FART AT PLAY !
saturday 31.01.71 ALEXANDRIA virginia usa VIRGINIA THEATER
to see beefheart is to hear him
tom zito - the washington post - february 1, 1971
note: this concert was a pull-out for the planned one at greenbelt armory in washington dc, which was hit by a military ban. '---' indicates spots where the investigated photocopy was too difficult to read
the uninitiateds were undoubtedly baffled, amazed and (quite literally) thunderstruck at captain beefheart's saturday night concert at the virginia theater in alexandria.
on stage, the good captain - probably the most bizarre of all rock musicians - wildly blew his bass clarinet as the members of his magic band went through their paces: rockette morton (mark boston) danced in homage to st. vitus as he banged out chorded rhythm passages on his bass; ed marimba (art tripp) - dressed in a long green-and-blue bathrobe accented by a fishing cap with an extended visor and sporting a green-dyed mustache - played his marimba, and drumbo (john french), smiling from behind a pair of narrowly-slitted sunglasses, beat away on a full set of drums constructed from varying sizes and shapes of congas.
beefheart makes music that should be séen and not héard. at first it seems ovalty, loud and repetitive and the group's outlandish appearance provides all the color of an extravagant sacrifice.
the magic band builds its sound on the rhythms of rockette morton's bass - actual chords, not just bass lines. drums and a marimba or a second set of drums amplify the rhythm structure and provide a foundation for free-form improvisation by the band's two guitarists (bill harkleroad and elliot ingber - t.t.). both work loosely around blues scales. captain beefheart plays bass clarinet and harmonica, and also sings some throughly surrealistic lyrics.
the music, as beefheart describes it, is more a painting than something to be set down in musical notation. rhythms, notes, melodies, scales and harmonies are audile rather than theoretical terms for his band. several of the members - including beefheart - cannot read music and simply utilize their instruments as tools to structure textures of sound. lacking are --- and transitions one usually expects to hear.
by this description, beefheart undoubtedly sounds pretentious, artless and heartless. his music seems initially repulsive (i've never been able to listen to any of his albums straight through, you really have to see the music being produced to appreciate it). yet it exhibits a curious estethic magnetism, as does much of the outrageousness associated with rock. careful, non-passive listening reveals novel and complicated harmony beneath the seeming disorder - a degree of sophistication not common among the cult of bizarre rock groups.
rock music has always incorporated the beautiful and the ugly. at the onset, its sheer volume signaled impending disaster to many and the music was usually labeled immoral and deadly ---.
but it wasn't really till the resurgence of --- in 196- that its deranged, somewhat demonic element became widely visible. [drug?] usage caused the switch and affected both the lyrics and the forms of rock.
the 'grateful dead' provided music as bizarre as possible for ken kesey's acid test and the later trips festivals - garcia's wailing guitar and kreuzman's frenzied drums, with the end of each song sounding almost like the collapse of its creators.
although the drug based frenzy of 'the dead' has mellowed with the years, other bands such as beefheart's, frank zappa's mothers of invention, alice cooper, the stooges and the monkey men have come to be known more for their on-stage activity than for their musical merits.
the mothers of invention frequently decapitate dolls during their shows (not then any more, as zappa had disbanded the group in mid 1969 - t.t.). the monkey men (now defunct) would arrive for work on motorcycles, drive on stage and use those bikes as an integral part of their music. alice cooper's lead singer goes through a transvestite transformation.
unfortunately many such groups rely more on these acts than on musicianship for their following. little of the music of alice cooper or the stooges seems worth listening to, you simply come away from their concerts wondering what was going on inside their heads. nevertheless, some groups outperform their reputations. the monkey men were too advanced for their audience and zappa is, for me, the genius of rock 'n' roll.
similarly, beefheart's bizarre element never once interfered with the music. he and the members of the band did engage in some frolicking in alexandria last night: ed marimba shot members of the audience with a spark gun [see note below - teejo] and rockette morton danced about in slow motion. yet while captain beefheart and his magic band may dress funny and act strangely, underneath it all they're good musicians.
click clack to the power station, the news or the other CONCERTS
captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo