INTERCONTINENTAL MILKMEN: ZZ Top uses music and legacy for hurricane relief, heads to Wilson Center this week
Between hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria, hundreds of thousands of people from Houston to Puerto Rico are reeling from the devastating flooding and wind damage. Various reports estimate the economic impact to the U.S. could be anywhere from $200 to $300 billion. In addition, damages to the Caribbean are being assessed and expected to be between $40 and $85 billion.
While the Atlantic has taken a beating, Wilmington has remained relatively lucky—skirting by with heavy rains here and there. Nevertheless, locals are not ignorant to loss of its neighbors. Supply drives and fundraisers continue to pop up throughout our coastal communities, with the next Puerto Rico relief benefit at Lazy Pirate (701 N. Lake Park Blvd.) in Carolina Beach on October 11 (dinner, 50/50 raffle, silent auction and live entertainment). On a larger scale, Houston’s very own rock legends ZZ Top are taking it upon themselves to raise funds for hurricane victims, too. And as fate would have it, they will be touring through Wilmington on Thursday at the Wilson Center.
“We are offering a very special piece of ‘merch’ available at our show with proceeds [going] to Harvey recovery,” guitarist Bill Gibbons divulges in our interview last week.
Also made up of bassist Dusty Hill and Frank Beard on drums, ZZ Top have graciously arranged for a portion of iTunes sales of “La Grange” from 2016’s “Live! Greatest Hits from Around the World” to go toward relief funds for their hometown of Houston, Texas, too.
“The donations for the relief fund are growing since getting it [got] underway,” Gibbons notes. “The tie-in with iTunes offering proceeds from the download of one of our favorite songs, ‘La Grange,’ promises to remain a continuing boost.”
ZZ Top also have raised major donations from recent shows—like September 10’s performance in Sugar Land, Texas, which resulted in $100,000 for flood relief.
Having formed in Houston in 1969, the three-piece outfit have since built an almost 50-year legacy with their string of hits. “Gimme All Your Lovin” and “Sharp Dressed Man” from “Eliminator” (1983), along with “La Grange” from 1973’s “Tres Hombres,” continue to draw cross-generational crowds.
Wilson Center is offering special VIP packages for Oct. 5’s show, which include a ticket for a seat in the first three rows; an exclusive meet-and-greet and photo with the band; a Q&A session; $50 merchandise voucher, and more.
Gibbons talked with encore about the endurance of ZZ Top’s catalog and entering their 50th year of making music.
encore (e): As time goes by and major events and life-changes happen (like Hurricane Harvey), do songs like “La Grange” or other ZZ Top tunes evolve or take on new meaning?
Billy Gibbons (BG): “La Grange” certainly took on a new meaning as we actually performed that very song in that very place, quite recently. We think fondly of the place that brought so much joy to so many each time we get to play that song. Still a favorite!
e: Though we’re sure Wilmington audiences will hear some of their favorite hits, what deep cuts do you like to bring to the stage these days and why?
BG: We’ve gone back to delivering a few choice gems before “ZZ Top’s First Album” (1971) came out. Always a few surprises and, rest assured, we still dig getting to perform the favorites—and then some!
e: You mentioned in an interview back in August how y’all started the tracking process of a new album and noted these songs “are very much L-O-U-D.” What else can you tell us about the new songs?
BG: What we offer is Dusty singing better than ever and Frank killin’ it on the backbeat. The songs are a regular groove for us and, presumably, they’ll be satisfying for all.
e: Speaking of writing, recording and making music for 50 years: How much (if anything) has changed in terms of your perspectives, processes or approaches to making new music?
BG: It’s the same now as it was four or five decades back: When playing what you want to hear, you’ll be hearing what you like. Obviously, there have been quantum leaps with technology and equipment, yet that simple way to relate to the creative process remains true.
We are, however, revisiting the album concept by putting out the next batch of songs in a kind of sequence. Definitely the old-school approach.
e: How do you plan to celebrate five decades of making music together?
BG: By making more music, of course.
e: As a guitarist, what are you still learning about your instrument and abilities?
BG: Just when you think you know it all, you realize you don’t. That’s when the challenge gets a few steps beyond. We don’t take the process for granted. Still rockin’ and still refining.
e: What do you still unequivocally love about ZZ Top, the music and the road?
BG: The bonus is getting to serve up a sound—we’re like intercontinental milkmen.