Movie Review: Anvil! The Story of Anvil

Tonight, I saw the documentary Anvil: The Story of Anvil at the Magnolia Theater in Dallas, TX. I joined my friends Cliff and Steve, and I really wish Jordan and Eric could have been there. If you have ever been in a band, you need to see this movie. If you’ve ever wondered what being in a band is like, you need to see this movie. Granted, Anvil has been a band since 1977, and even though they have a lifetime of band experiences under their belts, their are certain all-to-familiar similarities between Anvil, my band, your band, and any other band that has ever existed. Here are a few quotes that I really connected with (I wasn’t taking notes, so these may not be exact quotes, but you’ll get the message):

  • “Family’s important shit, man.”
  • “I’m tough to live with. I get emotional.”
  • “We’re brothers! Who else do I have?”
  • “Fuck. We drove around this town for 2 hours trying to find this place.”
  • “I’m a regular guy. I have a job. This is my vacation, and when it’s over I have to go back to doing the same old bullshit.”
  • “No one ever gets paid!”
  • “Where am I gonna get that kind of money?”
  • “I did everything I could.”
  • “I don’t regret a single minute of it.”
Anvil: The Story of Anvil - Robb & Lips on the Couch
Anvil: The Story of Anvil – Robb & Lips on the Couch

I can’t describe how close to home this movie hit for me. My band only lasted 7 years. To compare my band to Anvil is pretty much like someone never playing in a band trying to compare themselves to my band. Unless you’re in a band, you have no idea. Unless you’ve been in a band for 30 years, you can’t begin to empathize with Anvil. But after comparing this documentary to all the experiences I have ever witnessed or heard regarding other bands, I realized that all bands have common experiences which, at their root core, are grounded in 2 things: highly unreasonable optimism and utterly endless frustration. No matter how long you play, every few months you will find yourself right back at the beginning, in one or both of those two mindsets. There are likely more, but those are the attitudes that I recognized most while watching the Anvil documentary.

Anvil Performs Live at the Magnolia Theater in Dallas, TX
Anvil Performs Live at the Magnolia Theater in Dallas, TX

The Story of Anvil is an extensive study in opportunity costs. Those are the opportunities you miss out on by choosing one option over another. Lips and Robb are both married. They have families and day jobs, but they gave up on attaining “real world” careers, stability and wealth by choosing to dedicate 99% of their energy to the band. Their families are supportive, but it’s quite clear that their wives wish they could finally obtain whatever it is that they are searching for. The same sentiments are echoed by their families. And even though it seems that Lips is a great father, I’m sure his son wishes his dad wasn’t about to leave for a 40-day tour or a 6-week stint in a London recording studio. But that is just me speculating. Regardless, I don’t have to speculate about the fact that these guys have given up all sorts of modern luxuries, gadgets, and bigboy toys in order to keep rocking their vintage Marshall stacks, Gibson Flying V’s, and custom drum kits – in sports bars in the greater Toronto area!

There are tons of opportunity costs for these guys, but they are too passionate about the music to really even slow down and notice what could have been. Their music and their dreams prevail over any of that other stuff called real life. However, Lips has noticed that his face is drooping, his belly is getting bigger, his hair is falling out, and he’s getting older. “Before you notice, time has passed you by. You’ve got to do it now!” (Again, that is a major paraphrase job by me, but you get the picture.)

Lips knows that they don’t have forever, and he is hellbent on making music. The thing that seems to remain oblivious to him is that he has been chasing a dream for 30 years, and over the span of 13 albums, he has yet to notice that his winning formula for becoming a rock star has not, does not and will not work (it all has to do with that unreasonable optimism I mentioned earlier). On one hand, it’s downright honorable and respectable to go balls out for 30 years to achieve your childhood dream. And on top of that Anvil is a DIY band at heart, and that makes it even tougher. It’s moving to see dedication and action for a purpose of following a dream and making music that you love. Every time Lips mentions what it’s all about – how 30 years of metal makes for a great life full of wonderful memories – the audience applauded.

On the other hand, Lips is 50-years-old. He placed an entire tour in the hands of a woman he’s never even met and borrowed $25k from his sister to record a 13th Anvil album. I’m a DIY guy all the way, so I respect what he’s doing. But at the same time, it’s depressing to see every ounce of passion destroyed by extremely predictable obstacles and outcomes. [BTW, that was another element of this movie that reminded me of just how tough it was to be in a band for 7 years and never get any breaks.]

Anvil: Canadian Metal Band Since 1977
Anvil: Canadian Metal Band Since 1977

Anvil is the Rocky Balboa of the metal world. They have been playing music for 32 years, and they have the heart of a lion. Personally, I don’t get the feeling that Lips and Robb will ever be done playing music. I believe they are chasing a dream, but I’m not even sure they know what they’re chasing any more. I do not believe they will ever stop playing. Their 14th album could be a chart topper. They could go on a 90 show sold-out world tour, but they would never say, “Well brother, we did it. We reached our dreams. Time to stop playing.” Nope. These guys are lifers. A chart-topping album would only reinforce their dreams to keep making music. Either way, album #15 will be on the way shortly.

