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Spring cleaning, plenty to do 

While my friends, family and coworkers wish I would do more than “figuratively” clean off the old desktop before it collapses on top of me, here are some last words on some recent happenings before we move on to an exciting couple of weeks of big events around the area.

If you’ve read all you can in this space about the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase, please indulge me these last few words for 2007, and we’ll put the Showcase to bed until we start asking for entries again in November.

First, the piano player for Cooper’s Orbit, the winning band, is Brian Holtsford. We got the wrong spelling on his name two weeks ago. He’s great, and apparently you can catch him at one of the River Market district piano bars when he’s not playing for Chris Henry’s fantastic rock group.

Second, there were a handful of unsung heroes who, for me, deserve as much mention as the bands who played in the showcase. You saw these folks every week, spending their free time Thursday nights until 1 a.m. or later during the Showcase’s first five rounds and the final on March 2.

Tiffany Holland made so much happen behind the scenes, from being the weekly advertising staff representative of the Times at the Showcase, to helping find judges to selling our T-shirts to taking a lambasting from an intoxicated band manager, to arranging for even more T-shirts and prizes for the winning bands to who knows what else. Plus, her math skills were put to use weekly in totaling up the judges’ scribblings, and she managed to do it fast so we weren’t run out of Sticky Fingerz by the law for staying past curfew.

Brian Chilson is a terrific photographer, as you can see throughout these pages weekly, but you may not have seen all of his Showcase work. We’ve made that available for the rest of the year, plus videos, writeups and more on the 2007 event, on our website (www.arktimes.com). Chilson found every angle imaginable to come up with something new for each and every band, and like a few of us, he still had to work the next day — even driving one morning to West Memphis — after getting in at 2 a.m. One of the prizes for the winning band is a photo shoot with Chilson, and it’s as valuable as anything we can offer.

The artsy looking movie hound who was all over the room week after week getting video from every possible angle was Roland Gladden. I tried to help as well, but our new video project for the Showcase was totally Roland’s idea, and he’s already got several of the Showcase nights and several individual fans recorded and up at youtube.com as well as on our website Showcase link. It turned into a lengthy production process for Gladden to break down two separate videos, download the sound into an mp3 file, coordinate the video to match the sound, and then make it as professional as the final product looks. He’s in the process of making videos of all the bands that performed, so be watching our website, or our entertainment blog, Little Rocking, for more music from Arkansas’s best original bands.

Thanks to Barry Bray and Jason Hale for being there each week to judge with an ever-changing crew.

Thanks must go to Chris King and Suzon Awbrey for providing the venues, Sticky Fingerz and the Revolution Music Room, and thanks of course to our publisher, Alan Leveritt, who understands how important local original music is to this community.

We can already tell you that for 2008, we’ll allow bands to enter simply by referring us to their myspace.com page, and we look for the biggest turnout of entries yet, particularly when word gets around that you have the opportunity to perform before more than 600 people in the finals. We had a paid gate of 635 for the finals night. Of course, not everyone stayed for the entire four-hour-plus show, but it was a monstrous turnout nevertheless. The Rev Room looked terrific, the bands put on great shows, and everybody was happy.

But while much attention fell on the finalists, there were plenty of acts that performed wonderfully in their semifinals, and I hope you’ll check them out. You can see the talented young Conway group Latture on the March 24 bill at the Rev Room with Gazer (a former Showcase finalist) opening for Dallas’ Radiant. We also hope to see the American Years from Fayetteville this way again; Paul Sammons is always an act to catch if you see him on local schedules, as is Beau Nixon; the Global Test and Daybreak Bandits are both strong; Sean Rock has always been a factor on the local scene (no telling how good his band would have sounded with a bass player and drummer), and we think Rigby Fawkes and Smitten both have a chance to be something special in coming years. If you like your rock heavy, Calcabrina and Rein do it well. Sideshow and Reverburritos are always good for a local outing. It was fun to see how far Conway’s Stone Mountain Crew had come in two years, too, and we look forward to seeing them again.

Coming up, our film friends Bob and Judy Pest bring their Ozark Foothills Filmfest to the Market Street Cinema next week; it opens this week in Batesville. And check out the newest issue of the Oxford American with its accompanying DVD about Southern film. There are plenty of highlights, and even the lowlight of the video, a Phil Chamless film about deer hunters in Calhoun County, has been on my mind all week since the premiere screening last week. It’s weird, like a car wreck, where you want to look away but can’t take your eyes off of it, it’s that bad. Phil Chamless, meet Ed Wood.

But, better yet folks, enjoy the great documentaries on music that did make the DVD. If it accomplishes one thing, it steers you in the direction of people and films you haven’t heard about, but probably should know. As for Chamless, the Ozark Foothils Film Festival will have a retrospective of his work at Market Street Cinema on Sunday, April 1.

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