I saw Dave Chappelle’s movie Half Baked last weekend (I know, I’m the last person in town to see it), and Chappelle is very funny, but it got me wondering. Can you really laugh hard at a weed movie without ever having been stoned? This is also the dilemma facing the filmmakers who will premiere their local music documentary Live from the Hook at The Paramount Theater this Saturday, October 28.
Like the producers of the documentary, I am also part of the class of ’84. My third night in town, I went down to The Mousetrap and saw Root Boy Slim, who was so messed up that the band pushed him out on stage in a shopping cart, and he proceeded to do the whole show from there. I also remember frat parties (just don’t ask me which frats) where Skip Castro was playing on a weeknight, and just putting the thump on the audience—me and 200 other grinning, wildly dancing students. In fact, I can remember it like it was last week.
But judging from the 12-minute teaser that I watched recently, the movie hardly sets up the scene for anyone who wasn’t present. Was Charlottesville just another college town with a bunch of great bands, all focused around the spring bacchanal known as Easters? Or was it a state of true individual transcendence that deserves to be documented?
The filmmakers (director Joe Grafmuller, director of photography Cybel Martin and line producer Bill Reifenberger) lucked out on two counts. One, they had Charlie Pastorfield and Bob Girard on whom to center the action. Pastorfield and Girard could tear it up musically then, and they continue to tear it up now. The thing that differentiated Charlottesville from my hometown scene—besides the number of blonde, college-age girls—was the ravenously eclectic tastes of the musicians here. It seems like every band, from Skip and his jump blues to The Casuals Dead-influenced New Wave, dug as deeply as they could for inspiration. I’d lay money on the fact that Charlottesville was the only town where more than one band was covering Garland Jeffries’ tunes. Unbelievable.
The other stroke of serendipity was the uncovering of old ’70s videotape of bands playing around town. It seems that Bucky Pomerantz owned one of the first video recorders. (My friend Tim Anderson says it took six Sherpas to carry the thing around.) The video footage surfaced in the middle of Live’s filming, and most folks assumed that the film was probably ruined by humidity and the like. But miraculously, a restoration company in New York breathed new life into the video, and some of the footage is pretty entertaining.
Apparently the project is not quite finished, and the version premiering at the Paramount will still be a rough cut (filming of a Captain Tunes reunion is yet to be completed). Hopefully, the film is better organized than the trailer, which is basically a string of reminiscences by musicians on the scene. There are no revelations about how the scene came about. Was it UVA that brought players like Pastorfield to town, or was it just a bunch of townies, totally consumed by rock ‘n’ roll music, who provided a sure audience (and the promise of free beer) most nights of the week? I’m guessing the latter.
In the film, Skip pianist Danny Beirne admits, “We meant a lot to these people.” I hear that the Paramount show is already sold out, so it seems likely that he is right.
While rumors have long swirled about Gravity Lounge’s demise, people close to the source tell me that December really will be it for the club. Here’s hoping that’s not true—but in the meantime, you should show your support by checking out The Roches this week, and the unbelievably talented and funny Asylum Street Spankers next month.
If you haven’t made your plans for Halloween, you’re in luck. Mass Sabbath will be performing their third annual extravaganza at The Satellite Ballroom next Tuesday night. MS—which only covers Black Sabbath material up to Volume 4 (meaning no Dio Sabbath)—has expanded their personnel and now boasts four guitars, two basses, two drummers, three violins, vocals, keyboards, and even a few go-go dancers. There are also plans for some video projection.
Mass Sabbath is the brainchild of Nicholas Liivak, formerly of Mensa Select. Liivak says that each year the band crystallizes a little more, and last year they drew a crowd of several hundred. Some of the members have been in the band since the beginning, and some are first-time performers. One of the vocalists, Butch, is also a member of the Houston-based, but locally well-known, punk rock band 30 Foot Fall. Butch is flying to Texas to play in that band’s Halloween show, and then returning immediately for the Mass Sabbath show on Tuesday night. Stratton Salidis also handles vocals.
Liivak says that Black Sabbath strikes a chord in people. The crowd is way into the performance and Liivak says that “when I am up there singing, and I forget a lyric, I look out in the crowd and they are all mouthing the words to the tune. I am a rock god for, like, the next 20 minutes.”
For this year’s show, many band members are going to dress as famous dead rock stars. One of the guitar players is contemplating Randy Rhoads. The other two bands on the bill are locals Horsefang, which Liivak describes as Motorhead meets Mastadon, and RCA recording artist Priestess. So put on your most outrageous costume and get to the Satellite early. It should be a wild show.