Desk job

By PHILLIPE AND JORGE  |  December 22, 2010
DON VAN VLIET The good Captain.


Last Friday a genuine creative visionary passed away. Don Van Vliet, the painter and musician, known as Captain Beefheart, died from complications due to multiple sclerosis in California. He was a one-of-a-kind whose music inspired tens of thousands of artists around the world.

His stuff was not easy to listen to if you didn't have the ears. To really grasp and enjoy what Van Vliet was doing, it was helpful to have been conversant with Igor Stravinsky, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, and Howlin' Wolf. His passions were his wife Jan, the environment, and animals. We don't know if it is possible to still get a copy of Lick My Decals Off, Baby (though most of the tracks can be heard on YouTube), but we would defy you to listen to "I Love You, You Big Dummy" on that record without the hair on the back of your neck standing up.

Jorge met him in 1980. And chatting with Debbie Harry the next year, Jorge recalled how Don claimed that he once went a year without sleeping. "Oh, I believe it," she said. "He can do anything." There was a suspicion among many that Van Vliet was, indeed, a shaman.

Phillipe was working as a bartender in Cambridge, Massachusetts about 30 years ago when Van Vliet sat down at the bar and was thoroughly surprised that Phillipe knew who he was and was familiar with his music. His music changed our lives. There will never be anyone remotely like him.


We neglected to mention a really good news story that cropped up a couple of weeks back. It's one of those "turning lemons into lemonade" situations. The story starts with the wonderful Black Rep company, one of the shining stars of the Down City creative arts scene, going under. We really don't know any of the insider stuff about this but it would appear that really bad luck (very expensive structural issues with their building) and the economic downturn were major issues. All arts organizations, large and small, have been negatively impacted as have many other non-profits providing a variety of good things.

The good news is that the estimable Len Cabral, along with his equally estimable brother Ali — two of the founding brains behind Inner City Arts, one of the true precursors of all the Providence cultural renaissance activities of the past 20 years — have decided to pick up the gauntlet. Their plan is to create a cabaret/coffee-house/performance space-type venue, called Westminster Roots Cafe, stressing the multicultural elements that made Black Rep a unique and exciting organization.

Inner City Arts was a driving force in Providence culture in the '70s and their Florentine Faire was always one of the major arts events of the year back in the old days. Because of Len and Ali's long experience in the arts (if you add in brother Ken, another well known artist, there's been a Cabral arts movement around here for years) and deep connections in the Providence community, this is a project for the entire community to rejoice in. While, out of (economic) necessity, this is something that will probably have modest beginnings, the proposed cafe sounds great and the Inner City Arts folks are going to try to keep the magnificent Sound Session summer music festival, one of Black Rep's signature events, going. We can't wait.

Send egg nog and Pulitzer-grade tips top&

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