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FOWLER’S FLIX 09.06.17: MUSICALLY INCLINED

Shout! Factory
Kurt Cobain of Nirvana is one of the bands featured in Doug Pray's 1996 documentary, "Hype".
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I recently started playing saxophone again. After years of having put it down to focus on other, far more needless things, I forgot how mentally reinvigorating it is to just sit there, upright and steady, working on those scales and arpeggios, reintroducing my mind and eyes and hands to the fingerings and breathing techniques long displaced. Sure, there’s a few novice squonks and squeaks, but A Love Supreme wasn’t built in a day.

This re-examined life of music has even stretched out to a few of the movies I’ve been watching lately, soulful docs and tunesmith flicks that have been sitting on the shelf, ready for a more musically inclined frame of mind to come along a create a workable symphony of viewership, one that requires a little bit of dedication on all of our parts. Especially even if where we’re starting doesn’t exactly sound like it…

Millennials will never know or even understand the pre-Internet angst of the early 90s and unpolished Seattle sound that came out of it and, even if they did try, I doubt they could handle it. The complete history was brilliantly documented by Doug Pray in his seminal 1996 documentary Hype! (Shout! Factory), a you-are-there chronicle of the scene, following the rise and fall, the indie honesty to the studio slickness, the flannel throwaways to the haute couture copycats. Featuring performances from Nirvana, The Posies, 7 Year Bitch and so on, Gen X’ers, slackers and smokers will never have it so good again.

One of the bedrocks of the grunge movement—as well as whatever alternative sounds came along at that time—was the original incarnations of Lollapalooza, founded by Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell. The band has reformed to capitalize on the anniversary of their most popular album, releasing the results as Ritual de lo Habitual: Alive at Twenty-Five (Cleopatra Records), a 3-disc cd, DVD and Blu-ray set capturing the band performing the album in its entirety. It’s a must-watch for serious fans, but, honestly, it just makes me want to dig out my Walkman and old cassette tape dub of Nothing’s Shocking from middle school all the more.

The music of Bobby Rush, however, always sounds best on old vinyl, albums like Rush Hour and tunes such as “Chicken Heads”; Dubbed the “King of the Chitlin' Circuit,” bluesman Rush is well into his 80s and still touring the same Deep South backroads, beautifully captured in I Am the Blues (Film Movement), directed by Daniel Cross. A bit of a musical pilgrimage, a bit of a concert film, Rush teams up with other greats such as Little Freddie King, Lazy Lester, RL Boyce and others for a gloriously unforgettable journey through a piece of the real Americana, one that heartbreakingly ain’t going to be around much longer.

Blues musician Bobby Rush in "I Am The Blues". (Film Movement) 

Ethiopia is so much bigger than many know, offering over eighty different nationalities and cultures spread across its vast terrain; the diversity of its music scene is far wider than even that. In the deliriously expansive and knowledgably extensive Roaring Abyss (IndiePix), documentarian Quino Pinero takes a backrow seat and allows this music from many different traditions, old and new, disappearing and relevant, take the solo spotlight, creating a poetic travelogue that, even in the grand scheme of world music, has sadly been mostly ignored or left unbothered by western ears.

Quino Piñero's 2017 documentary, "Roaring Abyss". (Indiepix) 

While not a musical, per se, Will Sheff of the rootsy hipster band Okkervil River has written and directed his first short feature, the surprisingly Ray Bradbury-esque coming of age tale Down Down the Deep River (Kino Lorber). Full of atmosphere and empty of dialogue, what stars off as a mere parade of 80s nostalgia transmogrifies into something deeper and more heartbreaking, beautifully evoking all the painful parts of growing that we forgot in favor of the fun stuff, all done with a subtle flair for the monstrous fantastique.

Similarly along those lines—but not really—in 1996 Spanish punk rock band the Killer Barbies teamed up with the late Eurosleaze director Jess Franco to craft the absolutely bonkers rock and roll horror epic Killer Barbys (Redemption). Inspired by equal parts Countess Bathory and Scooby-Doo, when the band’s bus breaks down outside a sex-crazed countess’ mansion, all Hell breaks loose both gory and goofy in a rock and roll outing that’s worth a look, but ultimately, like many of Franco’s work, an eventual endurance piece.

But it’s that endurance that’ll help when learning or relearning that instrument, the perseverance to keep playing even when it sounds off and it keeps sounding off, practicing until not perfect but at the very least playable. And, at least, when watching a wide range of sounds, that’s probably the most important thing to take into something of a consideration, right? Or maybe I’m just tooting an imaginary horn to make this all fit into my life? 

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About the Author

Louis Fowler

Güicho. Gadfly. Chicano. Choctaw. Cristero. Freelancer. Leftist. Activist. Vilified. PKD....

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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