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Francisco Lupica interview

Ted Hawkins

The Rhythm of Venice Beach

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Francisco and his Cosmic Beam


Excerpt from Call Someplace Paradise
by Pat Hartman

Another revelation at the Old Main Street Fair last year was the music of Francisco and his Cosmic Beam, which I heard again more recently at the Venice Pavilion. Francisco Lupica has an actual I-beam electrified somehow to make ethereal noises. The Beam is held by two driftwood tree trunks with masses of roots, trimmed off evenly to be support stands. It not only looks great but must be very stable. He also plays acoustic guitar, electric space guitar, drums, chimes, zither, gongs, and some weird homegrown instruments like the one made out of a couple hundred house and car keys hanging in a bunch. He's performed with such folks as Lee Michaels and Taj Mahal and was even in a hillbilly band in Georgia. At his concerts Francisco sells his independently recorded LPs, cassettes and 45 rpm singles. He says about his music, "One of the first comments people make is, 'Aha! I feel so high and I didn't even get stoned.'" Dr. John Lilly, of isolation tank and talking-to-dolphins fame, has officially endorsed the Cosmic Beam Experience as "the best prescription I know."
Civilian vehicles aren't allowed on the ocean front, but cop cars roam the boardwalk like Tyrannosaurus Rex in the Garden of Eden. The bikers pass around bottles clenched in brown paper bags. Francisco introduces a friend - "without him it would be real difficult to put this on." The gold bracelet wino, wearing a bikini and with one eye grotesquely swollen, is over near the Beam. She's inside the rope, sparring with a man who tries to convince her to get back in the audience. As the roadie tries for the third or fourth time to remove the contentious drunk, Francisco remarks, "Will Venice ever change?"
Another rowdy young chick tries to dance but can barely stand up. A bouncer hands her over to a guy dressed in black who humors and hugs her, tells her he loves her. A little girl with a key around her neck wears a t-shirt that commemorates the Motorcycle Toy Run. Francisco gives us a light-hearted number called "Going Down the River." Over on the pavement, a young man dances while astride a tall unicycle. Francisco announces another piece: "This is a song for people who have a hard time hanging out with themselves." A man says, "You must be thinking about me then, brother." Yet another derelict woman dances with a scruffy looking character who can't stop holding onto his own ears. She dances with the speakers and tries to crawl up into them. A man calls his daughter - "Ariadne..."- and Arnold Schwarzenegger is in the crowd.

When the above was written, late 1978, someone told me Francisco lived in Topanga Canyon, although the address on the flyer I picked up was a Venice post office box. Elsewhere, Francisco is described as a Long Beach performance artist, and in some contexts he is called Francesco. He did shows all over Southern California - there was a "7-7-77" concert event in Ocean Park, and one at UC Santa Barbara. He also played and lived in Berkeley, where he met Ed Perlstein, who became Francisco’s “roadie” when the two became roommates. Once they carried a Beam to the Grateful Dead’s rehearsal studio and delighted Jerry Garcia by playing it through the band’s imposing sound system.

Francisco used to play in a band called Shanti with tabla player Zakir Hussain and, being a drummer, became friendly with Mickey when Shanti would open for the Dead. I would later get to watch as Mickey and Dead soundman Dan Healy would show up at Francisco's concerts to get a closer look at the "Beams", even making drawings and taking photos. Mickey would later purloin Francisco's Beam and build one of his own to use in the Drums portion of the Dead shows..................Ed Perlstein

Francisco’s productions are named by the cognoscenti who compile lists of must-have music from the era. The movie sound track of The Thin Red Line has two Cosmic Beam numbers, and Francisco Lupica has a sound effects credit for “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”

The Beam itself is said to have originally been designed by John Lazelle and apparently Francisco had several in various sizes, because bystanders have described his Beam as being from 13 to 20 feet in length.

Since it's an "invented" instrument, you invent ways to play it. It gives one a great sense of freedom to play The Beam....... Michael Stearns

Inside the tent was a guy playing a very long metal beam, like a steel I-bar, with a few piano type strings stretched from end to end. He had it hooked up with an electronic pickup, so it could be amplified and use echoplex effects. In one hand he held a thick metal cylinder, like a giant version of the one steel guitar players use. With the other hand he plucked, stroked, bowed and hammered on the strings while moving the bar. The harmonics and textural magic from this instrument, which literally moved through your body, was so incredible people would stay for hours..........John Beal

There is a short film (9 minutes) called Tanka: An Animated Vision of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which has Francisco on the sound track. I can’t vouch for the freshness of this information, but it was available from Night Fire Films
Fax: 310-821-0224





© 2004 - 2012 Pat Hartman
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