Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sundance - Sound City - 4 stars

This is a documentary directed by Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters).  It starts out focusing on Sound City, a legendary studio in LA where numerous classic albums were recorded.  The studio recently shut down, and Grohl interviewed a bunch of the artists who recorded there, including Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, Cheap Trick, Rick Springfield, Ratt, and many others.

The best things about the studio were the drum sound and the board.  Drums sound different in every room, and even though Sound City was not designed as a studio, the drums sounded better in there than just about anywhere else.  The sound board was a specially made Neve console.  Only 4 of them were ever made.

I really enjoyed the interviews with the musicians.  There are some great stories told, including how Stevie Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac (it was because of Sound City).  The segment where they talk about the digital revolution and Pro Tools is particularly good.  My favorite interview subject was Tom Petty.  He has a great droll sense of humor, and he just doesn't seem to give a shit.  He was hilarious.

When Sound City closed, Dave Grohl bought the Neve console and put it in his home studio.  The second half of the documentary shows how he invited all these musicians to come record an album which would become the soundtrack to this movie.  We see various musicians writing and recording in Grohl's studio.

The movie started to bore me a little in this segment, as it went on longer than it needed to.  It seemed like the movie was becoming an advertisement to buy the soundtrack.  But then Paul McCartney shows up and the movie gets great again.  There is something incredible about watching a legend like McCartney writing a song with Grohl and his friends, and it makes you realize that he writes a song like many other musicians.  First you work out a guitar riff and jam with the other musicians, then the song starts to take shape.

This is a movie that everyone who has ever been in a band needs to see.  In addition to all the stuff that's specific to the board and the studio, the movie also has a great message about what it means to be an artist, and how we shouldn't be afraid to be ourselves or be afraid of failure.  At the Q&A, Grohl said his advice to every young person interested in music is to buy a cheap guitar at a yard sale, get together with some friends and start a band.  I am in a couple bands, and watching the movie made me want to get the band together to write and record.  It's inspiring.

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