Arts Devo

The Beard, Shuga Cain and goodbye to Electric Plant Studios.

James Harden, artist.

James Harden, artist.

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The Beard I hate James Harden. That’s what Arts DEVO is supposed to say. My heart belongs to the Sacramento Kings (I said, lifting my chin with pride after the team’s first respectable season in 13 years), and Harden plays for the Houston Rockets. But he’s also an artist who this season has changed the beautiful game forever, so as a basketball fan, I kind of love him, actually.

I know this is an arts column, and it’s in the spirit of creation—of inventing something that the world hadn’t seen before someone dreamed it up—that I write about the man called The Beard and the revolution of movement he’s started with his mastery of the step-back three. I’m not exaggerating when I say “revolution.” His move is all over the sports pages and the lips of the talking heads. No less than the New Yorker joined the discussion in January with a breathless essay by Thomas Beller titled “James Harden’s Transcendent Step-Back.”

A step-back shot is, of course, nothing new. Everyone from Larry Bird to Arts DEVO has it in their arsenal. In an effort to evade the defender’s outstretched arms, you simply take a step back and jump away from them as you shoot the ball. What Harden has done, however, to add an ingenious interpretation of an existing rule, the so-called “gathering provision,” which says that a player who is in motion and dribbling is allowed to finish their step when gathering the ball to shoot, then take another two steps before releasing the ball. You see it all the time on drives to the hoop. But Harden has taken that notion and gone backward, literally. Imagine it: long bushy beard, sleepy eyes … dribble, dribble, dribble, step back and gather, two more steps back, and now he’s in another time zone shooting. The best athletes on planet Earth literally trip over themselves giving chase, often fouling Harden on the way down.

It’s an elegantly simple ballet, virtually unguardable, so new it looks wrong, and a revolution in the making.

Shuga Cain

Stop rolling I got an email last week from Josh Garcia of Electric Plant Studios saying that the recording space has shut its doors. The collaboration between Garcia and longtime Chico audio engineer Dale Price ran into financial roadblocks that forced the duo to call it quits as of April 1. About a year ago, the recording engineers had combined their two separate operations: Price moved his Electric Canyon studio from its Feather River Canyon location into Garcia’s former Energy Plant location in a warehouse on Highway 32 on the north side of town. According to Garcia, the pressures placed on their landlord by the county over “occupancy, usage and compliance of industrial spaces” made it unfeasible to continue operating a studio there. Garcia will still commute to the Bay Area to mix and produce records as well as run his local HeartBurn Records label with partner Alex Kokkinakis. And Price will continue recording and doing live-sound work via his Pro Sound Audio Services.

Paradise queen in the race Got a tip this week that one of the drag queens competing on this year’s RuPaul’s Drag Race is from Butte County! Former Magalia resident and Paradise High School graduate Jesus Martinez lives in New York City now, performs as Shuga Cain, and nine episodes into season 11 is still racing! The Maltese bar actually featured Shuga Cain on its stage in December—before participants for the show were announced—and every week the bar hosts a Drag Race viewing party. Tonight (May 2) is episode 10! So get down there and join the crowd (fun starts at 8 p.m.; show at 9 p.m.) and cheer on your local queen. Also, if you’re in the mood for a road trip, Shuga Cain is on tour and will be performing live at Badlands in Sacramento this Saturday (May 5).