That was one hell of a Saturday night at the premiere of the documentary, Pass The Music at the Bootleg Theatre last night. Making sure to get there early enough not to miss a minute of the film, I was not alone in that judgement. The place was already crawling with our local music celebrities, ready to celebrate this loving and accurate picture of the scene that was happening on Los Angeles' east side from 2008 to 2010. It's very specific to those years, making it's value as a relevant document, that much more important.
All the participating musicians relate their early struggles and the exuberance of the local music scene that urged them on. It's also interesting to note that many of these artists have also continued to grow and have been through a lot of changes since the film was made. The scene is ever-evolving. The atmosphere was more than festive even before the film began as the place filled up quickly. I heard there was quite a line outside at one point and I'm sure they must have had to turn people away.
Filmmakers Ryan Maples and Jason Tovar took turns introducing the movie, and it began. What a nostalgic trip that was filled with more emotion than I thought it would have. Although numerous bands comment on their careers, the film focuses primarily on five local bands, all but one, still with us.
Seasons are a great way to start and I loved hearing them relate how they began in a garage and how they crafted their sound, kind of in a vacuum, not really being aware of any 'scene' at the time. This is what makes them sound so special, inspired and certainly unique. The performance clips are a tribute to the band and sound quite like they do live. "Mouse" took the great picture on the right at The Bordello.
The Happy Hollows followed, allowing us into their rehearsal process. That was like a gift and one of the film's most charming moments comes from this sequence watching the facial expressions of Chris Hernandez as he watches Sara Negahdari and Chris Mahoney teaching him how to drum. Sarah's natural ebullience just pours out of the screen and their on-stage clips are as electrifying as one would expect.
The Henry Clay People pull back the curtain on two brothers in the same band who manage not to kill each other. And then when they get on stage all seems right and they pour out these intense emotions into exuberant stage performances. O.K. the occasional argument breaks out, but even then they hold it together. Joey Siara and Andy Siara share their struggles with the push and pull of trying to break out nationally. We get nice swaths of their performances around the east side.
The attempt to navigate life in two different worlds simultaneously is the overriding theme of the Radars To The Sky segment. (That photo is by Travis Woods of Web In Front) Andrew Spitzer fills in some fascinating biographical details concerning the dogged attempts to make a music career, balancing duties of family and how to make a living and still find time for music. It's the dilemma all of these musicians face and I have to say, they face that reality with a determination that makes me admire them all that much more. The clips of the band, when Seamus Simpson and Kate Spitzer were still playing with them, were super-nostalgic...and sounded really really good too. But I'm looking forward to whatever direction they take.
And then there's The Movies. This segment dealt with what you do when your lead singer may be insane. Certainly the live performance clips showed a band with an amazing power, led by the mighty baritone of Timothy James and his thrashing about, spinning in mid-air tricks that were a part of the unpredictability of his performances. The writing partnership with Jessica Gelt is shown, wart and all, to have been challenging. But the music lives on and still sounds incredibly solid. And this band has certainly had an impact on many other local bands.
Everybody from Silversun Pickups to The Monolators to Earlimart to Everest are represented along with about 30 more. Each observation heartfelt and enlightening. They reach out to the community at large as well, acknowledging the photographers, videographers, graphic artists and the bloggers who want to get some attention for these bands.
The astute observations of Kevin Bronson of Buzzbands dot the film and place the scene in an historical context. Joe Fielder of Radio Free Silver Lake talked about what his aims are for the site and made me feel prouder than ever to be associated with it. Ashley Jex explains the lay of the land, how all the clubs are so close you can easily take in more than one on any given night. How that feeds into the sense of community. Everyone amplifying the notion that: "Hey, there's really something kind of special going on here". "Mouse" says it best when he says he didn't set out to be a music writer, but the local music scene just pulled him in and it became necessary. That was exactly my feeling when I started this blog in 2008. I didn't have a choice, it was something I had to do, just to pay back all that this music community has given me.
Following the film were a bunch of musical performances by Seasons sounding as good as ever, Judson in a really effective solo acoustic set, Radars To The Sky with a startling, good line up, Tenlons Fort in his final performance before heading easterly, making it poignant, and Movies Tribute Bands. Manhattan Murder Mystery were scheduled to go on at 1, but, c'mon, I had to get up and do the Low Down and I had to wander out and get a bus. I'm sure the party went on and on and on...Besides I'll see Manhattan Murder Mystery on Monday at The Echo.
Anyway, congratulations and thanks to the team of Maples and Tovar and all their crew for a precious slice of history we can hold in our hands forever.