Taking music films to the people

23:35, Jul 28 2014

Sunday night, I wasn't in the mood to be honest - but I went along because I had a feeling if I didn't I'd really have missed out on something special. It's nice even to have a hint of that feeling, you go to enough shows over the years and even though people might want to tell you something is special and "not to be missed" that's hardly ever the case. But Sunday night I strolled down to Meow for a screening of the documentary, Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton and a DJ set after by Stones Throw Records founder, Peanut Butter Wolf.

In the early 2000s I was pretty hooked on what the Stones Throw label had to offer. There was Madlib and he had half a dozen aliases I was aware of - and several more beyond. But albums he'd made under the name Madlib and also Yesterday's New Quintet, Jaylib, Madvillain and DJ Rels were all favourites.

It was a good time for hip-hop. Even though I'm sure the people who talk far too much about "the culture" of it are still taking it far too seriously it was a good time. Hip-hop's music was extending out beyond its obvious reach, turntablism was valid in the mainstream. I was working in a music store at the time and you'd sell Madvillain albums to people who were also buying Van Morrison and Little Feat. I've always thought that's how it should be.

So Peanut Butter Wolf's mix albums were part of that time for me too. Especially his entry into the Badmeaningood series and his compilation of Jukebox 45s; he was always there, too, as guiding force, head of the label, the tastemaker, the curator. Executive producer sometimes, but you just knew about him because he was Stones Throw. And Stones Throw was a mark of quality.

I might bump into some of that music now and then but it's less important in my life currently. So Sunday night was a nice reminder, a chance to revisit, to stroll back down the avenues of a former life - with the correct soundtrack.

The Wolf's DJ set was a musical autobiography and the documentary was a tribute to the stubbornness of passion, it was more than that obviously. But it was also just nice to be part of a crowd (like-minded, possibly) at a bar watching a film. I sometimes think music docos, concert films, certain cult classics too, should be on offer more often in those sorts of venues. Take them out of the lounges and bedrooms, lift them up and away from the theatres, make them about a communal experience, the tribe gathers and the passion is obvious. You can feel it in the room, it fuels the energy.

In one of my first years in Wellington the Rialto theatre hosted a week of music films - classics. You know, the obvious stuff like the Woodstock concert film and Pink Floyd's The Wall and such. And though I couldn't care about some of those films now at the time it was a revelation, you bought a season pass for the week - $30 or something - and you could go to up to a dozen films. It was glorious.

Watching the film Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton reminded me of that. It reminded me of watching the doco, Scratch as part of the Film Festival over a decade ago now. Wellington's Embassy Theatre fairly packed and after the film - after a huge round of applause - the street felt alive with like-minded people. The audience rushed out to stand around in the street, buzzing on what they'd seen. Mouths wide open, minds touched, so many people feeling so inspired.

I thought for a moment on Sunday night about how I'd love to curate a week of the best (my favourite) music films and docos; put this on as an event in a bar somewhere, have DJ sets after. Maybe even have bands playing after in some cases.

But I'm broke. And jaded. And I'd rather turn up and watch when someone else does it.

So - someone else/anyone else: please do this. I'd help you promote it. I'd turn up. That's something. Right?

Here's my review of Sunday night's doco screening and DJ set. Did you go? Did you like what you saw and heard? And what would be your pick for a great music film to watch with an audience of like-minded folk in a bar somewhere on the right night?

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