Despite constant setbacks and bad news, Anvil will find a way to keep it going. It’s almost analogous to that van that your band had at one point. You know, the one you swear you put $10,000 into one year – just so it would keep getting you from show to show. Yep, these guys will find a way to record more albums and play more shows. They will be rocking for years to come, and that makes me happy. And a little jealous.

Carter Albrecht CD Release Party Tonight at the Granada Theater in Dallas, TX

Carter Albrecht CD Release Party: Jesus is Alive…and Living in London

Carter Albrecht CD Release Party at the Granada Theater in Dallas, TX
Carter Albrecht CD Release Party at the Granada Theater in Dallas, TX

Carter Albrecht’s Solo CD Release Party will be tonight at the Granada Theater. The CD, titled Jesus is Alive…and Living in London, features 9 original tracks by Carter Albrecht. Just in case you need to copy and past the details, here you go:

  • When: Thursday, May 28, 2009
  • Where: The Famous Granada Theater in Dallas, TX
  • Host: Dave Little
  • 8:20pm: Danny Balis solo project
  • 9:00pm: Trey Johnson solo project
  • 10:00pm: Live performances of Carter’s music by John Dufilho & Don Cento, Sarah Jaffe, Trey Johnson, Salim Nourallah, Jayson Bales, Chris Holt, Danny Balis and Ward Williams (with The Slack & Shibboleth as backing bands)
Carter Albrecht
Carter Albrecht

Carter Albrecht was a musical inspiration, and he certainly has a place in the hearts of Darth Vato. Carter was a Jedi, and the quality of his solo CD only proves it even more. Here is the track list for Jesus is Alive and Living in London:

Carter Albrecht CD - Jesus is Alive...And Living in London
Carter Albrecht CD – Jesus is Alive…And Living in London
  1. Jesus Light
  2. Country Living
  3. Rome
  4. Rivers Into Rum
  5. When You’re Younger
  6. Jesus Is Alive…and Living in London
  7. GODOT
  8. Sparrows
  9. The Sign

I hope you are able to make it out to the show tonight. Be sure to pick up a CD, too. It is amazing. If you can’t make it to the show, you can pick up the CD on iTunes here. And if you’re just really interested in more information on Carter Albrecht, here are some awesome links:

Cheers!

Ben Harper & Relentless7 Hit Number 1 on iTunes Charts for Week Ending May 10, 2009

Ben Harper & Relentless7 Top iTunes Charts
Ben Harper & Relentless7 Top iTunes Charts

Holy crap! Ben Harper & Relentless7 topped the iTunes charts at #1 for the week ending May 10th. Those guys deserve it, too. Their album, White Lies for Dark Times, is an experience. Go buy it.

From TheTimesHerald.com (here):

Singles:

1. “Boom Boom Pow,” Black Eyed Peas
2. “Don’t Trust Me,” 3OH!3
3. “No Surprise,” Daughtry
4. “Poker Face,” Lady GaGa
5. “Blame It,” Jamie Foxx
6. “Sugar (featuring Wynter),” Flo Rida
7. “Day ’n’ Nite,” Kid Cudi
8. “Old Time’s Sake (featuring Dr. Dre),” Eminem
9. “The Climb,” Miley Cyrus
10. “Halo,” Beyonce

Albums:

1. “White Lies For Dark Times,” Ben Harper and Relentless7
2. “Epiphany,” Chrisette Michele
3. “Twilight (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack),” Various Artists
4. “Only by the Night,” Kings of Leon
5. “Star Trek,” Michael Giacchino
6. “All I Ever Wanted,” Kelly Clarkson
7. “Fantasy Ride,” Ciara
8. “The Fame,” Lady GaGa
9. “Hannah Montana: The Movie (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack),” Miley Cyrus, Hannah Montana
10. “With Roots Above and Branches Below,” The Devil Wears Prada

Congrats to Ben, Jesse, Jason and Jordan. I can’t wait for the second album, so get on it already!

Bonus: Here’s Ben Harper & Relentless7 performing their single, Shimmer and Shine, on the Late Show with David Letterman:

Today I Learned About Forces

Forces hold everything together. There are strong forces and weak forces. There are electromagnetic forces and gravitational forces. Cohesive forces hold together molecules of the same type, like water molecules. Adhesive forces hold together objects of differing types, like chalk adhering to a chalkboard. Some forces only impact objects within a finite range, while other forces have an infinte range of impact (like gravity for instance). Today I learned that a local band can be a force in a community, in a group of friends, in a family, and in the life of an individual.

Today we buried Jon Ward. The funeral was extremely moving. The burial was beautiful. A few hundred people and a sunny sky. It really hit me today that a local band can impact the world in a variety of ways. That a local band could be a force that provides inspiration. That a local band could lift the spirit of a man fighting for his life. That a local band could be a cohesive and adhesive force for a group of friends. That a local band could bring a smile to the faces of a grieving family. Darth Vato brought friends together and made people happy. That might just be the greatest memory I’ll have of our little band.

