Tuesday, June 21, 2011

“These Magnificent Miles: On The Long Road With Red Wanting Blue” (Davenport Motion Pictures)

What is the true measure of success? Stardom? Money? A record deal/book contract/movie-studio greenlighting? The satisfaction that many people appreciate your work, even though the size of their audience pales in comparison to, say, Lady Gaga’s? A loving family? Food on the table on a regular basis?

The members of indie-rock band Red Wanting Blue have enjoyed a few of those measures of success for some years. Over the course of their first fourteen years as a working unit, they had the support of family and friends, they ate and had rooves over their heads (even if it was thanks to working day jobs unrelated to their aspirations to be full-time professional musicians), and yes, they had the adoration of thousands of devoted fans over a wide geographical area. But the members of the band (hereafter referred to as RWB) were long frustrated by their failure to secure a recording contract. True, they released 8 CD’s on their own and toured nationally to great acclaim, hailed by both audiences and critics. Still, the brass ring always managed to elude them.

Goodness knows it was not for lack of trying, because - as this documentary film by producer-director Ken Davenport illustrates - the members of RWB have been bona fide road warriors, touring incessantly and gaining followers everywhere they’ve played. Goodness also knows it was not for lack of merit, as the performances shown on this DVD - featuring the distinctive,. emotion-laden baritone voice of Scott Terry - are uniformly fine. The band is tight, the songs are suitably melodic, with lyrics that often verge on the anthemic, the arrangements are accessible, yet creative. They would seem to be doing everything right. Even a recording executive who was interviewed for the film acknowledges the quality of the group. He just didn’t feel that what RWB offered could translate into major mainstream national success - yet, their faithful fan base continued to grow.

Davenport wisely lets the band tell their own story, of good times blending with hard times, of great gigs, long drives, musical satisfactions and frustrations, personnel problems and solutions, of a group of musicians in their late 20’s and early 30’s worried that time has already past them by. We see footage of the band throughout their long career, dating back to the days when OAR opened for RWB in Columbus, OH. But OAR took off, and RWB didn’t. We get interviews with family, friends, and fans, all of whom are mystified by tthe band’s lack of mainstream attention.

The film doesn’t beat you over the head - as some documentaries do - with manic shouts on the order of “You gotta love this band! You’re a fool if you don’t love this band”, because it doesn’t have to. The evidence is there, in plain sight and sound. This band should be as big as, oh, Matchbox 20 ten years ago, or Maroon 5 - what did they have that RWB lacks? Yet despite that national fan base and a trail of critical raves, no one would so much as give them a chance.

Thus,, we see them involved in the mundane tasks which they feel a recording contract would relieve them of - putting CD’s into envelopes, stuffing envelopes into boxes, hauling boxes to the post office. Tasks that a record company can hire underlings to take care of. Tasks that a 14-year veteran band with a national following should in theory not have to devote time and energy to.

Atrthe end of the movie, we learn that since the original filming, the band finally was signed to a record deal, not with SONY or Warner, but with Fanatic, whose boss saw in RWB the potential that other record execs inexplicably missed. Since that time, the band has yet to crack the upper reaches of stardom, but their time may yet be coming.

“These Magnificent Miles” - the film is named after their most recent CD - is well-filmed, intelligently edited, thoughtfully paced. But its most noteworthy accomplishment is that it features a number of full-length concert performances and scenes shot in recording studios to give the viewer a very real sense of what this band does and what level of excellence RWB has attained. In the end, you’re left rooting for the band to make it. Ken Davenport has thus done his job.

The film itself is an hour long. There is an unnecessary deleted scene, plus two music videos. Check out the films website, at http://www.redwantingbluemovie.com/

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