Since last month’s confirmation of the September 19th date for Baltimore City’s dedication of a bust of Frank Zappa, community support has been growing for a concert and festival in tribute to the legendary musician, composer and social icon, whose birthplace is Baltimore. The bust, donated by a Lithuanian fan club, will be placed at the Enoch Pratt Free Library’s Southeast Anchor in Highlandtown, and plans now include an outdoor concert featuring Zappa Plays Zappa (fronted by Frank’s son Dweezil), and various events at the library and nearby Patterson Theatre in support of the dedication ceremony.
The date itself is especially significant as September 19th is the anniversary of Zappa’s 1985 testimony on Capitol Hill in favor of free expression by Recording Artists at the Senate hearing instigated by certain congressional wives (members of the PMRC) concerning record labeling. Frank Zappa’s widow Gail commented on the remarkable coincidence, stating, “Frank’s legacy rests in his uncompromising defense of the First Amendment and his uncompromising pursuit of excellence clearly demonstrated in the standards he set in all areas of Music and the arts and sciences associated with it. He was self-taught and self-realized. It is hard to imagine how that is possible except for the 4 cornerstones he had going for him: a talent for music, a hard-core curiosity, a keen sense of humor and access to a library. He was a cheap date for History.”
The broader scope of events, being developed by Clearpath Entertainment in collaboration with the Zappa family, the Southeastern Community Development Corporation, Enoch Pratt Free Library, and the Creative Alliance, are intended to help anchor the new Highlandtown Arts and Entertainment District and plans now include a library exhibit, symposiums, and after party in addition to the dedication and concert. Sean Brescia of Clearpath stated, “Baltimore has a rich entertainment heritage dating back to its iconic theatres and jazz ballrooms, and opportunities like this are a chance to re-capture that spirit. We wanted to build an event that was a truly fitting tribute to the Zappa legacy, but also something that can grow into a signature cornerstone event for the Highlandtown Arts and Entertainment District, and Gail [Zappa] has shared that vision from the beginning.” In the interest of what the events could mean for the community, Brescia reached out to a broad group of community organizations to help plan and raise support for the events.
Echoing that sentiment of community interests, Chris Ryer of the Southeast Community Development Corporation added, “The bust coming to Highlandtown and these events are high-profile, flagship opportunities to position the Highlandtown Arts and Entertainment District as major reasons for visitors to come to Southeast while they’re in Baltimore. We’re excited to work with Clearpath and the Zappas to leverage this year’s events as a catalyst for great things to come.”
Remarking on the concert lineup, Clearpath’s David Christensen said, “Frank Zappa’s musical genius and influence is undeniable and it has always been a must for us that Dweezil headline this show in the ultimate tribute to his father. This is going to be Zappa Plays Zappa, next to Zappa’s statue, on a street dedicated Zappa Way, on Zappa Day; it couldn’t be more fitting.”