Chicago International Movies and Music Festival, April 14–17
Highlights of this year’s CIMMF include docs on Ministry, the Replacements, Fishbone and Creation Records. Ha Ha Tonka and Mike Watt provide the in-the-flesh noise.
The bulk of the CIMMF consists of documentaries about music groups. Dozens of them, covering everything from Mott the Hoople to Ugandan break-dancers. Oh, and there’s a Canadian musical about hockey, as well. Perhaps it’s merely our nostalgia, but the film highlights focus on many of the bands that led us to be music writers.
There’s sensationalism in spades in FIX: The Ministry Movie (Thursday 14). Backstage with the legendary Chicago industrial-metal act on tour, we see every side of Al Jourgensen. By film’s end, that means syringes, bulletproof vests and groupies.
Color Me Obsessed (Friday 15) is one of the more fascinating entries; it tells the story of the Replacements without using archival footage, the band’s music or living members. Instead, the rise and self-destruction of the Minneapolis greats is seen through the eyes of fans and peers. It works better than you’d expect, capturing the joy of talking about music. Sure, there are some ridiculously rose-tinted fanboy statements, such as calling Stink one of the best two American records ever made. But by the end you’re absolutely itching to play some Mats.
Long before the term Afro-punk was coined, let alone branded, ska trailblazers Fishbone were blowing minds on the L.A. underground. The group’s 30-plus-year career is chronicled in the bittersweet doc Everyday Sunshine (Saturday 16). Flea, Perry Farrell and Gwen Stefani offer testimony to the black band’s greatness, and almost feel guilty that their respective bands now enjoy the mainstream success that forever eluded their onetime peers.
Whenever Noel Gallagher opens his mouth, something brazen or hilarious comes out. And the Oasis man features heavily in Upside Down: The Creation Records Story (Friday 15), alongside other ’90s Brit-rock greats like Bobby Gillespie. It’s the slickest, most professional-looking doc of the fest. But what do you expect from a label that spent a quarter-million pounds on a My Bloody Valentine record?
Though far outweighed by screenings, there are some live gigs under the CIMMF umbrella as well. Fresh off an appearance on Anthony Bourdain’s show, Mizzourah storytellers Ha Ha Tonka (Saturday 16) whip up a storm with emotional folk-rock. The foursome’s latest, Death of a Decade, is as deeply indebted to the Ozarks as Winter’s Bone—kinda depressing, but strangely beautiful. And no squirrels were harmed in its making. Probably.
Sure, you can watch We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen (Friday 15), but it’s almost pointless. Bassist Mike Watt, punk’s cool uncle, is still on the road, touring in shitty vans and living the DIY dream. The 53-year-old keeps on sporting beaten flannel shirts and aggressively thumbing his instrument in funky, scrappy power trios, the latest being Mike Watt & The Missingmen (Friday 15). Besides, the guy is so nice, he’d likely buy you a drink and tell you the story of the Minutemen himself.
CIMMF runs Thursday 14 through Sunday 17. Find the complete lineup at cimmfest.org.