Zappa fest in Little Italy

Bust of onetime San Diegan Frank Zappa in Palermo, Sicily
  • Bust of onetime San Diegan Frank Zappa in Palermo, Sicily

“As teenagers, Frank Zappa and Lou Curtiss, owner of Folk Arts Rare Records, would scour local bargain bins for eclectic albums that would define their unique musical perspectives,” says Tom Cesarini, executive director at the Convivio Center. The Little Italy venue is hosting multiple Zappa-related events during this year’s Sicilian Festival, including the U.S. premiere of Sicilian filmmaker Salvo Cuccia’s documentary Summer of ’82: When Zappa Came to Sicily (screening Saturday, May 17) and a tribute set performed by sometime-Skelpin Tim Foley and the Random Folk (May 18).

“Lou Curtiss has been invited to the screening,” says Cesarini. “He has fascinating stories to share about Zappa and their experiences as teens coming of age in San Diego.”

It was early 1954 when the Zappas moved to San Diego, where 13-year-old Frank began buying the used records that would later inspire him, at stores downtown and in La Mesa. He briefly attended Grossmont High as a freshman and then spent his sophomore year at Mission Bay High, drumming for the school band the Ramblers (who reportedly fired him for using too much cymbal). After his high school band director turned him on to Anton Webern and 12-tone music, which highly influenced his subsequent musical output, Zappa moved with his family to Lancaster, California, in 1955. Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention first played San Diego in May of 1966, at a club called Jazzville, opening for Little Richard. Years later, local guitarist Mike Keneally played in the Zappa band for a lengthy spell.

Past Event

Summer of ’82: When Zappa Came to Sicily

  • Saturday, May 17, 2014, 7 p.m.
  • Convivio, 2157 India Street, San Diego
  • Free - $5

For the Summer of ’82 screening, “Convivio Society would like to invite San Diegans to come forward with stories, photos, and memorabilia that tell the story of Frank Zappa’s sojourn in San Diego, as well as the fascinating aspects of his musical career,” says Cesarini. The film documents Zappa’s trip to the Sicilian capitol of Palermo, where his family lived before moving to America, to perform the final date of his 1982 European tour, though the show ended when patrons caused what was later characterized as a “riot.”

The documentary presents multiple viewpoints, including that of filmmaker Cuccia, who attended the concert with his father, and those of Zappa’s family, including wife Gail and children Dweezil, Moon, and Diva. In addition to the screening, Tim Foley and the Random Folk will pay tribute to Zappa’s signature musicality on Sunday, May 18, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on the Festival’s Cedar Street stage.

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