Baby, It's Bright Outside: Fiesta of Light; Ahwatukee-Foothills Festival of Lights; "Wild Winter Nights": Phoenix's free Fiesta continues nightly, through Thursday, January 1, 1998, in the area surrounding Symphony Hall Terrace, Second Street and Adams (534-3378). Phoenix's other major display, Ahwatukee's bounteous, white-lights-only bonanza, can be viewed from 5:30 to 11 nightly, through January 1. Related horse-drawn hay rides and "luminary" hikes to South Mountain's Telegraph Pass are scheduled each Saturday, through December 20. The fest is centered on Chandler Boulevard about three and a half miles west of I-10 (460-6169). Wildlife World Zoo's "Wild Winter Nights" features thousands of lights placed strategically around the grounds of the west-side menagerie, 165th Avenue and Northern in Litchfield Park, plus a special exhibit of black-footed penguins from South Africa. The "WWN" display continues nightly, through Sunday, January 4, 1998; admission is $5, free for kids 2 and under (935-9453). For info about other significant Yuletide doings this week, see below.
Fiona Apple: The controversial Apple has taken a good deal of dis from folks who find her tart mouthiness and general anti-joie de vivre disagreeable, but who apparently haven't bothered to play her debut, Tidal. The songs therein--especially "Shadowboxer" and the loping rocker "Criminal"--showcase a songwriter/performer far beyond this musician's tender years. And it doesn't hurt that Fiona has a face from a fever dream and a moody--sometimes almost torchy--sound that echoes Tori Amos and Pirates-era Rickie Lee Jones (the New Yorker singles out Billie Holiday and poet Maya Angelou as influences). Laika opens the all-ages concert. Showtime is 9 p.m. Thursday, December 4, at the Celebrity Theatre, 440 North 32nd Street. Tickets are $23.50, available at the scene and Dillard's (267-1600, 503-5555).
Fred Stonehouse/Steve Gompf: Stonehouse is a Milwaukee-born painter who operates in his own fever-pitched realm of imagination; says Fred of the startlingly original pieces in his exhibit "Thirteen Devils & El Libro de los Suenos": "I break the rules of symbolism internationally. . . . I don't have any qualms about it." Sounds good to us. Valley-based Gompf is a multimedia junkie who transforms his passion for old junk--and faded visuals--into glorious pseudohistory via sometimes disturbing, nickelodeon-style loops "broadcast" on lovingly rehabilitated, oddly threatening machines named televisors. His installation is titled "Steve Gompf & Eadweard Muybridge: Persistent Visions: Televisors and Early Motion-Picture Technologies." The dual exhibits are up through Saturday, January 3, 1998, at the Lisa Sette Gallery, 4142 North Marshall Way in Scottsdale. Viewing is free; hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays (and 7 to 9 p.m. Thursdays), noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays. 990-7342.
The American Analog Set: Another worthy booking from Kimber and crew at Tempe's tiny Stinkweeds Record Exchange, 1250 East Apache, Suite 109--which has given indie/alt aficionados more bang for their buck, per square foot, than any other Valley venue. AmAnSet is based in Austin, Texas, but originally hails from Fort Worth, and is earthy in that dust-covered-boot kinda way that Cowtown's semifamous for. But the Set's not a neocountry band--or even close. Its hushed psychedelia, backlighted by Farfisa and found sounds, calls to mind the lazy dipping of warm toes in shaded grass on a resplendent afternoon--not to mention the quieter gushings and gurglings of Galaxie 500 (though the Set is more often likened to Stereolab and Spiritualized). Touring behind its sophomore crop of lo-fi, home-recorded tunes, From Our Living Room to Yours, AmAnSet plays Thursday, December 4. Alisons Halo opens at 10 p.m. 968-9490.
"Physical Fiction: Electronic Installations by Sara Roberts": Northern California teacher/technologist Roberts is a master of inventive, viewer-responsive electronic installations that create "portraits of common relationships." In her piece "Elective Affinities" (named after the Goethe novella), Roberts tracks the complex interplay between four occupants of a moving car. Explains the exhibit's curator, Heather Sealy Lineberry, "Depending upon [his or her] location, the visitor triggers a soundtrack of thoughts. . . . The story will be different each time you visit, depending on which soundtracks are activated as you move around the space." The show continues through Saturday, January 31, 1998, in the Experimental Gallery at the Arizona State University Art Museum at Matthews Center, located at the intersection of Cady and Tyler malls on the ASU campus in Tempe. Viewing is free; hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. 965-2787.
Las Noches de las Luminarias: The phenomenally popular fund raiser, in its 20th year, features an elbow-to-elbow stroll on luminaria-lighted paths, entertainment and more. It's scheduled for 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Friday, December 5; and the same hours Saturday, December 6, at Desert Botanical Garden, 1201 North Galvin Parkway, in Papago Park. If available, tickets are $10, $4 for kids ages 5 to 12; advance purchase is required, and early arrival is of the essence. A free shuttle service originates at nearby Phoenix Municipal Stadium. 941-1225.
Juliana Hatfield: The former Blake Baby's solo success this decade presaged--and, in some ways, helped spawn--the raging femme-pop movement. And "spawn" is a good word for it; though we vastly prefer intelligent women coaxing angst-ridden confessionals out of guitars to, say, that '80s monstrosity called hair-metal, we also note that there are far too many mediocre femmes slipping through the cracks. Hatfield's not one of 'em, though we've never been particularly smitten with her work--the voice is too static, displaying the raw emotion of a brick wall. Still, we give the Boston native props aplenty for her smarts, her songs' vivid sense of sorrow and her artistic refusal to tread water; see the story on page 100. Fig Dish shares the stage. The all-ages show starts at 8 p.m. Friday, December 5, at Gibson's, 410 South Mill in Tempe. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 the day of the show, available at Ticketmaster. 967-1234, 784-4444.