Friday, June 27, 2008

Anvil Rocks!

I rocked out at the LA Film Festival screening of Anvil last night at the John Ford Amphitheater. It's a documentary about the Canadian heavy metal band Anvil, who have been together 30 years. The theater was sold out for this event, and the crowd was an odd mix of movie geeks and metalheads and one celeb Anvil fan - Scott Ian of Anthrax.

I loved the film! It's
This is Spinal Tap meets Some Kind of Monster meets Field of Dreams. The film begins with footage from the early 80s of Anvil during their 15 minutes of fame, playing a huge rock fest in Japan with The Scorpions and Bon Jovi. Frontman Steve "Lips" Kudlow is dressed in bondage gear and playing his guitar with a dildo. His co-founder Robb Reiner (another odd parallel to This is Spinal Tap) pounds the skins. Then we cut to the present, and Lips and Robb are playing gigs to small crowds in local bars and working manual labor jobs. But they still have a dream.

The documentary ranges from hilarious to heartbreaking, often in the same scene, such as a sequence on a European tour gone awry where Lips nearly gets into a fistfight with a club owner in Prague who refuses to pay the band because they started the show late. There are many
Spinal Tap moments, including a trip to Stonehenge, a brief search for a new drummer, and several scenes of the band wandering around backstage tunnels looking for the stage. The relationship between Lips and Robb is fleshed out in great detail with moments that show their deep friendship as well as their frustration with each other and their lack of success.

Kudlow is likable, a bit manic, but ultimately endearing because he holds on to his dream, loves his friends and family, and isn't a bit Satanic. And we get sound bites from Anvil fans like Scott Ian, Slash, and Lars Ulrich that emphasize that Anvil's dream was not unrealistic. They are talented musicians with some catchy songs. It's basically a crap shoot as to why they didn't become famous while inferior bands like Great White and Winger did. My best guess would be that Kudlow is a bit too goofy as a frontman. My friend called him "the muppet of heavy metal." He doesn't have the distinctive voice of an Ozzy or the sex appeal of Bret Michaels.

The bulk of the movie covers Anvil's attempts to get money to record their thirteenth album "This is Thirteen" and their efforts to place it with a major label. We end where we began - in Japan - and we feel a bit paralyzed waiting to see if the gig will be a success.

After the film, we were treated to a live performance by Anvil and a Q&A session with the band and the film's director, Sacha Gervasi, who was a teenage roadie for the band during their heyday. Scott Ian came out and joined the band to perform their anthem "Metal on Metal." Anvil looked to be having the time of their lives, playing to the packed and cheering theater. Future plans involve the band and the film touring together. Tour dates will be up soon on the movie website.

Kudlow's and Reiner's friendship and persistence moved me more than I expected, and I left the film feeling touched, rocked, and wanting to kickstart my own dreams. Rock on, Anvil!

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