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Gonzo Report: Stinkfoot Orchestra conjures Zappa at Winstons

His music is a blend of technical excellence and not-so-subtle humor

Napoleon Murphy Brock...or is it?
Napoleon Murphy Brock...or is it?
Video:

GONZO REPORT: Stinkfoot Orchestra conjures Zappa at Winstons


“Don’t ever fucking do that again!” yells the security guard at Winstons Beach Club in Ocean Beach. The recipient of his instruction is a guy named Steve, who is drunk. Drunk Steve didn’t have a ticket for The Stinkfoot Orchestra, a 14-piece ensemble playing the music of Frank Zappa, so he figured he would watch it from outside through an open window. When the awning was lowered, Steve took his free hand and shoved it under there — not spilling a drop of his paper-bag-wrapped adult beverage. Given the weight of the awning, it’s probably a good idea to heed the guard’s advice and never fucking do that again, but Drunk Steve just repeats for the umpteenth time that he “knows those guys.”

The pseudo-confrontation doesn’t dissipate the atmosphere. After all, this is OB, where the streets feature as many memorable characters as one of Zappa’s compositions. Suzy and Chris have been staking out the venue from Pizzeria Luigi across the corner; their plan is to grab a bite to eat and be first in line. They are successful in both missions, and provide a good representation of the crowd tonight. Their musical tastes favor a broad range of rock, with the occasional jazz and blues mentioned. They are the type of musicphiles drawn to Zappa’s compositions — eclectic, and curious enough to appreciate both the technical aspects of Zappa’s work and the not-so-subtle humor that defines it.

Inside, the band fits onto the stage like a well-thought-out puzzle that shouldn’t work as seamlessly as it does, a visual representation of the compositions coming out of the speakers. “I’m the Slime” appears early in the first set, sending me back to my introduction to Zappa, and I revel in the subversive smartass boss level of seeing the song about the brain draining powers of television performed on television. Bandleader Nick Chargin plays keyboards with the same seemingly effortless flow that he displays in banter with his bandmates. The connection between the musicians is palpable, Chargin making it look easy is an illusion that is the product of countless hours of practice. Even my untrained ears recognize the technical ability required of all the musicians to deliver. I’m shocked when Lizie Skow, who has just delivered a hypersensual interpretation of “Dirty Love,” tells me she fucked it up so badly the other night she thought she was going to derail the band. Then she smiles and says, “This band is almost impossible to derail,” so it ended fine.

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At intermission, I chat with Bill, who saw Zappa in Berkeley in the early ‘70s. He assures me that from what he remembers; it was magical. A group set up on the corner by the club has a coffee table and chairs, set up with a cereal bowl full of the devil’s lettuce. This is not community property, as one fellow discovers when he tries to grab a handful of bud and is stalked by one of the table owners, who sports a Manny Machado Padres jersey. He promises the would-be toke thief that he will be knocked out if he turns around.

Upon Machado’s fan’s return, he finds that a woman has dropped to her knees, genuflecting until pseudo-Machado takes a custodial broom and sweeps her away a la A Night At the Apollo. I speak to an intoxicated therapist, a man named Joe in a Death Angel hoodie, and a few patrons who say “fuck that” when they are told there is a cover charge.

The second set gets going, and a rubber chicken war escalates between Scotty — the “crewslut” who is dialing in pristine sound — and singers Skow and Lainey Leone, who, according to Scotty, started slingshoting the miniature poultry at him first. Bassist Joey Fabian smacks a stuffed baby seal against his effects rack when the lyrics call for it, and joins in the chicken flinging escapades, all while smiling ear to ear with vocalist Napoleon Murphy Brock, a Zappa alumni who flawlessly executes “Village of the Sun” from 1973. “Son of Orange County” swaps Nixon for Trump, a natural continuum of hilarious cynicism that spans generations.

In a pre-show interview, Brock told me that Zappa’s music was for the future, written in the past. He also claimed he was not the now-80-year-old singer who still had enough oxygen to double as a sax player. After the lights come on and I hit the bustling street, I realize I believe him.