Jon Ward had a significant impact on us all. He was a force of compassion that apparently had an infinite range. Today I was humbled by the support and love shown for Jon. I sincerely felt lucky and blessed to have known him. He obviously had a deep connection with a lot of people, and it was very easy to see that in the slideshow. In a way, it seemed like people smiled bigger in pictures with Jon. He just brought that out of people. God must need more of that in Heaven.

RIP, Jon. We miss you so much already.

Ben Harper & Relentless 7 White Lies for Dark Times Out Now!

Ben Harper & Relentless 7
Ben Harper & Relentless 7

Guess what? It’s Cinco de Mayo 2009, and Ben Harper‘s new record, White Lies for Dark Times, comes out today. Ben’s new band is called Relentless 7, and the band is made up of people I know. How weird is that? Jesse (bass), Jason (guitar), and Jordan (drums) were all members of a Led Zeppelin cover band called Pudge Zeppelin. They were also members of other bands (Oliver Future, Wan Santo Condo) that I got to see several times at the Moon bar in Fort Worth, TX. But now they are on to bigger and better things. And when I say “bigger and better” I mean an international tour and a badass new record with Ben Harper! The album is called White Lies for Dark Times, and you should go get it.

White Lies for Dark Times - Ben Harper & Relentless 7
White Lies for Dark Times – Ben Harper & Relentless 7

If you know me at all, you probably know about my lack of knowledge for all things music, especially rock music. I know pretty much next to nothing about 1970’s rock music, but after hearing this new album, it’s easy to hear the influences and the style they are tackling. The style is there. The tones are there. I saw them play much of the album live on a National Geographic webcast from Rome, Italy. And I’ve listened to the entire album on MySpace. After those two listening sessions, I’m practically a Relentless7 know-it-all. Not really. Anyways, I think Ben Harper & Relentless7 created an album that is everything a rock album should be. I recommend it.

Jordan Richardson in the studio with Darth Vato (2003)
Jordan Richardson in the studio with Darth Vato (2003)

If you didn’t already know, Jordan Richardson (drums) produced and engineered all 4 Darth Vato records. He kind of grew up with us as a band. He taught me so much about tone, and he was a very big influence on me taking an interest in music gear, specifically guitar amps. I met Jordan in 1999 (Looking back, it’s kind of a weird story. I might tell you about some other time), and from the moment I met him I knew he would eventually be a famous musician.

There are very few people that have a spark about them. It’s like a passion or a force that is driving them, and you can just tell that one day all the stars will align. For some people, talent and hard work will eventually meet up with luck and opportunity. Jordan is one of those people. He’s extremely talented, and he has put in a lot of work. His music dreams are coming true. Seeing how the music industry is an extremely tough environment in which to succeed, it’s awesome to know that is happening for a friend of mine. Now go buy the record. I wanna see that thing #1 on the Billboard charts. All over the world, even!

RIP Jon Ward

Jon Ward at a Darth Vato show
Jon Ward at a Darth Vato show

A friend of mine passed away this morning. Jon Ward was awesome. He was a friend. He was a fighter. He was diagnosed with 2 types of cancers 365 day ago, and he’s been fighting for his life every day since that moment. Jon, we’re going to miss you, brother. I remember getting pissed when you were knocking people around in the pit at our shows because we had to deal with the aftermath of angry fans and even angrier club owners. But there was a part of me that was always glad to see you starting a pit because people in Fort Worth still don’t know what to do when a band starts to play a punk song. You were definitely a visionary in that realm, and when you started a pit, you made us feel like we were a badass punk band. When the scene changed from a punk show pit to a hospital bed, you continued to show us how courageous and brave you were. I oftened wondered if I could put up the same fight if I had to. I’m not sure I would have been able to do it. You were an inspiration to us all. Now there’s no more pain and you’re in a better place. Speaking of that, you’ve got the only Darth Vato tattoo in all of Heaven. Hopefully, St. Peter is okay with that! Jon, we love you and wish you the peace that only God’s love can bring. God bless you and your family. We’re going to miss you.

May 6, 2009 Update: Jon Ward’s Obituary here; Guestbook here

Perfect Timing for Our Last Show

Darth Vato at our last show
Darth Vato at our last show

I played in a band for 7 years. We had our last show on Sat, April 27, 2009. It was a good thing, too. The next day, the only thing on TV was pig flu news. And the pig flu flew fast. It was in other countries within a couple of days. Or maybe the media was just jumping to conclusions. Pig Flu Pandemic must be one of the landing spots on the media’s Jump To Conclusions mat. If we were playing a show this weekend, I might be worried about the pig flu. Or maybe not. It almost sounds like it would be better to get the pig flu, so I could be immune to pig flu in the future.

It turns out that the pig flu raised its ugly head back in the 1970’s. 1976 to be exact. Apparently, President Ford ordered that all Americans get a swine flu shot. I read somewhere that 25% of all americans got a swine flu shot that year, but the pig flu turned out to be no big deal. I hope it stays that way in 2009. The last thing we need is one more thing to be worried about. I really don’t want to wake up one day and see people bringing out their dead.

And on a lighter note, check out this PSA from the 1976 pig flu scare. In the second commercial, they keep saying, “Betty’s mother gave it to _______.” They make the pig flu sound kinda dirty.