Top Five: Films About Lesser-Known Bands

Tomorrow night Studio Movie Grill CityCentre will screen The Secret to a Happy Ending, director Barr Weissman's new feature-length documentary about the Georgia-based rock outfit Drive-By Truckers. The critically acclaimed yet lesser-known band was courted by Weissman for over a year to allow him access to the group, and the director captured some dramatic footage, chronicling the band's near split-up. It includes the requisite interviews with bandmates that all rock docs lean on to render the distinct and often at-odds personalities at play.

Rock docs often follow the trajectory of groups that struggle, peak and fall apart (see possibly every Behind the Music episode), or they dwell on the aftermath of success and the road to recovery (the fascinating Metallica: Some Kind of Monster). But fame doesn't corner the market on compelling stories--there are just as many about cult bands and musicians that may not have achieved widespread success. Their impact and influence are what make them enduring. Here are our five favorites.

5. Pavement: Slow Century Lance Bangs' 2002 doc chronicles the rise and (amicable) demise of indie rock's critics' darlings. Highlights include commentary by Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and footage of a disastrous set at the final Lollapalooza tour.

 

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4. Silver Jew An intimate portrait of David Berman, singer and songwriter for the Silver Jews, a band that, for years, never toured due to Berman's stagefright. After getting over substance abuse and a nearly successful suicide attempt, Berman and his band, which includes his wife Cassie, tour for the first time. The film captures the band in Israel, as they play shows in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

 

3. Dig! The 2004 film focuses on the friendship and rivalry between relatively successful Dandy Warhols and the lesser known Brian Jonestown Massacre.

 

2. Anvil: The Story of Anvil This 2008 documentary was a cult hit and may have introduced more viewers to the influential Canadian heavy metal band (which started in 1973) than they were able to reach in their music career. It landed them their first appearance on a network talk show, the Late Show with Conan O'Brien.

 

1. The Devil and Daniel Johnston This 2006 film is the tearjerking story of Texas singer songwriter Johnston, a tormented but brilliant artist with an international cult following. It earned director Jeff Feuerzeig a best director award at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.

Bonus: loudQUIETloud: a film about The Pixies The most well-known band here, this film documents the Pixies 2004 reunion, after it had angrily split six years earlier. It's terrific. And what the hell, here's the whole movie.


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