The sound of Doctor Dark at Best Video Performance Space

Doctor Dark injected a jolt of electricity into the BEST VIDEO PERFORMANCE SPACE on Thursday, Oct. 4, playing the music of the late Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart (including his song “Electricity”—hear it below). The group ripped into the complex compositions with the energy and abandon of a garage band. Far from embalming Captain  Beefheart’s music, they made it come thoroughly alive. Bill Saunders delivered a superb approximation of Beefheart’s guttural growl. He was backed up by Steve Chillemi on drums, Will Iannuzzi on bass and Joe Nolan and Chris Cretella on guitars.

“Electricity” by Doctor Dark live in the Best Video Performance Space:

Performances this week: Chris Mir, Paul Panamarenko on Wednesday, Doctor Dark on Thursday


Christopher Mir (left) and Paul Panamarenko (right) are known around the area as highly regarded painters. But their artistry also extends to music-making. Mir and Panamarenko each will perform a solo acoustic set.

Mir’s music combines intertwined strands of folk music, murder ballads and indie rock. Or, as he tells me in an email: “Roll the stone up the hill, and it rolls back down. That’s what writing songs is all about. Also it’s about stealing lyrics from old Baptist hymns. The gods command!!!”

Here is Mir in rocker mode with “All the Snowflakes Are the Same”:

Paul Panamarenko is a Texas-born musician who immigrated to New Haven via Oakland, CA. He plays in the vein of Hank Williams, Leonard Cohen and Johnny Cash.

A sample of Panamarenko’s music, the song “Last Call”:


The critically acclaimed—and immensely influential—Captain Beefheart flew under the Radar Station during his 22 year musical career. Styles and tastes have evolved since his retirement in 1982, and as a direct result of his vision, what was once viewed as “chaotic” and “weird” is now considered strangely accessible.

In 2002, Doctor Dark formed as a one-off musical experiment, performing Beefheart’s music at Ideat Village, New Haven’s Annual Alternative Art and Music Festival.

Later that summer, drummer Steve Chillemi attended Zappanale, the annual Frank Zappa tribute Festival held in Bad Doberan, Germany. Upon returning, he called singer Saunders and excitedly said, “Hey kid, I have found our audience. We need to keep doing this… No one else is… This music is important!”

And so the journey began….

One year later, Doctor Dark performed at Zappanale. The audience had no idea what was in store for them. The band’s rampaging performance, coupled with Saunder’s powerful voice, immediately cemented Doctor Dark as a crowd favorite, garnering a fifteen minute ovation from their new European fans, as well as high praise from Zappa/Beefheart alumni, including Jimmy Carl Black (from the original Mothers of Invention, who performed “Sure Nuff, Yes I Do” with the band), Napoleon Murphy Brock, and Mike Kenneally.

Over the next several years, Doctor Dark continued to play in the Northeastern U.S., opening for Project/Object, The Paul Green School of Rock, The Voice of Cheez, and collaborating with renowned American improvisor Eugene Chadbourne. In 2007, the group went on hiatus to allow individual members to pursue their other projects. But the death of Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart, of multiple sclerosis at the end of 2010 provided impetus for the band to regroup.

Doctor Dark strives to accurately recreate the live Beefheart experience. Whether you are familiar with his catalog, or not, Doctor Dark will either take you back in time, or introduce you to a phenomenal and legendary American composer.

The Best Video Coffee & Wine Bar will be open with a fine selection of delicious snacks and refreshments, including Willoughby’s coffee. Admission—as for most Best Video Performance Space events—is free.