On the Road Again

Frank Zappa travels to hell and back.

Touring can take a toll on even the most loyal devotee of the rock-and-roll lifestyle. The endless string of hotel rooms, cramped stages and unappreciative crowds, the excesses of substances and sex — they’re all enough to drive anyone a little bit crazy. That’s the central theme of 200 Motels, Frank Zappa’s 1971 musical film, a surreal peek into a rock band’s life on the road.

Although the movie gained cult status for its bizarre live action and animated sequences, as well as the cameos from rock legends (Ringo Starr and Keith Moon appear), it also represents a creative watershed for Zappa as both a composer and a performer. 200 Motels includes vintage performances by Zappa and the circa 1971 Mothers of Invention, a group that included jazz great George Duke. More notably, the film’s score features several of Zappa’s orchestral pieces performed by the London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. With musical nods to such classical composers as Igor Stravinsky and Anton Webern, pieces like “Strictly Genteel” reveal a facet of Zappa’s skills that’s too often overlooked.

200 Motels will screen at midnight May 29 and 30 at the Esquire Theatre, 590 Downing Street. For more information, call 303-352-1992.
Fri., May 29, 11:55 p.m.; Sat., May 30, 11:55 p.m., 2009

 
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