After many years of moviegoing, I can tell you that there’s one thing you can almost always count on when you go to the theater: it’s going to be dark. The fact is that most movie houses are more or less the same—big black boxes designed to do their best work by disappearing. There are exceptions, of course. Locally, the Academy of Music in Northampton and Memorial Hall in Shelburne Falls, with their footlights and stages, both provide a glimpse into a more colorful period of show business history. But most of the time, the surroundings are the last thing you’re there to see.
So it’s always nice to see movies stretching their legs and getting out to other venues. Schools (especially in the Valley) are a frequent host for films, but I’m thinking of places a bit more unusual: cafes, bookstores—for a time, there were at least two cinemas operating out of private residences in and around Northampton. This week, Amherst Brewing Company gets in on the action with a screening of Takeover, a feature-length documentary about an independent band who took their music somewhere different.
The band is Full Service. Now based out of Austin, they got their start in the Valley, where guitarist Bonesaw (nee Tim Kepner) attended Amherst College. The film is a chronicle of their audacious (and largely successful) attempt to snare a wider audience. Tired of the standard self-booked tours that independent bands often struggle to break even on, they instead decided to hit the road on a summer tour opening for national headliners like Snoop Dogg and 311—acts that draw tens of thousands to a single gig. They simply neglected to tell anyone that they were coming. Instead, the often shirtless group rolled into amphitheater parking lots in their van, scouting locations and setting up their gear before security knew what was happening, at least at first. Bonesaw’s brother “Hoag” describes the approach as being like a “virus or a parasite… just kind of attaching yourself to the big boys and then trying to spread your sickness. Although it’s not a sickness, hopefully.”
As the tour goes on, the guerrilla group battle police (and each other) as they test their mettle (and metal). The result is a testament to the power of the crazy dedication that keeps small bands on the road for those long stretches of lonely gigs, where they’re playing to the soundman—suffice it to say that the band doesn’t stay in the parking lot forever. They come to ABC on Thursday, May 3 to perform an acoustic set along with the film screening.
Also this week: Music must be in the air, as Pleasant Street Theater is screening two music-related films of its own in the coming days. First up is Kevin MacDonald’s film Marley, a life story of the man whose name has become synonymous with a certain strain of Jamaican reggae. But Bob Marley’s impact has long transcended his music; today his wider message—and calls for social and political change—may prove to be his most lasting legacy. MacDonald’s film mixes performance footage with interviews with some of Marley’s closest confidants.
Also up this week is Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains, screening as part of the theater’s Seeing Sound film series. An ’80s-era comedy/drama directed by show-biz veteran Lou Adler, it stars Diane Lane as Corinne Burns, a teenage orphan who loses her job on live TV and heads off to form a band with cousin Jessica (Laura Dern). Never widely released, the film nonetheless gained something of a cult following in the early days of cable, where its supporting cast—members of the Sex Pistols and the Clash have roles—drew punk rock fans to seek out the film. It screens Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m.
Jack Brown can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.