10 Music Films at SXSW That You Don't Wanna Miss

Rob Zombie's Lords of Salem
Rob Zombie's Lords of Salem

Well, it's SXSW time again, friends, and you know what that means: dashing around Austin all day, drinking until our eyebrows fall out and doing our best to stick to pre-planned schedules intended to maximize the amount of live music that we can cram into our ear canals before passing out on the floor of somebody else's motel room.

What many of us fail to consider, however, is that some of the fest's best music will be seen and heard not onstage but on the silver screen instead. The SXSW film conference and festival runs March 8-16, and in addition to the expected Hollywood star vehicles, heartbreaking documentaries and bizarre shorts, the fest is also set to feature a host of cool flicks about and inspired by music.

For those of us who enjoy a bit of narrative drama mixed in with our tunes, it's going to be pretty cool. Because SXSW is just too damn big to see and do everything we want, Rocks Off has helpfully compiled the following list of ten can't-miss music movies being shown at the fest that we think you'll enjoy the most.

But if you can't weasel your way into a screening, don't pout too hard: You can always catch these when they hit Netflix -- no wristband required.

10. Sound City 9:30 p.m. Friday, March 8 Alamo Village Possibly the highest-profile music film at this year's festival comes courtesy of SXSW Music's keynote speaker, Foo Fighter Dave Grohl. Sound City, his directorial debut, tells the story of the legendary Sound City studio in Van Nuys, California, where most of your favorite albums (and plenty you probably hate) were recorded.

Sure, this flick smells a lot like a vanity project for a famous rock star and his millionaire pal, but any place that can bring together musicians from Stevie Nicks to Stephen Pearcy has to have some pretty badass stories attached to it. No doubt the best of them will be retold onscreen.

9. Los Wild Ones 11 a.m. Monday, March 11 Stateside Theatre Wild Records is a strange little indie label. Based in LA, it's home to young Hispanic musicians who write and perform '50s rock and roll, overseen by an Irishman, Reb Kennedy, to whom iTunes is only slightly less mystifying than Higgs bosons.

Did I mention this was a documentary and not fiction? How did this bizarre musical family come together? And can these ambitious weirdos forge a future without Facebook or any other modern marketing and distribution platforms? The answers will only be revealed to us in moving pictures.

8. We Always Lie to Strangers 1:30 p.m. Monday, March 11 Stateside Theatre I confess that I've never quite understood the appeal of country-music vacation destination Branson, Missouri. That's probably because I'm from precisely the wrong age group, familial grouping and socioeconomic stratum to fully appreciate the place's apparent charms.

What I do understand, however, is the drawing power of well-performed live music, which is why I'm psyched to gaze in voyeuristically as this doc lifts the curtain on the small Midwestern town full of performers that packs 'em in with sequined shows of heartfelt Americana.


7. Good Vibrations 6:45 p.m. Monday, March 11 Alamo Ritz 1 Nope, this ain't a Beach Boys flick -- far from it. Good Vibrations is a documentary about a tiny punk-rock record store in Belfast, Ireland, and how owner Terri Hooley and his wares managed to build a tight-knit community of young people from both sides of the Protestant-Catholic war there.

If you've ever escaped from your Troubles by digging through record bins, chances are that you might be able to relate.

6. Snap 9:30 p.m. Monday, March 11 Alamo Ritz 1 Based on its online synopsis, Snap could end up being one of the most intriguing or most ridiculous films shown at the festival, and I'm looking forward to finding out which it will be. Described as "a raw psychological thriller set in the underground world of the dubstep DJ scene," it sounds like this flick is going to include a lot of blood and a lot of bass. Novel, no?

5. Reincarnated 4:30 p.m. Thursday, March 14 Paramount Theatre Remember when Snoop Dogg changed his name to Snoop Lion and proclaimed his conversion to Rastafarianism last year? Yeah. Was that sincere, or just a new, uncharted strain of celebrity insanity? It sure seemed like a publicity stunt, but it's conceivable that Snoop really does love weed that much.

With any luck, we'll get some answers out of Reincarnated, the documentary about the Doggfather's spiritual journey in Jamaica. It's probably a safe assumption that there's no smoking inside the Paramount Theatre, so be sure to blaze up before you take your seat. Otherwise, this movie could start to seem real boring, real fast.

4. Asleep at the Wheel Then and Now 3 p.m. Monday, March 11 Carver Museum Boyd Vance Theater

You didn't think you could make it through SXSW Film without being subjected to at least one of Austin's oddball musical icons, did you? Asleep at the Wheel Then and Now is sure to cover every up and down of the country and western swing band's 40 years' worth of pickin' and grinnin.' Expect a hometown standing O when the credits roll.


3. The Lords of Salem 11:59 p.m. Monday, March 11 Topfer Theatre at Zach Scott Rob Zombie has made enough films at this point for most movie-goers to decide whether or not his aesthetic is for them. I'm not a huge horror buff myself, but the online synopsis of this flick sure caught my attention: A mysterious wooden box containing a vinyl record arrives for rock radio DJ Heidi, "a gift from the Lords."

She assumes it's a rock band on a mission to spread their word, but when Heidi (Rob's wife, Sherri Moon Zombie -- duh!) drops the needle on the Lords' record, it starts to play... backwards, heralding the return of a coven of ancient witches out for bloody revenge.

Black magic? Satanic backmasking? Yep, this one's getting seen. And honestly, I kind of want to get my hands on that record.

2. Good Ol' Freda 5 p.m. Saturday, March 9 Vimeo Theater The list of people who worked alongside the Beatles from the beginning of the band's career till the end is pretty damn small. One of the few to survive the gauntlet was Freda Kelly, the Fab Four's devoted secretary and friend. For the first time -- and with the support of the surviving Beatles -- Good Ol' Freda shares her insider tales and perspectives on the lives and music of rock and roll's most celebrated band.

In their early days, most of the Beatles' female fans just sort of screamed their guts out. Kelly, though, made it inside their inner circle, and this flick should provide a fresh view of what made them stars and what made them human.


1. Downloaded 6:15 p.m. Sunday, March 10 Paramount Theatre

The Social Network was cool and everything, but I couldn't help finding myself wishing that film had spent less time with the nerdy Mark Zuckerberg and more with Sean Parker, the slick-talking businessgeek who helped change the music industry forever with Napster.

At long last, Parker and his partners get the documentary treatment in Downloaded, the cinematic tale of Napster's exhilarating rise and fall. For those of you who weren't there, Napster was the first (and best) widely adopted file-sharing network, and its impact on the record biz can't really be overstated at this point. With fascinating characters like Parker and Lars Ulrich populating this story, what's not to love?

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