Utter the words "public access" and you'll probably elicit little more than a comical wince from most people; the very term conjures up images of a wasteland of low- and no-budget television programming. Admittedly, the bulk of public access fare usually falls into two categories: kids-with-cameras goof fests (à la Wayne's World) or inexplicably bizarre talk shows where fat guys sit around in the nude discussing Jesus. But for local viewers, the Valley's airwaves have been offering up a bonanza of rare and fairly remarkable footage from the world of fine arts, courtesy of the Classic Arts Showcase.
The nationally broadcast (via satellite) program, originally started in the mid-'90s by the Lloyd E. Rigler-Lawrence E. Deutsch Foundation of Los Angeles, offers a continuous loop of byte-size video clips of various arts endeavors. It is, as Time magazine describes it, "MTV for gourmets."
Backed by a vast and constantly expanding pool of source material -- the bulk of the footage is provided by patrons like the BBC, Sony Classical, Deutsche Grammophon and hundreds of smaller and private A/V collections -- it's the sort of commercial-free focus on the arts that even well-respected outlets like Bravo and PBS simply can't hold a candle to.
In an era when junk TV is at its absolute zenith, it seems a daunting task to try to pry folks away from Temptation Island and Step by Step reruns. Still, CAS's mission statement is explicit about the program's aims, which are "to bring the classic arts experience to the largest audience possible by providing short video clips of the arts in hopes that we may tempt you, the viewer, to go out and feast from the buffet of arts available in your community."
Among the myriad areas CAS focuses on are the predictable (ballet, opera, orchestra, film, painting, poetry) along with the somewhat less obvious (sculpture, folk dance, archival documentary, animation and architecture).
A sample tape sent to us featured the kind of material that even those with a mere passing interest (and we here have always been more inclined toward the Monkees than Mozart) would find to be fairly riveting viewing. To wit: an eye-poppingly elaborate finale from the Metropolitan Opera's presentation of Puccini's Turandot as directed by Franco Zeffirelli; rare film of guitar master Andres Segovia performing in his workshop; a clip of Fred Astaire tapping his way through Jerome Kern's "Bojangles of Harlem" from 1936's Swing Time; a gorgeously photographed music video from soprano Kathleen Battle (by the way, don't expect divas like Battle to go J-Lo or Sisqó on you; the videos on CAS are infinitely more tasteful than your average "Thong Song" clip).
Add to that unassailably cool items ranging from documentary footage of conductor Arturo Toscanini to optical poems by abstract animation pioneer Oskar Fischinger, and it's easy to see why cineastes, lit hounds and arts aficionados of every color and stripe should be flipping fast and furiously to find CAS on their cable system.
Somewhat surprisingly, Classic Arts Showcase has found a pretty wide appeal in Arizona, as the program is broadcast statewide from Surprise and Flagstaff all the way down to Tucson. In the Valley, the show can be seen on Channel 11 in Tempe (where it airs an hour daily) and Phoenix (check local listings, as times vary), while Scottsdale residents can get their fine-arts fix via Scottsdale Community College channels 28 and 98.
Oh Carol: Going from classic to modern art, local sculptor/painter Carol Cotè will be offering up a one-woman show at a fairly unusual venue, Nita's Hideaway in Tempe, this Thursday May 3.
In the past, Cotè's work has appeared as part of ASU's Beyond Neon and Crossfire programs as well as in Scottsdale's Art One.
As part of the exhibition, a bevy of the Valley's better-known musical names are set to appear to mark the occasion. Scheduled to perform unplugged are Gloritone, Ghetto Cowgirl, Dead Hot Workshop's Brent Babb and former Piersons/current Getaways front man Patti Pierson. Meanwhile, expect electric sets from the Pistoleros, Los Guys and the newly reunited Red Light District. Doors for the event open at 7 p.m. Admission is $5.
And the Winner Is . . . : Mesa's Hollywood Alley was all abuzz this past Tuesday, as New Times presented trophies for its annual music showcase. The sixth edition of our local music event once again proved to be a rousing success, drawing upward of 13,000 folks to Mill Avenue to glimpse the nearly 40 bands on display.
As intense as the showcase was, the voting proved to be equally passionate, as we saw a handful of hotly contested races.
On to the winners: Truckers on Speed, runners-up to Flathead as last year's Americana champs, took the prize as the Valley's top twang outfit. Reigning Punk queens the Peeps defended their title with a close win over a game group of competitors, including Uber Alice and Balls. Baby-faced turntablist Megadef spun his way to the Best DJ title, with the Drunken Immortals scratching and spliffing themselves to victory as best Hip-Hop/Rap outfit.
Tempe's Loud Americans pulled off a surprise in the College Rock category, while Juarez represented the west side with a win as top Indie band.
As expected, Sistah Blue (the New York Yankees of the music showcase) triumphed, winning its fourth consecutive Blues title. Eclectic gypsy-jazzers the Hammertoes were victorious among the World/Heritage acts, while sentiment and a sufficient number of votes were on the side of Sugar High, who emerged with the win over a tough field of Pop category competitors. The Sonic Thrills capped their wildly successful showcase appearance by becoming the top vote getter and winning as best Garage/Trash band. And finally, Victims in Ecstasy unseated last year's Hard/Modern Rock champs Tolerance in a tight race, while also laying claim to the award for Most Likely to Make It Big.
Yours truly handed out awards to the winners during the ceremony; thankfully, this year's trophy was far more aesthetically pleasing than '99's overtly phallic figure and last year's disturbing Reservoir Dogs sliced ear design.
Truckers on Speed and Sonic Thrills took the Hollywood Alley stage following the presentations for a pair of inspired sets, before the night ended with the inevitable all-star jam. Remember, it's not too late to start thinking about next year's showcase, as we'll start accepting entries again in just a couple of months.
Immortality: One of those newly crowned music showcase winners, the Drunken Immortals, will be performing this weekend as part of a benefit concert for Food Not Bombs, a charity that helps feed the Valley's homeless. The Immortals are heading a diverse bill that includes Bullyrag, Stereotyperider and Carol Ann, among others. The concert is set for this Saturday, May 5, at Boston's in Tempe. Showtime is 9 p.m.
Shine On: This week's mail bag brought a pleasant surprise from Lovelight Shine. The group, which emerged from the ashes of San Diego emo faves Jejune, is a decidedly harder-rocking outfit as evidenced by the band's debut EP, Makes Out (Big Wheel Recreation). Lovelight Shine chucks Jejune's indie muse in favor of a sound that recalls Me Decade icons like Queen and glam figureheads Bowie and T-Rex.
As the small print on the disc claims, Makes Out is "5 Songs to Get Your Rocks Off." From the ferocious pick slides that kick off the opening rave-up "Freedom Fighter" to the blues riffage of "X-Ray Vision" to the anthemic squall and Brian May soloing of "The March Is On," the disc is an unabashedly big arena-rock lighter-waving workout.
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