Monday, October 10, 2011

So you went to a Documentary Festival, Color me Impressed...

Beautiful Melodies telling you Terrible Things Vol. Sixteen Blue

"People believe in God without seeing or hearing him but rather through the passion, faith, and stories of others. After watching Color Me Obsessed, I’m pretty sure music fans will believe in The Replacements in much the same way.”
~Gorman Bechard, Director of Color me Obsessed

History Class: Back a few years ago Hansi Oppenheimer started a short film project called Color me Obsessed, which was to delve into the cult-like atmosphere of the fan base of a niche or indie band, in this case, The Replacements. It ultimately made it's way into the hands of Gorman Bechard who turned the project into a full-length, full on documentary on the band, starting when they formed and ending on their last concert to this date, July 4th, 1991. (More on that show and the band HERE) The idea behind it was to have the documentary be told be friends, fans, producers and more...but just nothing from the Replacements themselves. Interesting take on a documentary or gimmick doomed to fail? Only a screening would tell the tale...

"People always asked if we wanted to be the Beatles of comedy, we'd say, 'No, we want to be the Replacements'."
~Dave Foley~

The Film: I won't lie, I'm not much on going to film festivals these days unless one of my own films is playing there. Sure, that sounds egotistical, and I'm excited for someone who does get to go to their first one, such as Bence who's been writing some great stuff as of late on his first trip out. But at this point in my life and career, the pretentiousness, the games, the cliques, it's not for me. So film festivals are something I attend when something I was involved in is shown. There are times when that can change. For instance in 2007 I was offered a shot to go to the Telluride film festival to see I'm not There. With a Q/A session with co-writer/Director Todd Haynes. While I couldn't go and a friend of mine did (with a few questions from me in tow) it's an example of when I WOULD go. Here's another, as my friends from Zia Records (local here in AZ and in NV) called me up to let me know that they set two tickets aside for me at will call for the Docu-Tober Film Festival screening of Bechard's Replacements film. I of course jumped at the chance, it is after all, The Replacements. They are my favorite thing, well lyric reference aside, my favorite band. (That'll shock all you readers who probably would have guessed Nirvana from the number of articles I've written on suckers)

"Everything we do, we learned from the Replacements"
~Wilco's Jeff Tweedy~

So onto the film, how was it? Now I won't lie, the fact that no Replacements footage or music was to be featured worried me. A Lot. I've seen a lot of unauthorized documentaries that came off cheaply because of this. But they came of cheap because they used little tricks and contract loopholes to get in 30 seconds of a song here, or license footage that a news station had to have 45 seconds here. License 6 photos that you use over and over again. They come off as pure amateur hour. In this case, it seemed to be deliberate. You won't see the same 5 pictures recycled over and over again, no, in fact you don't see a single picture of any of the Replacements until the end credits. In the end, the gimmick worked. How do I know? Because in this two hour film, I never looked at my watch. Not once. Only near the very end was the editing a little off or a little long, besides that, the story kept me intrigued, laughing and kept pressing forward.

"I remember thinking about "Sixteen Blue" when I was 13, you know, 'you're age is the hardest age,' and I was like 13 kinda sucks too, and I still got 3 years until the hardest age!?"
~The Decemberists' Colin Meloy~

As I mentioned this documentary is told by fans, mostly famous (Decemberist's Colin Meloy, Hold Steady's Craig Finn, Titus Andronicus' Patrick Stickles, members of the Goo Goo Dolls, Tom Arnold, George Went, Matthew Ryan,) as well those who knew them or worked with them (members of Husker Du, Tommy Ramone, Paul Stark as well as a former manager of Nirvana) and also a few fans that saw or interacted with them across their journey. The Replacements treated their fans differently, the fans themselves WERE Replacements. The band was about a bunch of outsiders that found that there's a whole bunch of other outsiders too, and in turn developed a hardcore, niche following. For instance, when the band, boo'd by a bunch of hardcore metal heads after a set in the early days, leave the stage and Westerberg stays behind and says in the mic "you think you can do better? Come up on stage and let's play," and a few do come on stage and play a terribly 30 minute rendition of "Louie Louie" with Westerberg, that's what the Replacements are about, that's what the documentary is about. Rock n roll can be done, good or bad, by ANYONE.

