Arts Devo

Mining the musical gold of 1980s TV

Rite of passage Arts DEVO was formed in the 1980s. Not this column specifically, but rather the real-world meat sack behind the keyboard who sweated through his tween-to-teen years wandering the cultural desert of Redding in search of a connection to anything stimulating. I started the decade at 10 years old and ended it at 20, and nearly all of that critical period was spent in Redding. My exposure to the outside world came via two primary sources: mixed tapes gifted to me by friendly punks, weirdos and other music nerds, and TV.

It’s only in retrospect that I’ve appreciated the scope of the latter’s influence, and the pivotal role it played in opening my mind to new ideas and living a life that revolves around art. Fortunately for me, MTV was born while I was in junior high. The channel hasn’t been relevant as a music station for decades, but back then, before the suits realized its teen-marketing potential, MTV hosted an incredible range of great music, and I spent many hours a day absorbing and falling in love with Prince, Joan Jett, The Go-Go’s, Split Enz, Tom Petty, Talking Heads, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Run DMC, Duran Duran, The Cars, Madonna, INXS and a bunch of hair metal bands.


Photo by California Travis

What really sunk into my gooey impressionable insides, however, were the niche shows that took deeper dives into their respective worlds: Yo! MTV Raps, Headbanger’s Ball, the punk/ska/rock musical guests on imported English comedy The Young Ones (Motorhead!), and especially the musical underground of 120 Minutes (and before that, The Cutting Edge, the amazing music magazine produced by I.R.S. Records). And, at the same time, over at USA Network, there were even deeper mines to explore with Night Flight, a weekly four-hour block of music and weirdness—B-movies, animation, stand-up comedy, concerts, music documentaries and obscure music videos. My early punk-rock education came via Friday night/Saturday morning viewings of the likes of Repo Man, Urgh! A Music War, Suburbia and Another State of Mind.

This month, you can tap into that vein of seminal punk B-movies and documentaries as the Pageant Theatre presents Destroy All Movies!, a month-long late-night series of 1980s punk cinema (Fridays and Saturdays, 10 p.m.). The program includes Penelope Spheeris’ classic Suburbia (Feb. 7-8); thrilling footage of first-wave punks (e.g., Sex Pistols, X-Ray Spex) in the documentary D.O.A.: A Right of Passage (Feb. 14-15); Decoder, arty cyberpunk from Germany (Feb. 21-22); and teensploitation classic Class of 1984 (Feb. 28-29).


• Free punk-rock pop-up and party: The local Crucial Times Photography collective is celebrating the release of its third book of photos with an all-ages, no-cover, punk-rock show at the 1078 Gallery this Friday (Feb. 7), 8-11 p.m. There will be live music from Desperate Hell, End//Game (last show ever) and Grey Loom, and the six photographers will be on hand to sell pics as well as copies of Crucial Times Photozine Vol. 3: Music.

• Give the kids the mic: Blackbird is turning things over to the kids this Sunday (Feb. 9), 2-4 p.m., for the second installment in its new monthly Share and Tell. Blackbird’s Seana Watkins created the event with uke-wielding troubadour Heather Marie Ellison (aka Uni and Her Ukelele), who will be on hand to host and welcome young poets, musicians, storytellers, inventors, dancers, comedians (17 and younger) to take a turn in the spotlight.