photo manipulation by nacrowe
most bands, whatever their AESTHETIC or scene affiliations, are involved on some level of paying homage to their own PUBLIC PERSONA. deep in there somewhere is a nugget of personality or marketing that separates them from their peers. for me the MELVINS HASTILY-EDITED tour documentary MELVINS: ACROSS THE USA IN 51 DAYS (IPECAC, 2015) is all about DISMANTLING whatever ROMANTIC notions you had left of the touring ROCK AND ROLL lifestyle.
shot on what has to be camera phones by various members and edited in the most RUDIMENTARY of styles with varying sound quality, this on the face of it is FILM VERITE gone HORRIBLE. it follows the band on their 2012 as they attempted to break a world record of playing 51 shows in all 50 states (and WASHINGTON DC) in 51 days. that sounds AWESOME in theory but what you find in practice is a BRUTAL, fiendishly FAST-PACED touring schedule that delivers them to CIVIC AUDITORIUMS, VFW HALLS, COMMUNITY CENTERS and TINY THEATERS the throughout the country. you get to see the firsthand the SKETCHY TRUCK STOPS and UNINVITING ROADSIDE RESTAURANTS along small FORGOTTEN faraway bastions of the continental UNITED STATES. which make you feel ISOLATED just watching it and questioning yourself over and over again: why do this to yourself? honestly, why?
and that is why this documentary is VITAL. this is not BOB DYLAN in '66 or THE ROLLING STONES in '72 or even LED ZEPPELIN in '77, this is rural AMERICA up close and UNADORNED. reminds me of my two trips to IOWA (don't ask) and how the minute i landed their i immediately felt a surge of REGRET and FEAR of being deserted unlike anything else i've experienced before or since. and that includes traveling in remote villages in AFRICA, SOUTHEAST ASIA and THE BALKANS.
there is nothing remotely SEXY or INVITING about this film, its all FRUSTRATION and huamn SUFFERING and that is why it is absolutely required viewing in my opinion. probably one of the more HONEST accounts of touring life i have seen in years if ever.