Wailing Mothers climax (B)abel festival

By Paul MacRae

The Varsity, 29 January 1968

Fifteen late-comers pounded on the doors outside Convocation Hall last night – overflow ticket-buyers for the Mothers of Invention concert.

Inside strobes flashed, 10 shaggy Mothers pounded the organ and drums, movies and patterns scanned the walls and ceiling, fingers played up and down the bass.

In an upper balcony two youths writhed high to the insidious, pounding, grinding beat. Hair splayed in the movie-light.

Red, green, yellow, spiral complexions. Four girls work it out on stage – five, ten, fifteen minutes of wailing rhythym. Grease globs glistened, moving on a huge white screen behind The Mothers.

Cymbals, sawdust and confetti rain, low rumbling electronic moans, colorful sounds.

Are The Mothers good? Just ask anybody. Larry liked them; he was stoned. Sherry fell asleep. Jan muttered, Kathy was mad. On stage The Mothers looked like ugly devils in the red light.

The mothers must have the biggest instrument section of any pop group in America, but they rely mostly on drums, organ and bass, fronted sometimes by leader Frank Zappa's guitar. In the noise, voices mingle and disappear, although once Zappa ran through the words of a song first. At any given time they may use saxophones, clarinets, guitars, kettle drums, trumpets, cymbals and tambourines.

There is no pattern to a Mothers' concert. They meander on stage and seem to pick up instruments at random. Zappa insults the audience – "We cater to the lowest taste" – they love it "Cretins wanting to be entertained."

The Mothers are famed for their critical attacks on North American society and customs, but either they've mellowed, or the words were lost.

The same might be said for the whole of (B)ABEL: Society as Madness and Myth. As an all-out expose of Western society it was less successful than last year's Psychedelic Festival, and created far less hysteria.

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