Rock More, Fear Less 

A new show puts the M back into TV

Thanks to the local broadcasting of UHF Channel 43, we here in Boise are treated to such wonderful sights as moronic guys throwing wild animals at each other, re-runs of animated characters laughing themselves silly over the stupidest stuff, and weird, almost avant-garde comedy shows—all of which can be quite entertaining. The problem is, these programs air on a network that calls itself MTV2, which, stands for Music Television Two. Call me a sentimentalist, a traditionalist or just plain old, but I kind of miss the days when they actually played music on MTV2. Come to think of it, I even remember when they played music on the original MTV (which proves my age), but I have to admit that I regret those days have passed.

Lucky for me a new show, airing on Saturday nights following the late news on Boise ABC affiliate, KIVI Channel 6, is doing its part to fill the music TV void. "Fearless Music TV" typically showcases five or six up-and-coming independent rock bands, each of whom is shown in letterbox fashion in the stark, dimly lit New York City Fearless Music TV Studio, doing what they do best—playing music.

There are no long, self-serving interviews with the artists or any flashy, indulgent, overproduced videos. You won't see an elaborately choreographed stage show or impressive pyrotechnic displays. All you get is a band, live in the studio, playing one of their songs. Nothing more, nothing less ... and it's great.

Perhaps its presence is a sad statement on how over-the-top and bloated the music video industry has become, but the minimalist approach of this program seems downright refreshing when stacked up against the best either MTV network has to offer. Begun as a cable access program in New York City, local buzz there and industry attention allowed Fearless Music TV to grow to the point where it is now aired all over the country. The show's stripped-down, pretension-free approach guarantees that every band is allowed to present its true sound and true image to a nationwide audience. In most cases, the show is the best exposure these bands have had, without having to spend millions of dollars on a rapidly edited, special effects-laden video to do so. All the bands have to do is show up and sing their hearts out.

The roster of musical talent is eclectic, to say the least, with emphasis placed on talented artists who are mostly unknown to a mass audience. With its constantly growing number of markets, Fearless takes as its mission the chance to introduce the public to underdog artists deserving of recognition. In its three previous seasons (the show is currently in the middle of its fourth), artists have included such diverse acts as Idlewild, Motion City Soundtrack, The So & So's, KT Tunstall, The Wrens, Jonathan Rice and many others. From the strange and beautiful stylings of Aqualung, to the giddy fun of Shonen Knife, to the always interesting Raveonettes, back to the straightforward rock'n'roll of Juliette Lewis and the Licks, right on to the indefinable (but very cool) sounds of World/Inferno Friendship Society, you never know who you're going to see next or what they will sound like.

That's part of the fun, of course, and it also helps to know that if you don't like one particular band that you still ought to stick around because the next act might be better. Plus the show has such an intimate, one-on-one feel that you can't help but think you're discovering these new and exciting artists before anyone else.

Luckily, there is more to it than merely each week's half-hour broadcast. Visit www.fearlessmusictv.com to find out more about the show and its artists. There you will find an episode-by-episode listing, an alphabetical index of all the artists featured, numerous links to these artists' Web sites and more. Fans can also log on and vote for their favorite act from the most current episode, as well as find outlets to purchase music from most of the artists. Download clips from previous episodes and check out upcoming show listings to see if any of your own personal favorite undiscovered bands will be making an appearance soon.

Fearless Music TV airs Saturday nights from 11:05 p.m. to 11:35 p.m. on Channel 6 and is definitely worth checking out. The show is not exactly a return to classic early MTV style, as it features live performances instead of videos, but it does mark a welcome return to airing actual music on television. With its emphasis on independent bands on the verge of major success and its basic, gimmick-free technique, the show is less an exercise in minimalism than a celebration of pure rock'n'roll. And what more could you ask for in a music show?

To paraphrase a famous song and video, I'm not so sure I want my MTV anymore. I think I'll stick with Fearless Music TV instead.

Questions? Comments? E-mail screen@boiseweekly.com.

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