Archive Dive: Lisa Mezzacappa & Beefheart

photo credit: Scott Friedlander

photo credit: Scott Friedlander

As a part of the ongoing work of The Creative Audio Archive at ESS, we present Archive Dive - a regular newsletter featuring unheard recordings and ephemera related to the collections housed in the CAA. For more information on the recordings and/or collections included below, please contact or visit:


This coming Monday, March 25th brings the bassist and composer Lisa Mezzacappa to Chicago from San Francisco. Lisa will perform with longtime collaborator Jason Revis, also from the Bay Area, on drums in solo and duo formations, then joined by the local improvising heavyweights Josh Berman (trumpet) and Jason Stein (bass clarinet).

Involved in myriad experimental music communities in California, Lisa, in the words of our Option Curators, is: "Highly prolific… active for more than a dozen years leading, co-leading with many musicians and ensembles including Bait and Switch, the Interlopers and the Lisa Mezzacappa Trio. She also collaborates frequently on sound installation, film/video, sculpture and public music/art.”

In 2010, her group Bait & Switch released “What Is Known” on Portugal’s great Clean Feed label - with a notably ripping take on Captain Beefheart’s “Lick My Decals Off, Baby”, the title track from Don Van Vleit & band’s equally classic follow up to Trout Mask Replica:

Somewhat surprisingly, I found we have a Captain Beefheart recording in the Creative Audio Archive, found on CD in the Malachi Ritscher collection:


Malachi would’ve been 18 years old at the time of this concert in New York City - which doesn’t necessarily count his attendance out completely. But if you look at the bottom of the disc you’ll see that it is not labelled “Savage Sound Syndicate”, which would indicate Malachi or an associate recorded the concert, but instead “Grapeman”. This recording also predates nearly all other recordings in the collection, which begin around 1982, following Malachi’s move to Chicago in 1981.

Web searches didn’t offer anything conclusive regarding the details this specific recording and Grapeman - but it did pull up some threads on an old Frank Zappa related message boards about concert recordings - suggesting that this is a bootleg that probably circulated among fans for a long time.

We’d love to be sharing an unheard Captain Beefheart & Magic Band recording with you here, but unsurprisingly, the same recording found on this CD has been uploaded to YouTube! I compared the two to verify they are indeed the same:

Regardless, we hope you enjoy.

-Matt Mehlan

Archives & Media Manager, Experimental Sound Studio