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Napoleon Murphy Brock...or is it?
Napoleon Murphy Brock...or is it?
Video:

GONZO REPORT: Stinkfoot Orchestra conjures Zappa at Winstons


“Don’t ever fucking do that again!” yells the security guard at Winstons Beach Club in Ocean Beach. The recipient of his instruction is a guy named Steve, who is drunk. Drunk Steve didn’t have a ticket for The Stinkfoot Orchestra, a 14-piece ensemble playing the music of Frank Zappa, so he figured he would watch it from outside through an open window. When the awning was lowered, Steve took his free hand and shoved it under there — not spilling a drop of his paper-bag-wrapped adult beverage. Given the weight of the awning, it’s probably a good idea to heed the guard’s advice and never fucking do that again, but Drunk Steve just repeats for the umpteenth time that he “knows those guys.”

The pseudo-confrontation doesn’t dissipate the atmosphere. After all, this is OB, where the streets feature as many memorable characters as one of Zappa’s compositions. Suzy and Chris have been staking out the venue from Pizzeria Luigi across the corner; their plan is to grab a bite to eat and be first in line. They are successful in both missions, and provide a good representation of the crowd tonight. Their musical tastes favor a broad range of rock, with the occasional jazz and blues mentioned. They are the type of musicphiles drawn to Zappa’s compositions — eclectic, and curious enough to appreciate both the technical aspects of Zappa’s work and the not-so-subtle humor that defines it.

Inside, the band fits onto the stage like a well-thought-out puzzle that shouldn’t work as seamlessly as it does, a visual representation of the compositions coming out of the speakers. “I’m the Slime” appears early in the first set, sending me back to my introduction to Zappa, and I revel in the subversive smartass boss level of seeing the song about the brain draining powers of television performed on television. Bandleader Nick Chargin plays keyboards with the same seemingly effortless flow that he displays in banter with his bandmates. The connection between the musicians is palpable, Chargin making it look easy is an illusion that is the product of countless hours of practice. Even my untrained ears recognize the technical ability required of all the musicians to deliver. I’m shocked when Lizie Skow, who has just delivered a hypersensual interpretation of “Dirty Love,” tells me she fucked it up so badly the other night she thought she was going to derail the band. Then she smiles and says, “This band is almost impossible to derail,” so it ended fine.

Sponsored
Sponsored

At intermission, I chat with Bill, who saw Zappa in Berkeley in the early ‘70s. He assures me that from what he remembers; it was magical. A group set up on the corner by the club has a coffee table and chairs, set up with a cereal bowl full of the devil’s lettuce. This is not community property, as one fellow discovers when he tries to grab a handful of bud and is stalked by one of the table owners, who sports a Manny Machado Padres jersey. He promises the would-be toke thief that he will be knocked out if he turns around.

Upon Machado’s fan’s return, he finds that a woman has dropped to her knees, genuflecting until pseudo-Machado takes a custodial broom and sweeps her away a la A Night At the Apollo. I speak to an intoxicated therapist, a man named Joe in a Death Angel hoodie, and a few patrons who say “fuck that” when they are told there is a cover charge.

The second set gets going, and a rubber chicken war escalates between Scotty — the “crewslut” who is dialing in pristine sound — and singers Skow and Lainey Leone, who, according to Scotty, started slingshoting the miniature poultry at him first. Bassist Joey Fabian smacks a stuffed baby seal against his effects rack when the lyrics call for it, and joins in the chicken flinging escapades, all while smiling ear to ear with vocalist Napoleon Murphy Brock, a Zappa alumni who flawlessly executes “Village of the Sun” from 1973. “Son of Orange County” swaps Nixon for Trump, a natural continuum of hilarious cynicism that spans generations.

In a pre-show interview, Brock told me that Zappa’s music was for the future, written in the past. He also claimed he was not the now-80-year-old singer who still had enough oxygen to double as a sax player. After the lights come on and I hit the bustling street, I realize I believe him.

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