing with Adrian Belew. He was obviously having a
great time, and occasionally did a fair impression of Terry
Bozzio's antics. He even sang lead on "Tryin' to Grow a Chin".
At one point half the band left the stage, leaving Don, Ed, Eric
and the Sea Hag to play a version of "Go Cry on Somebody Else's
Shoulder". As Don sang the lyrics, Eric belted out falsetto
wails in the background and even sang part of the the ultra-rare
Zappa song "Oh in the Sky", so he's obviously a big fan of FZ.
Overall the show was good. They stuck mostly to early Mothers
songs and mid-70s stuff from albums like One Size Fits All and
Roxy and Elsewhere. I don't think they played anything from
later than 1980. The performance was a little sloppy at first,
as the band seemed to be having trouble with the monitors. Ed's
percussion was almost inaudible at the beginning, but eventually
got turned up. By the mid-point of the show, the band was
clicking along nicely. It wasn't the ultra-polished performance
of Dweezil's tribute band, but they made up for it with lots of
"eyebrows" (Frank's term for bringing attitude to the music).
There were a few political comments thrown in, as always. A
bit of Bush bashing and one jab at Sarah Palin, but they don't
really make good targets any more. At one point someone in the
audience yelled "Ike for president!", and Andre said "Yes, Ike
Willis in 2012. I like Ike. We've elected a black man, so why
not a black man with silly hair?"
There was a low-tech "light show", with computer-generated
imagry (which looked like a screen saver) projected onto the
movie screen behind the band. It would occasionally react to
the music (i.e. vibrate and pulse with the beat), but mostly it
just floated back there. At one point Ed Man went over and
started tracing it on the screen with his mallets, and Eric
Slick commented "I didn't know this was a Phish tribute show".
All in all a fairly entertaining evening. I'm not sure it was
worth the four hour round trip, especially since I had gotten up
early that morning to take my daughter to a Pokemon card tournament
and I was barely keeping my eyes open by the end of the show. And
the back-of-the-theater experience isn't nearly as good as wedging
yourself right up against the stage in a bar. But it was nice to
see Don Preston again (he even hung around after the show to sign
autographs - as Andre put it, "Let's see you even turn on a light
switch when you reach 77"), and it was my first time seeing Ed Mann.
They were selling an assortment of CDs in the lobby, so I ended
up buying a copy of Don Preston's "Vile Foamy Ectoplasm". I've
read many glowing reviews of it on the Zappa newsgroup, so I
couldn't pass up the opportunity to buy it. I also picked up
Andre's "Enigma With Attitude", which he described as "late night
stoner electronic guitar music". I figured he should be rewarded
for keeping his Zappa tribute going despite Gail's best attempts
to shut him down.
Oh, and I did manage to make it home around 1am, but I'm not sure
I was even awake during the last half hour of the drive. I'm
getting too old for this...
-- Bob "Bice" Eichler