Category Archives: DVD Reviews

Dawn of the Dead:: The Grateful Dead & The Rise of the San Francisco Underground

Dawn of the Dead
is the story of the Grateful Dead, psychedelia, San Francisco’s 60’s shangri-la, and the resulting social and cultural implications. This documentary gives sense and description to a time when the story transferred from the beats to the hippies and the Grateful Dead were right at the center of things as it all culminated. The Dead themselves were all uniquely driven characters whose individual refusals to compromise musically resulted in one of the greatest bands ever.  This film delves into that early history and offers insight through interviews with several of the characters who were peripheral to the Grateful Dead story. Overall, an enjoyable documentary to tell the tale for the newly interested as well as fill in some gaps for the more familiar.


Black Metal Documentary:: Until The Light Takes Us

Until The Light Takes Us is a documentary on the Norwegian Black Metal scene captured by directors Aaron Aites and Audrey Ewell who moved to Norway and lived with the musicians for several years. The scene itself is infamous for the numerous church burnings and murders which occured in the early nineties. Much of the footage involves interviews with Darkthrone’s Gylve “Fenriz” Nagell and Burzum’s Varg “Count Grishnackh” Vikernes, with the latter seen in prison for the murder of Black Metal pioneer Øystein “Euronymous” Aarseth. These articulate men hold the view that Christianity is responsible for all the world’s problems with added resentment exacerbated by the blooming of American businesses like McDonald’s in Oslo circa early nineties. Both concerns fueled a reaction against the erasing of native Norwegian culture, leading to the destruction of many ancient churches in the land. This also brought on copy cat burnings by kids who left satanic grafitti in their wake, ultimately confusing the message of Black Metal. Varg is vehement that the church burnings were a result of their aversion to the erasing of Norwegian culture, not Satan worshipping.

The genre itself involved metal’s own lo-fi movement, often using sub-par equipment to reflect the dark, greyness, and cold of the artist’s vision. Not nearly as anemic and forgettable as America’s own lo-fi indie nineties, Black Metal is also known for face painting and stark monochromatic record covers. Finally, I must be part Norwegian as I prefer some space between me and the next guy in line as well.


The Heart Is A Drum Machine:: A Documentary Film About Music

The Heart is a Drum Machine is a film featuring Wayne Coyne, Jason Schwartzman, Elijah Wood, Andrew VanWyngarden of MGMT, Britt Daniel of Spoon, Juliette Lewis, John Frusciante, Maynard James Keenan, and others, answering the question of what is music? The documentary ponders the question to abstraction showing everything from how the deaf experience music through vibration to the prominence of “The Farmer In The Dell” within song. Moreover, with the whole of music revolving around the emotional connection it has on the listener the film explores where music takes us. Juliette Lewis speaks on music as a transfer of energy while the constant of music as rebellion is discussed by others. Elsewhere, scientists and musicologists muse on music’s stimulation on the brain and its power to help us gain composure and find happiness in the face of life’s tragedies. The Flaming Lips’ Steven Drozd wrote and performed the film’s original score and covered Elton John’s “Rocket Man” with Maynard James Keenan on vocals.

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The Best of GG Allin & The Murder Junkies

For a limited time fans who purchase The Best of GG Allin & The Murder Junkies will get a limited-edition 2-color poster (seen above).

purchase The Best of GG Allin & The Murder Junkies

The Black Keys:: Live at the Crystal Ballroom

A music dvd of late which has left an impression on me comes by way of The Black Keys Live at the Crystal Ballroom. I’ve played this one quite a few times, finding myself enthralled by the manner in which the dvd captures the essence of The Black Keys on stage. The camera angles are finely thought out, often giving the audience as much face time as Dan Auerbach’s guitar ache and swell. Though, best of all are the shots from the back of the stage which showcase the tour de force pounding of drummer Patrick Carney. Recorded on April 4, 2008 at a sold-out show at The Crystal Ballroom in Portland, OR., this work was produced and directed by Lance Bangs (R.E.M.’s Road Movie), and includes 17 live songs; original music videos for “Your Touch,” “Just Got To Be,” and “Strange Times;” and behind-the-scenes footage of the making of the band’s most recent album, Attack &Release. The only thing else you gotta do is turn it up really loud.

The Black Keys: Live at the Crystal Ballroom trailer

Dec 30 HQ Adelaide, South Australia
Dec 31 Pyramid Festival – SOLD OUT Phillip Island, Victoria
Jan 1 Great Northern Hotel Byron Bay, New South Wales
Jan 3 Coolangatta Hotel Coolangatta, Queensland
Jan 4 Lake Kawana Community Centre Bokarina, Queensland
Jan 5 The Arena Brisbane, Queensland
Jan 7 Coffs Ex-Services Club Coffs Harbour, New South Wales
Jan 8 Panthers Newcastle West, New South Wales
Jan 9 Luna Park Sydney, New South Wales
Jan 10 Waves Towradgi, New South Wales
Jan 11 Palais Theatre Melbourne, St. Kilda, Victoria
Jan 29 The Fillmore Detroit, Michigan
Jan 30 Agora Theatre Cleveland, Ohio
Jan 31 Agora Theatre Cleveland, Ohio
Feb 4 Rams Head Live! Baltimore, Maryland
Feb 5 Electric Factory Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Feb 6 Terminal 5 – SOLD OUT New York, New York
Feb 7 Terminal 5 New York, New York
Feb 8 Wellmont Theatre Montclair, New Jersey


