5.16.2010

It Might Get Loud










Bob Burnett: I finally watched the film It Might Get Loud recently via Netflix on their "watch instantly" streaming media outlet. The film was directed by Davis Guggenheim, son of the late Charles Guggenheim who was probably the closest thing I ever have had to a professional role model. You may recall that It Might Get Loud brought together three "groundbreaking" guitar players: Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin fame, The Edge of the brand known as U2 and Jack White, the Detroit upholsterer who re-created the spirit of Son House via The White Stripes. There are wonderful moments in the individual segments; Jimmy Page playing a 45 of Link Wray's Rumble, Jack White talking about Son House, the Detroit neighborhood he grew up in and his desire to play cheap, beat-up impedence-laden guitars. I have nothing to add about The Edge/U2 beyond he seems like a "nice guy" and all but...U2 is just another media advertising campaign telling me how white my shirts can be as far as I'm concerned.

There's musical sharing between the three guitarists--but in a set-up environment where they are brought together summit-style, put under lights, sat in chairs and expected to be brilliant. I could have done without that contrivance, but I'm sure that was the vehicle for getting the whole enterprise funded. The film is shot nicely (Director of Photography is Washington, DC's Erich Roland) and kept simple, thoughtful and easily watchable. However, a week after the viewing and the inevitable post-screen pondering, I've come to the conclusion that the model of a musician portrayed (well.....I'll give Jack White a bit of a pass here...) doesn't really connect with what I find interesting in music and musicians today. These guys come across, like it or not, as rock stars; lots of pricey gear, schedules to keep, entourages, involved recording projects, on and on.

My takeaways after watching this film made me focus more keenly on how much I like artists who keep nimble in mobile, internet-savvy worlds either self-releasing via PayPal or using the web as an informational tool self-promoting their activities, gigs, releases, work.

A few examples to make my point: Christopher Willits and Rafael Toral. Both Willits and Toral have excellent web sites where you can download music for a very reasonable price (Toral has an interesting subscription service), keep abreast of their activities, collaborations and output. This flexibility allows them to take chances, be open to the creative process and not be at the whim and fancy of record labels, huge 18-wheeler laden tours or controlled publicity machines. I see the work of Toral and Willits taking the next step in what the improvisational trio AMM did by creating their own label (Matchless) to allow themselves as much control as possible.

So, I'd say watch the film...but....go to the other web sites I highlighted and see if they offer you a more contemporary connection to music.

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