CCTV 20TH Anniversary at the Middle East Upstairs, October 18, 2008
“Happy 20th CCTV! You can almost drink!” Big Digits’ TD Sidell hollered before bounding off stage. I’m no proponent of underage drinking, but Cambridge Community Television should have been allowed to swig liberally from a flask in the bathroom on Saturday night for this utterly bizarre celebration of two decades of public access.
I had expected some sort of presentation of the channel’s cream-of-the-crop in between musical performances, but instead there was a loop of videos, about an hour long, that repeated soundlessly against the far right wall of the Middle East upstairs, remaining on mute even during breaks between sets. Some clips didn’t need sound: Pete the Human Floor, who took no issue with people stapling dollar bills to his face and shirtless torso; Roger Nicholson, the self-proclaimed “Howard Stern of CCTV,” who after interviewing a topless woman on his show became embroiled in the infamous “Tittygate” scandal of 2004; the “Ellsworth Gun and Kitten Outlet,” which was proud to proclaim: “Guns! Kittens! Kitten Corral! FUN! FUN! FUN!” Others, like “The Phil Collins Sing-A-Long Hour,” would have benefitted from audio so we could have heard how “Sussudio” fared, or what on earth Danny Glover was doing on public access in the first place.
The crowd seemed to be three-fourths CCTV employees, many 40-plus, but a few bobbed their heads along to Big Digits’ frenzied set — even though they probably don’t listen to much electro-freestyle performed in chain mail. Attendance thinned out to about 20 during Magic People’s ambient (if esoteric) noise set and remained that way for the rest of the evening. The evacuees missed not only the thundering power hour of Three Day Threshold but a performance by the Sift that would have fit nicely in the video montage: three normal-looking dudes played while in the center of the stage a fourth contorted himself like an interpretive dancer, wearing yellow fuzzy earmuffs, matching jockey shorts, a silver sequined jacket with gaudy roses, and nothing else. Incongruous, awkward, sometimes shocking, and uniformly entertaining. If the goal was to bring to life for a night the strange beast that is cable access, they nailed it.
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