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Going Out On A High – A Magical Swan Song

As I write, it’s exactly one month until Christmas eve. This year has whizzed by and I can’t help but feel that time is slipping through my fingers in the run up to Christmas. As I walk to my bar shift at the Arts Centre, it’s cold and I notice that Head Street is lit with sparkling lights to mark the festive season. Tonight’s gig is The Magic Band and, in truth, I know nothing of what to expect. I understand that they have something of a cult following and that it’s a pretty big deal they’re playing in Colchester. But that’s about it.

I soon find out that The Magic Band are known as the musical accompaniment to musical creative Van Vliet or his better known stage name, “Captain Beefheart”.  Under his strict direction, The Magic Band created an oeuvre of music throughout the 1960s and 70s known for its distinct and often chaotic sound. This, as well as the famously cantankerous personality of their lead singer, earned them a cult-like status both in their native United States and in the UK.

We set up the bar and chat about how we think the gig will go. When the great big wooden front doors are opened to let the public in I notice there are queues of people waiting to come inside. There are a mix of ages but, for the most part, the people coming in are generally older than me – maybe in their 50s and 60s – and everyone seems incredibly excited and very happy to be there. The lead singer of the band comes to the bar to order a brandy, chatting to some of the audience while he waits...

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