Biography

The Magic Band is a reformed version of Captain Beefheart’s erstwhile backing band, led by “Drumbo” John French, Beefheart’s drummer and musical factotum for the bulk of his recording career. It was convened at the urging of longtime Beefheart fan Matt Groening to play at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival he curated in 2003.

The initial lineup had all played in the original Magic Band at one time or another: John French (Drumbo) on vocals, harmonica and drums, Gary Lucas and Denny Walley on guitars, Mark Boston (Rockette Morton) on bass, with Robert Arthur Williams filling in on drums for the vocal numbers. After their debut gigs in London and at Groening’s ATP, Williams left and was replaced by Michael Traylor. The band then toured the UK and Europe, and played at ATP Los Angeles in 2004.

They disbanded in 2006, but reformed in 2011 to play at the ATP planned for that November (at Minehead, England, curated by Jeff Mangum), with Lucas and Traylor replaced by Eric Klerks and Craig Bunch respectively. That festival itself was postponed till the following March but they still honoured the other UK & Ireland dates booked around it. They returned to play the rescheduled ATP and more UK gigs in March 2012, the new line-up being dubbed “The Best Batch Yet” by many a Beefheart song title referencing commentator.

In 2013, a new drummer Andrew Niven was introduced, and the band once again have a UK and European tour based around an All Tomorrow’s Parties.

Their repertoire is drawn mainly from the classic Beefheart albums Clear Spot and Trout Mask Replica, with many of the latter’s songs performed as instrumentals allowing the intricacy of the instrumental parts to be heard where they were previously obscured by Beefheart’s vocals or sax. Songs from Safe As Milk, Mirror Man, Like My Decals Off Baby and Bat Chain Puller are also included, and French has described the set as “a play which should be rolled out from time to time.”

They have released two albums: “Back To The Front” (2003) was recorded as they rehearsed for their first run of gigs, while “21st Century Mirror Men” was recorded live on the subsequent tour and released in 2005. There is also a live DVD, “Live In Concert” filmed at their debut gig at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London, which also includes a documentary on their 2003 reunion.

Edited by Mr_Phosphorous on 1 Oct 2013, 23:43

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Formed in
  • 2003
Split in
  • 2006
Reformed in
  • 2011
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