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Gone Too Soon: Captain Beefheart Symposium at the Independent

Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart) & Gary Lucas in 1980.

For fans of avant garde musician Don Van Vliet, better known as the legendary provocateur Captain Beefheart, his death this past December reminded us all that there really was such a thing as music's "golden years", when trails were being blazed and buttons were being pushed, and that it's certainly not right now.

Before retreating to Northern California to live as a successful but hermetic painter away from the industry zoo, Van Vliet fused his psychedelic rock with blues, free jazz, experimental material and instruments and garnered attention for his unhinged, intrepid artistry and mythical persona. He was a musician's musician, yet enigmatic to the public. Influencing punks, post-punks, new wavers and alt rockers in his wake, Van Vliet's still one of the great pioneers in music.

That's why he's being honored at the Independent on Friday, Feb. 11th in the Captain Beefheart Symposium, conducted by Van Vliet's friend and former guitarist and manager Gary Lucas and presented by folkYEAH. Lucas has taken his symposium around the country before Van Vliet's death and since as an insider's look at Van Vliet's techniques through live guitar solos, compositions, and quirks. Lucas will also share rare archival footage of Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band, spin unreleased tracks, show slides of Van Vliet's cult-status art, and discuss the deep history of the the man and his band.

Why is Lucas doing it? As told to the Wall Street Journal back in December,

"I never met anyone remotely like him in my 30 years in 'this business of music.'  He made up his own rules, was sui generis and sounded like no one else. . .But if you were willing to put in the work to really LISTEN. . .you would be rewarded with a searingly honest beauty and a breathtaking complexity that made most other efforts in the pop arena seem cheap and disposable. . . .I will continue to spread the word, if only to remind people that once a true giant walked the earth."

For mega-fans and the curious alike, this symposium is the kind of stuff you can't read in books and won't find on Youtube. Lucas also has an armada of special guests for the event, like former Talking Heads guitarist Jerry Harrison, Terry Van Vliet, Victor Hayden (The Mascara Snake) who was Van Vliet's cousin and a member of the Magic Band, and Van Vliet's recording engineer Phil Brown. Get tickets here.

Captain Beefheart Symposium: Conducted by Gary Lucas, Friday, Feb. 11 @ The Independent, 628 Divisadero St., 415-771-1421.