Welcome to the Larry411.com Guest Columnists! April 27, 2013
In my travels to the best film festivals in…
On Wednesday, March 13, 2013 I attended a gala screening of Sound City at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas. The sold-out screening was held at the historic 1200-seat Paramount Theatre. The documentary was a selection in the Special Events section.
First, some personal thoughts. Like many -- including you, perhaps -- the music of Nirvana captivated me in the late 1980s and early 1990s. That Seattle band, led by Kurt Cobain on lead vocals and guitar, Krist Novoselic on bass, and (from 1990 on) Dave Grohl on drums and backing vocals, inspired many young people to pick up instruments and form groups of their own. Albums like the number one Billboard chart-topper Nevermind, released September 24, 1991, featuring the classic anthem Smells Like Teen Spirit, were staples of American rock radio and helped define a generation. And I was lucky enough to be one of the people playing those songs for the listening public, as a DJ on WMMR, the biggest radio station in the country's fourth largest media market and one of the leading rock radio stations in America at that time. But it wasn't just a job. I was a fan, too, and continued to follow the remaining band members' music, as many of us did, after the tragic death of Cobain in 1994.
Grohl would go on to form Foo Fighters, whose current lineup includes Nate Mendel, Taylor Hawkins, Chris Shiflett, and Pat Smear, with a Beatles-influenced hard-edged sound that would rock radio for the next two decades. After leaving radio I became a record producer, and many of the acts I worked with fell into that same genre defined by Foo Fighters -- a raw, hard sound with a pop sensibility catchy enough to capture a broad market, selling albums and hit singles based on radio-friendly hooks and lyrics you could sing along to.
Two years ago, the documentary Foo Fighters: Back and Forth had its World Premiere at the SXSW Film Festival and, of course, I was there. That film moved me to tears and it ended up on my Top 5 of that festival. (Director/producer James Moll's definitive history of the band went on to win a Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video.) Rumors buzzed all around Austin that Foo Fighters would be holding a secret concert following the screening, and those of us at the front of the line waiting to get into the Paramount got the lucky wristbands that entitled us to attend. There were two colors of bands, though -- several hundred got the ones that allowed them to enter the gates at Stubb's and see the show. But a smaller group of fans were handed the color which got them in the door first to take their places directly in front of the stage. I was one of those lucky people. So as soon as the film ended I raced down the block to 801 Red River and surveyed the mob scene with lines snaking in every direction depending on their levels of access. But that's another story for another time. I ended up just a few feet from Grohl and had trouble holding myself together through their set. Foo Fighters' songs had meant so much to me, as they did to everyone else there that day, and it was hard to hold back the tears. It was a day and night to remember.
Now here we are, two years later almost to the day, in the exact same venue, and Dave Grohl is back to present his directorial debut Sound City. With an equally passionate team including writer Mark Monroe, cinematographer Kenny Stoff, and editor Paul Crowder, Grohl tells the story of the legendary recording studio in Van Nuys, California where Nirvana recorded much of their music along with acts as diverse as Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Fear, Johnny Cash, Rick Springfield, DIO, Nirvana, Rage Against The Machine, Queens of the Stone Age, Metallica, Nine Inch Nails, Weezer, and REO Speedwagon. It's said that eight out of 10 songs played on the radio in the 1980s were recorded at Sound City, and you'll no doubt get goosebumps hearing some of that material in the movie. (Naturally, Grohl and the producers had little trouble securing rights to these songs for the film.) Many of these iconic talents appear in the doc as well, including Neil Young, Tom Petty, Stevie Nicks, Trent Reznor, legendary producer Rick Rubin, Mick Fleetwood, Lars Ulrich, John Fogerty, Rick Springfield, and Sir Paul McCartney.
The emotions experienced in watching this magnificent motion picture are especially palpable for anyone whose lives have been touched by this music in any way. For me, hearing the songs I love so much, seeing the studio they were recorded in, and even watching as the original master tapes are placed on the machines and wound through the heads is breathtaking enough. But I also was playing these tunes on the radio for everyone else who was listening to them. And if that wasn't enough, I was a record producer myself and spent many hours in recording studios like this in the analog tape era. I was almost overwhelmed by the multi-layered impact Sound City had on me, and I trust that many viewers will be affected the same way.
Sound City was produced by Grohl and Roswell Films, a division of Foo Fighters' label Roswell Records, along with James A. Rota and John Ramsay for Therapy Content. John Silva and John Cutliffe served as Executive Producers. Variance Films has U.S. and Canadian distribution while Gravitas Ventures has worldwide video rights.
I gave Sound City five stars and a place on my 2013 SXSW Film Festival Top 5 Documentaries.
Director/producer Dave Grohl was brought onstage by SXSW Film Festival Producer Janet Pierson to introduce the film. After the screening, Grohl returned to the stage for a fun and informative (and lengthy) Q&A session.
Here are some pictures I shot during the intro and Q&A:
INTRO AND Q&A GALLERY (66 photos on 4 pages)
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In my travels to the best film festivals in…