A Celebration of Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band-Inspired Music

Henry Kaiser and friends at Hardly Strictly Personal. Photo by Michael Goldberg

If you were out on University Avenue in Berkeley this past Saturday afternoon, and happened to pass Shattuck heading north, you would have soon heard some rather odd sounds coming from a storefront near Ace Hardware.

Those sounds were part of “Hardly Strictly Personal – A Celebration of Post-Beefheart Art,” a two-day mini-festival featuring 26 “projects” and as many as 86 musicians.

Entering the Berkeley Art Space — two adjacent large rooms with high ceilings and little else — I was in another universe, far far from the materialism and slick soulless day-to-day that seems to comprise much of life in the U.S. of A. these days. Yeah, sure you could buy a Hardly Strickly Personal poster for $10, but the money was gong to Earthjustice and The Coalition On Homelessness, as were proceeds from the $12 admission.

Musicians were performing alternately in each room, so that while one combo performed, another could set up.

Perhaps 40 people sat on folding chairs, stood or wandered about. It was free and loose in there. Many of patrons had long hair and beards, as did some of the performers, and in this case long hair and beards seemed symbolic of a time many decades ago when musicians worked hard to break new ground, not top the charts.

While the band Pachuco Cadaver set up in the left-side room, dissonant electronics floated over from the room to the right.

Kitten and Pachuco Cadaver. Photo by Michael Goldberg

Fronted by the female singer Kitten, Pachuco Cadaver played a horn-dominated set that included a number of Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band compositions, culminating with “Alice In Blunderland” and “I’m Gonna Booglarize You Baby” (both off The Spotlight Kid album) and both featuring guest guitarist Henry Kaiser, a master of Magic Band guitar.

Kaiser introduced “Alice In Blunderland” by saying:

“This is the first thing I learned to play on guitar as a kid.”

For his own set Kaiser brought on a band he’d pulled together for the occasion: William Winant, drums; Joshua Allen, tenor sax; and James Aliberti, vocals.

They played two pieces.

The first found Kaiser playing Beefheart and the Magic Band’s “Flavor Bud Living” (off the original Bat Chain Puller album) while Aliberti read Beefheart’s poem, “Sun Dawn Dance.” Then the three musicians went freeform for an extended jam in the style of Beefheart and the Magic Band while Aliberti read Beefheart’s “You should know by the kindness of uh dog the way uh human should be.”

That second piece combined free jazz, an explosive mix of honking sax, combative drums and lunar guitar. Imagine a Jackson Pollack painting as sound and you’ll have a vague sense of it.

Kaiser is an incredible guitarist. There is a hard jagged edge to his playing, as if he’s cut through all the surface nicey-nicey and reached the truth of the matter. It’s impossible to anticipate what sound will emerge next as he works various pedals while attcking the strings.

Cartoon Justice and friends. Photo by Michael Goldberg

The electronics-meet-analog instruments (Koto, bass, guitar, clarinet, cello) drone of Cartoon Justice followed, and then while Forward Energy went full-bore free jazz I split.


Below are the words to the poems Aliberti read.

“Sun Dawn Dance” by Captain Beefheart

Sun showers danced like dye darker green shadows
light on green leaves
played bamboo golden light organ pipes
wooden ‘n’ olden
down finickey halls
shadows leaped like lizards scaling
flower eyes trailing random vines
tales that curl-ee-cued
beans that hung green light berries
butterfly’s grasp upside down
in pain
lovely in their rapture
golden dust
golden winged eels slither apart
bleeding life’s light onto the ground
‘n’ quiver down gloden light
corny yellow horns blew petals stem riddles
bees ride fat honey
legged drips
centers pulp splinters
her flowered eye
uh legend on uh rock she scribbles
uh dew drop pops
up in the Sun Dawn Dance

“You should know by the kindness of uh dog the way uh human should be” by Captain Beefheart

You should know by the kindness of uh dog
The way a human should be
You should feel the wet wood heart of the tree
Wood sap pop like a frog’s eye
Open t’ the fly ‘n the blood of the river
When it ripples ‘n clicks like uh waterbell
‘n the elephant in his beautiful grey leather suit
Though he’s wrinkled he looks smart as hell
‘n the turtle’s eyes carry bags very well
‘n the snake’s in shape
He rattles like uh baby ‘wears his diamonds
Better than uh fine lady’s finger
‘n his fangs are no more dangerous
Than her slow aristocratic poison
And he plays his games on uh grass bed
‘n uh monkey never had uh guilty masturbation
‘n uh monkey wouldn’t shit on another’s creation
And the fatman cries throughout all creation
’cause he’s got uh cold
‘n the icebear dives thru blue zero for uh frozen fish
‘n the eskimo wears his hide ‘n chews his heart
‘n the beautiful grey whale oils some bitches lighter
Someday I’ll have money ‘n I can frame myself
What uh picture I’ll be choppin’ down uh tree

– A Days Of The Crazy-Wild blog post –

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