It Can’t Happen Here… Frank Zappa Tribute Returns To Hilo


Happy Zappadan! In the Frank Zappa fan universe, it’s the time of year, from December 4 (the date of Frank Zappa’s death) to December 21 (the date of his birth), when the world celebrates Zappadan – Hilo is no exception!

In fact, we have Trever Veilleux, UH Hilo Jazz Orchestra’s Music Director, to thank for keeping the guitar master’s legacy alive in this part of the world. It’s not been an easy task considering he teaches a college course of Zappa’s complex composition to young students who have only seen the guitarist on YouTube. Additionally, the University wanted to end the course. A concertgoer last year was so appalled he wrote the local paper — “To my shock, one of the early songs in the concert was a public mockery of Christians and the Bible!”

Veilleux has managed to dodge these speed bumps over the years and has earned the recognition he deserves. Just last year, Zappa’s guitar-playing son, Dweezil, performed along with former original vocalist Ike Willis. Earlier this year, Veilleux’s 20-plus piece Jazz Orchestra was invited to perform as part of the 2019 Zappanale festival, a three-day celebration of all things Zappa, in Bad Doberan, Germany.

To attend the 2019 event, Veilleux and his orchestra have been fundraising. Last week’s two Zappa shows (December 5-6) at the UH-Hilo Performing Arts Center, aptly titled Holiday in Berlin, were part of a campaign to raise $12,450. They are also selling t-shirts with a rare unpublished photo by Ray Leong, who took the cover shot for Zappa’s 1966 debut LP Freak Out.

I attended last Thursday’s concert, my fourth UHHJO Zappa tribute, and their sixth performance. The setlist was filled with several deep tracks from Zappa’s vast catalog including “What’s New in Baltimore,” and “Holiday in Berlin” – both with many odd time signatures for rock songs. Veilleux always manages to squeeze in a little obscurity during songs. Take, for example, “King Kong.” The song broke out into several improvised parts, and keyboardist Mark Jimenez played “20 Small Cigars” while Iris Seaton (in an inflatable full-body T-Rex costume) tromped around behind him.

Some of the evening’s outstanding solos came from Elizabeth Robinson(electric violin), Payton Meyer (tenor sax), Josh Timmons (trumpet), and Heather Sexton (alto sax). Guitarists Dustin Kneidl and Roger Winter keep getting better, and tonight they played some of their finest licks. Veilleux took the spotlight on “Sharleena” and “My Guitar Wants To Kill your Mama” with stunning solos that elicited cheers and applause from the crowd.

Bridge Hartman, Adrianna Zablan, Uluwehi Winchester-Sye, Bernard-Benjamin Maliwat, and Josh Timmons, all did a fantastic job with vocals. By the way, Timmons’ group, Home Free – JTE, opened the show. If you looked closely at the horn section, that was Hilo sax-man Jeff Gaeth in the back section of the riser.

After a standing ovation, the UHHJO returned to the stage for the Zappa favorite, “Zomby Woof.” Onward to Zappanale!

Act I
Filthy Habits | Tell Me You Love Me | Sharleena | Directly From My Heart To You | What’s New in Baltimore

Act II
My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama | More Trouble Everyday | Holiday in Berlin, Full Blown | Bamboozled By Love | King Kong

Zomby Woof

Listen to an interview with Trever Veilleux.

For more info on the Hilo Jazz Orchestra, visit their official website,

To contribute to their 2019 Zappanale festivalfundraiser, visit their GoFundMe campaign,

Read a review of 2017’s Zappa tribute concert:

Steve Roby is a music journalist, best-selling author, and originally from San Francisco. He’s been featured in the NY Times, Rolling Stone, and Billboard Magazine. Roby is also the Managing Editor of Big Island Music Magazine. Photos/video: Steve Roby


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