Arts DEVO: Live/life music

Remember show sweat? Arts DEVO in the same room as other live humans at The Maltese last year. (Photo by Sesar Sanchez)
Jason Cassidy

Over the 15-plus years Arts DEVO has had this column space to write about whatever he wants, the “whatever” has most often been music. I’ve said here many times that my life revolves around it, and during this forced corona break from most of our outlets for it, that truth has hit home hard. I don’t just watch music live and listen to it recorded and write about it for the newspaper, I also compose it and play it, and I share and interpret my existence through it as well.

I originally connected with Mrs. DEVO via the words and wanderlust of Jonathan Richman (Isn’t it time for us to fly into life’s mystery? Time to go somewhere we’ve never seen), and she with me through the passion and poetry (and wanderlust) of The Boss (Oh-oh come take my hand. We’re riding out tonight to case the promised land). A large portion of the foundation of our marriage is a playlist of high-energy jams and sad-bastard tunes, and whatever sense I make of the world and my personal history in it is most often summed up with a song (or a Simpsons quote). The saving grace of my sheltering-in-place has been the proximity to the vinyl archives (both mine and that of the Discogs online marketplace, whose members have been selling me a couple albums a week). The music has been playing from morning to night at the DEVO compound, and this months-long immersion in our touchstones from the canon of rock—from Van Morrison to Neutral Milk Hotel—has helped us feel a lot more connected, to each other and to ourselves, and this Thanksgiving week I am very grateful for that.

But I still need the live music—active physical participation, not passive bubble sitting.

And actually …

I feel a little guilty about it, but I’ve managed to sneak a taste more than once over past several weeks. Most recently, I got a big sweet bite courtesy of the “hardest working band in snow biz.” The Yule Logs were assembled for a live recording on the Laxson Auditorium stage for the next installment in Chico Performances’ Chico Voices Goes Virtual series, and yours truly was on hand to interview the quartet and then stand in the shadows in my face mask and with a tear in my eye as I watched an honest-to-goodness live rock band go off!

The Yule Logs live at Laxson. (Photo by Jason Cassidy)

The Yule Logs are one of Chico’s great holiday traditions, and though they won’t be sweating in your face at Duffy’s or the El Rey this year, getting a digital dose of the group is better better than a lump of coal. The premiere stream of the Laxson show is Dec. 4 at 7 p.m., and the concert will be available on demand until Dec. 31. Visit the Chico Performances site for all the details.

And before that—and what has crystallized just how much of me has been missing without live music—were the good times had over the past few weeks producing a couple of projects the Chico News & Review has in the works: a live-music television series and an all-local music-video show.

As the CN&R navigates the unknown and the paper tries to figure out how to continue existing, we’ve been exploring various community partnerships, and some of those are about to come to fruition—including a weekly 30 minute “Chico News & Review” show on KZFR 90.1 FM (stay tuned for more details) and a couple of music-themed shows on BCAC.TV, Chico’s community-access television station.

The first is Chico Music Television, a compilation of music videos by local bands past and present, from Vomit Launch’s gorgeous 1990 pop gem “Switch” to Surrogate’s timely toe-tapper “Covid: A Love Song.” There are some genuine cinematic productions in the bunch—including two meticulously composed shorts by local animator Josh Funk and couple of creations from one-time Chico experimental noise-maker and current horror-film director, Tom Skowronksi (aka Tom Botchii)—and the whole two-hour showcase is (very casually) hosted from my backyard by myself and the mysterious Ken the Revelator and his magic Theremin.

Chico Music Television

CMTV premieres this Friday, Nov. 27, 9-11 p.m. on Comcast channel 11 and on CN&R’s YouTube channel—where hosts and artists will be hanging out for a live chat throughout the show.

The second CN&R/BCAC TV show in the works is Chico Live, a series of live performances by local acts at different local venues (sans audience) that aims to keep a light shining on the people and places that normally make live music happen. Broadcast dates haven’t been set, but a couple of two-act shows have already been filmed, and being in the room with live music during the process—as a viewer/listener as well as a performer—has been very emotional and grounding. Through actively connecting with the scene for a just a little bit, I’ve felt whole for the first time in several months. Hopefully, the virtual versions of the shows will offer some of the same for anyone else who is missing local music.

Info on the debut, featuring WRVNG and Scout at The Maltese, will be released soon.

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