In 2010 Gary Lucas started presenting a series of symposia celebrating Don’s art and music. Following Don’s death in December 2010 they became an even greater celebration of his life.

These events were advertised as follows:

Gary Lucas will be presenting a Captain Beefheart Symposium where he will will give a lecture and musical demonstration devoted to his mentor and childhood hero Don Van Vliet aka Captain Beefheart.

This will involve Gary showing rare video footage of the man and the band, delve into his complex artistic oeuvre as both a composer — by performing some of his fiendishly difficult solo guitar compositions live — and as a painter by showing slides of his formidable paintings and drawings.

Gary explained his motives in an interview with the SF Weekly:

I began doing these symposiums because it was my firm belief that many more people in the world today should know about this man’s consummate artistry, visionary genius, and profound impact on the world of music, and that sadly he was in danger of falling off the map, particularly to a younger genertation of music fans … [snip] … since Don’s death I have received the full blessings and support of his family to continue to present these symposiums.

More information can be found on Gary’s website.

Format of event

The symposium usually takes the following format:

  • Introduction by Gary Lucas
  • Showing of videos
  • Diddy Wah Diddy (Where The Action Is 1966)
  • Electricity(Cannes 1968)
  • When Big Joan Sets Up/Woe-is-uh-Me-Bop video/Bellerin’ Plain (Detroit Tubeworks 1971)
  • Lick My Decals Off, Baby commercial
  • Flavor Bud Living /Bat Chain Puller (France, 1980)
  • Ice Cream For Crow promo video
  • Contributions from special guests (varies depending on the venue)
  • Guitar performance from Gary and talk about Don’s composition method

Throughout the evening Don’s paintings and drawings are projected onto a screen at the back of the stage


Friday 10 September 2010 – The Magic Room Gallery, Massachusetts

Monday 13 September 2010 – The Stone, Manhattan’s lower east side

  • No further info as yet.

13 January 2011 – The Echoplex, Los Angeles

Special guests: Terry Vliet, Robert Williams, Pamela des Barres, Matt Groening, Stan Ridgway, Kristine McKenna, Bill Moseley, and Weba Garretson.

Videos of Gary talking and playing guitar:

11 February 2011 The Independent, San Francisco, CA

Special guests: Terry Vliet, Jerry Harrison, Francis McCarthy, Phil Brown, Mark Blake, Marion Vale, Vic Vale and Ralph Carney

Video of Terry Vliet:

8 April 2011 – Knitting Factory Williamsburg, NYC

Special guests: Genesis P. Orridge, Richard Pena, Hal Willner, Glenn Kenny, Bradford Morrow, Byron Coley, Felice Rosser, and more

24 September 2011 – Cinema L’Amour, Montreal Canada

Part of the Pop Montreal Festival
Special guests: Mary Margaret O’Hara, Don Levitin, Chris Burns and Chloe Lum

24 November 2011 – Københavns Hovedbibliotek, Copenhagen, Denmark

Ode to Captain Beefheart by Jorgen Teller:

Gary plays and talks about Don:

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