Who’d a thunk a documentary about the ultimate head banging music tour would be so interesting and enjoyable. It’s a great and memorable film.
The trailer can’t convey the storytelling — you really can’t do that in two minutes. Just take my word for it, the trailer is great, but the movie is even better.
ONCE AGAIN, ITS ABOUT FINDING THE STORIES
Okay, who wants to sit through an hour and a half of pierced, tattooed and screaming teenagers banging their heads to the “music” of unknown groups? Definitely not me last night. But I was wrong. What a great movie. Seriously.
My friend Agi Orsi (who produced the excellent classic documentaries, “Dogtown and Z Boys,” and “Riding Giants“) invited me to the opening night screening of the new documentary, “No Room for Rockstars,” which she produced. The movie covers the 2010 Vans Warped Tour. I remember talking to her that summer when they were in the thick of it and wondering, “how in the world did she get roped into that project?”
It’s an excellent movie. Seriously. I sat in the back for the first ten minutes, seeing all the standard high energy wacky punk ska shouting bands scenes and wondering if I would last the entire screening. But then an amazing thing began to happen — the characters and stories began to emerge. And at the core was one very strong and compelling kid they managed to find to tell the entire story of the tour through his eyes.
He’s a chunky rocker named Joe (you see him a bunch in the trailer driving their van). He and his band, “Forever Came Calling,” aren’t even a part of the tour — they’re tagging along, desperately hoping to become part of the tour someday as they sell their CDs in the parking lot and try to raise enough money for their gas and Top Ramen meals. They provide everything you need for a classic story arc. They begin wide eyed and enthusiastic, raving about the tour and their dreams, begging people to buy their CDs, but by halfway through the movie they end up in complete tatters, sitting on the ground beside their broken down van, completely out of money, and all of them literally crying like a bunch of elementary school kids who just got beat up. It’s a tremendous scene, from which they immediately cut to one of the most successful lead singers on the tour sitting in the comfort of his touring bus having the time of his life.
JUST LIKE “REAL SPORTS” YOU DON’T HAVE TO LIKE THE SUBJECT MATTER TO LIKE THE MOVIE
This is what I keep talking about with the art of storytelling, and what the science and environmental worlds need to grasp. When you get so overly consumed with your subject matter or trying to “communicate a message,” you run the risk of boring people. You have to be able to back off enough and find the broader, more human stories. This is the deal with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” that I’m constantly pointing out — the show isn’t about sports, it’s about people. It’s the deal with NPR’s “This American Life” — just great storytelling. And it’s the case with this solidly made movie — they didn’t get carried away with all the details of which group sings which song and how. No, they just looked for and found excellent, interesting, relatable characters and stories in the midst of all the seeming chaos of the tour.
And there’s several other really great characters in the movie — breakout star Mike Posner shows the joys of success, lead singer Mitch Lucker from Suicide Silence does a great job of explaining the personal side of screaming his lyrics at the insane mobs of kids, tour founder and director Kevin Lyman reveals the sort of charisma that makes it instantly clear why the tour works so well, and Chris Drew of Never Shout Never is half likeable, half annoying. But all of them are distinctive, well defined characters. And Fletcher from Pennywise (whom I remember meeting 15 years ago in a bar in Hollywood one night with friends) plays the role of grand old man eventually offering up the title as he says what becomes abundantly clear, that on the Vans Warped Tour there really is no room for rockstars as everyone is down and dirty from start to finish.
Great film. Excellent work by the director, Parris Patton, who spoke after the screening and showed that he really did know exactly what he was doing as a director. And of course Agi brought the same A-plus producing skills and vision to the movie that she has to all of her work.
They said it will be released on iTunes in a few weeks. You should watch it. You’d be surprised at how much you’ll like it. Seriously. This is kinda shocking but it really made me want to see the tour some day, and if Joe the chunky kid had been there with his band I would definitely have bought their CD.