Beat Recommends: Big Hair – The Life & Times Of Tomata Du Plenty

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Photo of Tomata Du Plenty by Louis Jacinto, used by kind permission.

Tonight (starting in just minutes, I’m sorry I kept you waiting so long to find out!) and tomorrow, Art Beat LA will be presenting the visual art of Tomata Du Plenty, one of LA punk’s most radical and singular figures.

The Screamers, the band for which Tomata was the titular screamer, left behind virtually nothing of a musical legacy, with no finished studio recordings. A handful of minimally produced videotapes, made for public-access cable TV in 1977-78, constitute their only official release of any kind. If you weren’t there, at the time, you missed it. And yet, among the people who WERE there at the time, the consensus is that they were the real thing, stars, massively influential. You can see Jello Biafra in the front row during one of those Target clips, looking up at Tomata like he’s just seen the light. Crude as the tapes are, it’s easy to see something new going on, something beyond Suicide or the Silver Apples or Devo (who loved the Screamers immediately upon their arrival in LA).

Du Plenty didn’t make a lot of music after the group split in 1981, but remained highly active until his passing in 2000, racking up credits as a playwright, stage producer, film director and visual artist. Organizer Carlos Iglesias tells Cartwheel*Art that this retrospective will include over a dozen contributors, hoping to “capture the range of styles and mediums he used throughout his career.” Bands will be performing both nights, including Paul Roessler, Rikk Agnew, Gitane Daemone and the Groovy Rednecks on Friday, and The Knitts, the Don Juan Remainder, Kristian Hoffman and Ravens Moreland on Saturday.

Expect good times. Du Plenty’s paintings often suggest folk art, much warmer and more inviting than the persona he developed for his greatest band, but no less revealing or illuminating.

At Art Share LA, 801 E 4th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013. Friday and Saturday May 1 and 2, no cover charge, 7:30pm. 

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