Captain Beefheart’s innovations live on 

click to enlarge The Rova Saxophone Quartet, appearing Friday, is among the dozens of experimental acts on the program of “Hardly Strictly Personal–A Celebration of Post Beefheart Art.” - COURTESY MYLES BOISEN
  • The Rova Saxophone Quartet, appearing Friday, is among the dozens of experimental acts on the program of “Hardly Strictly Personal–A Celebration of Post Beefheart Art.”
By the time rock and avant-garde composer, multi-instrumentalist and painter Captain Beefheart retired from music in 1982, he had released a host of commercial and live albums, the best of which continue to inspire the Bay Area’s cutting-edge music scene.

This weekend in Berkeley, “Hardly Strictly Personal–A Celebration of Post Beefheart Art,” brings together dozens of artists from the experimental community to play music influenced by the boundary-breaking Beefheart (aka Don Van Vliet, 1941-2010) who, along with Frank Zappa, revolutionized rock in the 1960s.

“Performers will take the works of Captain Beefheart as a starting point for reflection, reaction, deconstruction, reconstitution and creation,” says Mika Pontecorvo, of the NextNow Performance Series, which is presenting the two-day marathon, a benefit for Earth Justice and the Coalition on Homelessness

The programming, a broad sampling of new and experimental music, includes avant-rock, noise, jazz, electro-acoustic and contemporary chamber.

Performers range from brass-woodwind band Pachuco Cadaver, which covers songs by Beefheart and his Magic Band, to Beefheart-inspired throat-singer bluesman Seth Augustus, avant-guitarist Henry Kaiser, Rent Romus’ Lords of Outland, free jazz multi-Instrumentalist/poet/painter Jim Ryan's Forward Energy, and the most renowned of the lot, the Rova Saxophone Quartet.

“Captain Beefheart’s art, in a sense, is woven throughout out his music,” says Pontecorvo, also a musician. “Beefheart’s drummer Drumbo (John French) once said that everything Beefheart did was art, including the music that he wrote.”

French went on to explain Beefheart’s process of composing. Because Beefheart wasn’t much of a pianist, when he wrote one of his most famous albums, “Trout Mass Replica,” he’d play short lines of music on the piano to French. French, in turn, would learn them, and then teach them to the band’s guitarist. When the band finally played the resulting work, which was highly original as well as strange, French reports that band members felt as though they were inside a painting.

Even though NextNow plans to utilize every available inch of space in the Berkeley Arts center’s two rooms, the venue can accomodate fewer than 100 seats. Considering that more than 80 musicians are participating, the low admission fee, and the fact that tickets are only available at the door, early arrival is recommended.


Hardly Strictly Personal – A Celebration of Post Beefheart Art

Presented by NextNow Performance Series

Where: Berkeley Arts Festival, 2133 University Ave., Berkeley

When: 7 to 11 p.m. Jan. 16, 1:30 to 11 p.m. Jan. 17

Tickets: $12 to $20


About The Author

Jason Victor Serinus

Jason Victor Serinus

Jason Victor Serinus is a music and high performance audio critic, whistler, and lecturer on opera and vocal recordings. He is editor of Psychoimmunity and the Healing Process: A Holistic Approach to Immunity & AIDS. In addition to writing for the San Francisco Examiner, he has written about music for Opera News,... more
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