Score

Underground movies and rebel music hook up in the Sound Unseen Festival

 

Iggy Pop: Live at the Avenue B
Bryant-Lake Bowl, 10:00 p.m. Sunday, September 28

Amid the generic nubility and two-toned dick-grabbing at the most recent Video Music Awards, the most striking impression was made by Iggy Pop. Sporting a long spill of early Brad Pitt hair, his every starved facial sinew stretched taut, Iggy looked as if he had just returned from a long summer session with Keith Richards's monkey-gland doctor. I hoped this appearance of rude good health would translate into some buoyant fun here, but, as Thomas Hardy taught us, "Hope is the bird that lives on a drop and a crumb"--or, in this case, on no real nutrients at all. Indeed, Avenue B finds Iggy's formerly irruptive punk effrontery being machine-pressed into standard-issue cock rock. --Matthew Wilder

Iggy Pop
Iggy Pop

 

Let Me Be Your Band
Bryant-Lake Bowl, 7:30 p.m. Monday, September 29

Finally, the real reason why people start one-man bands--they can't find any back-up musicians willing to deal with the frontman's neuroses. Perhaps that's what Derek and Heather Emerson were thinking when they decided to profile Hasil Adkins, the Lonesome Organist, Bob Log III, and other innovative musicians who will never have to split their wages with the drummer. While it's interesting to hear the history of those artists who first strapped a tambourine to their feet and a harmonica to their face, the real fascination of this documentary lies in watching the ambidextrous performances. With self-made instruments, self-promoted shows, and a whole lot of self-love, even a banjo-strumming drummer becomes the embodiment of punk rock. With the documentary short "Shooby," about William "Shooby" Taylor, the "Human Horn." --Melissa Maerz

 

The M-80 Project
Oak Street Cinema, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 1

Sort of The T.A.M.I. Show of new wave, this previously "lost" 1979 concert video captures the first international festival of the alternative scene--and at that naive moment before music videos and hardcore entered the picture. Shot at the University of Minnesota field house, the film features 16 of the 23 bands that played, including DEVO (under their Christian-rock pseudonym, Dove), the Suicide Commandos (doing a breathtaking "Complicated Fun"), the Suburbs ("Cows"), the Monochrome Set (from the U.K.), Tuxedomoon (San Francisco), the Fleshtones (New York), and Minneapolis legend Curtiss A. Anyone who thinks the Rapture have a new idea should note the Contortions' cover of Chic's "Good Times." --Peter S. Scholtes

 

Screamin' Jay Hawkins: I Put a Spell on Me
Oak Street Cinema, 3:00 p.m. Saturday, September 27

This unflattering documentary portrait of the man with the buggy eyes and the skull cane has him joking about Ray Charles in a fish market, thinking he's in a whorehouse--a gag so repellent I wanted to send the screener to Paul Schrader in hopes that he'd make an incriminating bio-pic of this loathsome man. The real interest here is the batch of white hipsters who guiltily bow before the entertainer: Jim Jarmusch pats himself on the back for paying Hawkins to use "I Put a Spell on You" in Stranger than Paradise, while Diamanda Galas suggests that the man should play Carnegie Hall in tux and tails--a more exuberant image than any in the doc's own concert footage. --Matthew Wilder

 

Sh*t from Shynola
Oak Street Cinema, 7:30 p.m. Monday, September 29

Powerlines tap dance, robots sing, video game heroes sob over mankind--it's all we can do not to sit there like simple fleshpods, immobilized by the sci-fi creations of the artists known as Shynola. In their music videos for bands like Radiohead, Lambchop, Junior Senior, and Stephen Malkmus, this London-based art collective conjures a strange omniverse that's eerily animated in both senses of the word. Their cartoons are a sly joke about art in an age of cold reproduction. Kicking off with the gorgeously melancholy short "The Littlest Robo," Sh*t From Shynola plays with the human side of machines--and ultimately, the mechanistic nature of humanity. With a live music set by Rick McCollum at 7:00 p.m. --Melissa Maerz

 

Tom Dowd and the Language of Music
Oak Street Cinema, 9:30 p.m. Saturday, September 27 and 5:00 p.m. Sunday, October 5

Director Mark Moorman's doc is a biography of the late Atlantic Records engineer responsible for some of the most important R&B, rock, and jazz records ever made. A physics wonderboy who worked on the Manhattan Project, Tom Dowd bagged college and the military to become Atlantic's tech wiz. Boyishly exuberant at the time of these interviews, he's still amazed at his DeLillo pinball of a life, drawing scant distinction between his awe at witnessing the Bikini bomb test and the joy of getting his first 8-track machine. The film ends with Dowd sitting at the ivories, reciting Irving Berlin's "I Love a Piano"--a guy still blown away by the simple relationship between man and technology. With a 9:00 p.m. set by DJ Aldric before the Saturday screening. --Jon Dolan

 

Los Zafiros: Music from the Edge of Time
Oak Street Cinema, 5:30 p.m. Sunday, September 28

Hearing the sublime Cuban doo-wop of Los Zafiros (the Sapphires) for the first time is akin to waking up today from a five-decade slumber to discover Dion, the Platters, or maybe Frankie Valli. This proficient and rigorously apolitical doc recounts the 1960s heyday of these Havana superstars, and features the sentimental peregrinations of the group's two surviving members. Alcohol, as it will, cuts through the nostalgia to provoke some real emotions, but it's the performance footage that you won't forget. The counter-tenor crooning of Ignacio Elejalde at the end of the film is flatly astonishing. And the bossa body-jive of heartthrob El Chino reveals a glimpse of one of the sexiest singers I've ever seen. --Michael Tortorello

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