Thursday, March 15, 2007
SXSW: Musical Surprises
The music portion of SXSW has begun here in Austin, which means a sudden influx of musicians, producers, managers, roadies, groupies and just plain ol' music fans. It is also Spring Break for University of Texas so that boulevard of debauchery, 6th Street, now blocked off to car traffic, is officially on a bender. Everyone is either a hipster or a student or Me.
Yesterday - or was it the day before? - I saw five films and fittingly, three had to do with music:
The day began with "Companeras", a documentary about Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles, the world's first all-female mariachi band. (Anything regarding LadyFirsts, I'm all over it.) Going against the "man's world" of mariachi, these young musicians elbow their way into their own unique space, juggling their art, jobs, school, husbands and children all the while. In one scene, a 16-year-old band member sings an ancient Mexican love song, "Albur de Amore" and despite never having been in love herself, her rendition left me misty-eyed and speechless. I want the CDs and yes, I want the outfits.
The next was a two-hour doc classic, "Let's Get Lost" about famed jazz singer/trumpeter, Chet Baker. I'd only vaguely heard of Baker - my jazz knowledge is fairly limited to the big names. Apparently, this film was a classic; released in 1989, it included interviews during the final year of Baker's life. The director, Bruce Weber, was there for the screening, which always makes it a special occasion. Seems Baker was a phenomenal talent but, unfortunately, he was also a drug addict and a thoughtless asshole. Sometimes you see these blazing phenomenons get crushed under the weight of their own gift. Sad.
Finally, I attended the World Premiere of "Dirty Country" probably one of my favorite films so far this year. Meet Larry Pierce, a regular Joe who lives in a small Indiana town, works at a factory, has been married for 24 years and is the father of two children. Larry also has a hobby, he plays guitar and writes songs ... dirty songs, really dirty songs ... unbelievably filthy songs. Song with titles like "Porking You is Always On My Mind", "Will You Swallow My Cum?" and "Sleep Right Next to Your Pussy."
So, Larry has been playing these songs to the delight of his friends and family (including his wife and mother) for years, performing in his garage since it makes the local bar crowd uncomfortable. He records under the Laughing Hyena record label which sells them at truck stops across the nation. This has been going on for about a dozen years and Larry has put out about 14 albums.
Meanwhile, a rock band out of Colorado Springs, CO named Itis, has been covering Larry's songs for years. They idolize Larry and can't quite believe he's real. The documentary is about bringing Larry and Itis together to perform and the result is beyond fun. Hard to believe but despite the film being set to songs like "Every Time I Shit" and "Worthless Cunt", this is one of the sweeter documentaries I have seen in a long time. First of all, despite the dirty lyrics, Larry is one of the kindest and humblest people you will ever meet. He adores his wife and when interviewed, she insists he is a gentle, romantic soul and their steady love is quite evident.
After the screening - once the entire audience was firmly enamored of Larry - the directors got up and announced there would a party down the street with free beer - we were all invited! Furthermore, Larry and Itis would be perfoming, making their Texas debut. Of course, I had planned on going straight home - I was dead dog tired - but how could I possibly pass this up???
I got a chance to chat with both Larry and his wife. (Sandy? Sally? I can't remember.) Both were sweet as pie and Larry was very gracious to everyone. I approached him at the beginning, "Hey, Larry, do you have any CDs for sale?" He said he did, grabbed my hand and we went off looking. The boxes hadn't been opened yet so I was thrilled to make the first post-doc purchases.
Later, when Larry was formally introduced to the load roar his new fans, he high-fived me on his way to the stage. I was THRILLED. When he launched into the crowd pleasing, "Good Hard Fuckin'", you saw a hard working man finally getting his due. Larry was positively beside himself - it was a long way from his Indiana garage. I looked over at his wife who was positively beaming with love. My friend leaned over and said to her, "Bet you didn't know you'd married a rock star!" She just smiled and then started dancing.
Larry Pierce makes everyone happy.