"Everything you hear in modern rock can be found on an album called 'Tim'"
~Gaslight Anthem's Brian Fallon~

The film is storytelling at it's finest, honestly, and besides pushing the story forward with some excellent editing it was also great to hear some first hand accounts of the making of some of the greatest indie rock albums of all-time or the behind the scenes stories of why 'Tim' was named 'Tim,' or a little inside peak at the song "Answering Machine." There's also the rumors and 'did it really happen?' type stories. Did Tommy Stinson really walk into his high school principals office with a boombox, play a version of his bands song "F**k School," flip him off and quit so he could go on the road with his band? Some stories are certainly true: Bob Stinson played on stage in tutus and trashcans and Tom Petty's wife's dresses. But while the band is one of only 5 groups to get BANNED from Saturday Night Live, when Tom Arnold re-counts telling Snoop Dogg and other gangster rappers about Bob Stinson taking a crap in a ice bucket only to send it to where the SNL stage tours come through (a story which "scared" the gangster rappers actually), well is that true? As the films opens up: "this is the potentially true story of possibly the last best band."

" 'Answering Machine' is the 'Apocalypse Now' of vocal performances."
~Matthew Ryan~

The story of the Replacements is one of a bunch of guys that did things their own way: if you stood up, they sat down sort of thing. It was something made them both true blue rockstars, but also was a your own worst enemy sort of thing. That's where the protagonist comes in: It IS them. Famous for their shows that could be stunning or drunken shambles, one fan re-counts how he saw a show where the band, completely smashed, got into a fight on-stage and then just walked of stage, ending the show. While a friend of his shouted out "now that's rock n roll!" He thought differently: It was sad. It was, a band THAT good that couldn't stay sober. So the second half in some ways takes a turn for the darker as the band fires lead guitarist Bob Stinson ("too messed up for the Replacements? THAT's bad"), original manager Peter Jesperson and ultimately release two final records to mixed reviews. The lead singer of the Goo Goo Dolls remembers throwing 'Don't Tell a Soul' out a window, which is sad. Honestly, those are the type of guys that ruined the Replacements. They, near the end, as Westerberg put it once, "decided to get sober and stop being asses and be a BAND. We're ARTISTS." But no, everyone wanted them to clean when they weren't, but when they decided to try and grow up and just be a great band, it wasn't good enough. The show needed it's crazy "guess what happened story." The best Replacements shows could have been those shows in 90-91, they were on top of their game. It's unfortunate the fans decided an artist should never grow or continue to evolve. People should realize we would have never gotten 'Let it Be' or 'Pleased to Meet Me' had they just stayed doing punk rock. They grew past just teen angst (which they did amazingly) and became something better. Unfortunately only a few interviewed saw the good in those last two albums, which feature some of Westerberg's best writing, though "Achin' to Be" at least go it's due in the documentary.

Well, you said,
"He's better off dead"
You think that I might have heard a word,
but I was much too young
and much too cool for words
Look at me now

We don't know until we're gone
There's no one here to raise a toast
I look into the mirror and I see
A rock 'n' roll ghost
~Rock n Roll Ghost~

In the end, Color me Obsessed is a truly different, truly original piece of filmmaking. Much like the way the Replacements did things, it does things differently, and it achieves it's goal. I laughed a lot, I got sad where the Replacements antics were in essence a shot in their own foot, I learned some, and I came out of one of the best music documentaries this year better for it. If you're a diehard fan of something, especially a band or artist musically related, this film is for you. Because in essence, that's what it's about, the fans.

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