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Hooked on Music Docs

13 Oct, 2004 By: Jessica Wolf

I'm hooked on music documentaries.

Granted, I am the type of person who (in those heady days when I had cable) would watch every single “VH-1 Behind the Music” in every airing I could catch no matter how many times I'd already seen a given episode — and yes that includes the Andy Gibb one (and I cried every time, especially during the Victoria Principal interviews).

I've been known to put on the making of “Who's Next” while I clean my house or write. I get a kick out of watching the late Keith Moon drum like a crazy man and absolutely love Townshend's acoustic version of “Behind Blue Eyes.”

But this mentality of mine is getting even more obsessive with all the good stuff that's out there these days, especially when it comes to extra features — perfect for people like me who just can't get enough.

It started getting worse with New Line's Festival Express. I have a nostalgic attachment to Janis Joplin, and it was sheer joy to watch the footage of her performing (and partying) across Canada with the Grateful Dead in this ThinkFilm feature, especially knowing she died just a few short months later.

I also love Criterion's Gimme Shelter. Even if I wasn't such a Stones fan already and mesmerized by the charm and charisma of a young Mick Jagger, I would likely be fascinated at this candid look at the fateful Altamont concert, which notoriously devolved into a event of fear and violence. (Maybe it's partly mayhem and untimely deaths that appeal to me here, as much as the music.)

But I found out recently it's not just old-school artists that feed my obsession.

I went to the Los Angeles premiere of Palm Pictures' stunning music documentary DiG!, a seven-year trek following two 1990s bands about which I, before this viewing, only had a slight musical knowledge of: The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Now I suddenly have the amazing desire to go out and buy every Brian Jonestown CD I can get my hands on.

I cannot wait for this film to come out on DVD, both because I know Palm has hundreds of hours of unused footage to cull through for DVD extras and because it's just that inspired of a film on its own — it's definitely the kind I will watch over and over. Even if you've never heard of these two bands, or have and don't like their music, you can't help but be sucked into their stories, their antics, and their travails.

And Joel Gion, member of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, is a character that could not have been written, in a role that could never have been cast. He's just that choice and entertaining, like the film itself. It's sheer enjoyment; it's better edited and has a more engaging story than a majority of the Hollywood feature films that have come out this year.

And I say hallelujah for DVD, because that's where gems like DiG! will find their most voracious and appreciative audience, especially if they're already trained by discs like the fabulous Gimme Shelter.

DVD has only intensified my desire to expose myself to films about bands or people or things I may never heard of. I don't think I'm alone.

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