LAIBACH announce a new DVD, VOLK DEAD IN TRBOVLJE, coming out September 2, 2008. The DVD was filmed during the extensive tour based on Laibach’s acclaimed album, VOLK, a collection of interpretations of national anthems which includes the national anthem for NSK, the State in time without territory and national boundaries which Laibach have been linked with since its formation in 1992. VOLK DEAD IN TRBOVLJE shows their concert in Trbovlje, Slovenia, the industrial town associated with the birthplace of Laibach in 1980. As a bonus, the DVD offers a collection of some of the most relevant screens that were projected during the show, animated stories of some of the most important songs. The Laibach music videos associated with VOLK are part of the content too. The project ends with a tour medley, a short video commentary as a souvenir from some of the places where Laibach have toured with VOLK. Laibach will also return to the US for their first U.S. tour in four years in September.

Mon, Sep 22, 2008 Seattle, WA @ Showbox at the Market
Tue, Sep 23, 2008 Portland, OR @ Crystal Ballroom
Thu, Sep 25, 2008 San Francisco, CA @ Independent
Fri, Sep 26, 2008 Hollywood, CA @ Key Club
Sun, Sep 28, 2008 Tijuana B.C. Mexico @ El Foro
Tue, Sep 30, 2008 New York, NY @ Fillmore at Irving Plaza


Ani DiFranco:: Live at Babeville

Last September 11 and 12th, Ani DiFranco’s live performances in her newly renovated hometown church/venue—christened “Babeville” by the Buffalo press were captured for eternity on the new Live at Babeville DVD. It took 10 years to save the 135-year-old Buffalo church from demolition and restore it to s a concert venue and community space. Check out the video below, and in particular “Present/Infant,” where Ani sings about her experience as a new mom.

Live at Babeville (trailer)Little Plastic Castle (live)Present Infant

Wetlands Preserved:: The Story of An Activist Rock Club

Wetlands Preserved:: The Story of An Activist Rock Club is out today, telling the tales of one of NYC’s most memorable live spots. People still speak of the time they first encountered The Dave Matthews Band, Blues Traveler, Phish or Pearl Jam at the legendary New York City rock club. Others never visited, but have seen the signature Wetlands bus in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or have listened to the celebrated live recordings that originated from the club’s intimate stage. Yet while the Wetlands legend and legacy endures, a full account of its rich history remains untold. Even those who have a familiarity with the venue know only a fraction of the story. Prior to the opening of Wetlands Preserve in February 1989 as a self-styled “Eco-Saloon,” the nightclub was already an anomaly. By the time it had closed in September 2001, it had become an archetype as well. Vintage footage, original recordings and new digital animation tell the story of the celebrated nightclub in Tribeca New York. It traces the history of this venue and its denizens as they find their way, ultimately thriving as an independent nightclub that supports new music and providing a nurturing proving ground for talent, many of whom appear in the film. The Sundance Film Channel will begin showing this film in July for the next 30 months.

Featured Interviews:
Bob Weir, Dave Matthews, Blues Traveler, ?uestlove (The Roots), Mike
Gordon (Phish), Nick Hexum (311), Robert Randolph, Warren Haynes (Allman
Brothers Band), Mike Doughty, Hanson, John Medeski (Medeski Martin &
Wood), Darius Rucker (Hootie & The Blowfish), Ryan Miller (Guster), Al
Schnier and Rob Derhak (moe.), Marc Brownstein and Jon Gutwillig (Disco
Biscuits), Derek Trucks, Eric Krasno (Soulive), Vinnie Stigma (Agnostic
Front), Jimmy G (Murphy’s Law), Michael Musto, Richard Gehr, Kenneth Jackson

Music Featured in the Film:
Agnostic Front, Ani Difranco, Ben Harper, Blues Traveler, Dave Matthews
Band, The Disco Biscuits, Fishbone, Frogwings, Joan Osborne, moe., Pearl
Jam, Phish, Project Logic, Robert Randolph & The Family Band, Spearhead,
Spin Doctors, Sublime, 311

dvd::Tool: Vicarious

ToolVicarious DVD The long awaited video from the platinum album 10,000 Days. DVD includes a documentary that takes you through the history of Adam Jones’ visual effects work, and the process and people involved in the creation of the groundbreaking all CGI video “Vicarious.”Audio commentary on the video by comedian David Cross.A tour of Alex Grey’s CoSM. and more……in stores December 18, 2007

“Vicarious” the song

dvd review::20 to Life:The Life and Times of John Sinclair

I recently took in 20 to Life: The Life and Times of John Sinclair, which comes out on MVDvisual at the end of the month. John Sinclair is a poet, revolutionary, band manager, activist and lover of rhythm and blues who arose up from the intense cultural climate of the sixties to become a hero and a legitimate political prisoner. 20 to Life tells Sinclair’s story through interviews with him and his friends, family, and cohorts from the past. Sinclair sought to destroy the status quo by a “total assault on the culture by any means necessary” through “a new music, new politics, and a new way of life.” Managed by Sinclair, the MC5 were the music, and as their popularity grew, he had a plan that the band would get huge and they would take all the money and buy radio stations to disseminate information to change the culture. The government was obviously concerned with the going ons of Sinclair and his growin influence, considering the amount of time the authorities spent hassling him. His ultimate goal was freedom and to challenge the “constitutionality of Michigan’s marijuana laws” (especially after have received an extremely harsh sentence for only two joints). Sinclair spent about two years in prison and was released within days of the John Sinclair Freedom Rally – where John Lennon & Yoko famously performed (perhaps the place where Lennon’s trouble with the U.S. government started).

20 to Life is an interesting look at Sinclair’s life, and the White Panther Party, Detroit Artist’s Workshop, and Translove Energies collectives which he organized. Indeed, this was a time when there was so much happening that anything seemed possible. John Sinclair appears all throughout the documentary, looking back at his exploits, and at one point even states that the blind idealism they displayed was only possible, because of all the LSD they took. The documentary is entertaining and gives an insightful glimpse into a time when real change seemed possible. The thing I found most reassuring is the way in which the present John Sinclair is positive and enjoying life, and hasn’t succumbed to the bitterness that often comes from the fall of idealism. In the end, Sinclair’s message is that “we have a right to our bad habits, and it ain’t nobody’s business what we do.” If you’re a fan of the sixties culture, then 20 to Life, will be right up your alley.

video clip

dvd review::Nick Drake:Under Review

I’m a big fan of the Under Review series, and the latest installment I want to praise is on the subject of Nick Drake. The manic depressive is often a great artist and music is often the only way through which he can communicate. Rejecting the overwhelming American blues influences of the time, Nick Drake made music with a distinct “English fatalism” in a time when very few were even in the same orbit. This English flare in Nick Drake’s music perhaps finds its’ roots in the literary influences of writers like William Blake and Alfred Tennyson. Nick was also fascinated by the modal structures of musicians like Miles Davis, and the way in which they freed him from the traditional manner of playing jazz. Indeed, it was that modal jazz sensibility married with the folk technique that defined Drake’s style. It is particularly interesting to witness the examination of Drake’s unusual guitar style, and some of his influences such as Davey Graham, and Jackson C. Frank. His music is set apart by many things, not the least of which is by the time of his debut he already had a fully developed sound. Amid the massive cultural changes of 1967, Nick became a musician and came into his own while attempting to develop a career during his stay at Cambridge. It was during this time, that through a Fairport Convention connection, he met Joe Boyd, signed a deal and recorded his wonderful music. The pastoral “Five Leaves Left,” the more decadent “Bryter Layter,” and his final work “Pink Moon,” are all examined and itemized fairly extensively through various commentaries on this well thought out documentary.

Nick Drake:Under Review is full of lots of highlights, not the least of which is the praise of “Bryter Layter,” my favorite Drake album, but his most underrated as a result of the fuller band sound and the colorful pop influenced arrangements. Finally, the fragile beauty so evident in all of Drake’s music is surrounded in a murk that calls for quiet reflection, and is not just some pond of melancholia to wade through on the way to firmer shores. As the city envelopes the country, Nick Drake’s music will remain to evoke images of English gardens, long and winding roads, and breathtaking landscapes.

dvd review::The Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett Story

Syd Barrett is the most famous casuality of psychedelics in the history of the world. I have known quite a few big Pink Floyd fans over the years here in the states, and one thing almost always rings true – very few of them know much of anything at all about Syd Barrett and the early Floyd. Somehow, these folks got the impression that the Syd era was irrelevant, while for me the Floyd were never more interesting and colorful. Besides, doesn’t Syd at least deserve a little credit for coming up with the name Pink Floyd? Syd Barrett spent over three incredible years with the Floyd when he left in 1968. He conducted no interviews or released any music from the early seventies up until the time of his passing.

Anyway, I recently took in The Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett Story, which includes over 2 1/2 hours of DVD extras in addition to the interviews with all members of Pink Floyd. The dvd follows the tale of Syd through his Pink Floyd years, two solo albums, and a couple of failed post Floyd performances, with friends and band members filling in the details. One of the highlights is hearing Robyn Hitchcock performing “Dominoes” on acoustic, and then praising the magic of Syd’s song writing. There is a ton of really good footage of Syd, in addition to the extended interviews with members of Pink Floyd. The real tragedy and loss of Syd is perhaps best illustrated by Roger Waters discussing how Syd is permanently etched in his memory as a vibrant hyper talented 24 year old(around the age Syd checked out). Even more poignant is the weirdness that occurred during the Shine On sessions where a heavier Syd reappeared with shaved head and eye brows, and no one recognized him. The Syd Barrett story is one of rock’s more interesting stories, and sadly one of its’ greatest tragedies.

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