Hitting the jackpot

Around the start of Spring Term last year I was getting over a really lame breakup. I won’t go into details because it ain’t the business of the PSU student body. All I will say is that it was a brief affair that for a while added some much-needed flavor to my otherwise bland day-to-day. But shit happens, and when it did I needed some cleaning off. I got it in the form of Jackpot Records’ free film fest. I got to see a lot of really great footage and when the festival was over, I felt as if my soul had been thoroughly cleansed and sanitized. I vowed to go to it every day this year as well, which I have done.

Monday night, April 4, was “Public Enemy- It Takes a Nation: London Invasion 1987,” “James Brown’s Future Shock” and “James Brown Live in Boston.” What I liked about last year was that it was a very group-oriented experience. People were singing along, clapping and enjoying the footage as if it were a real concert, but not tonight. On video the concert footage of both Public Enemy and James Brown was quite exceptional. They both killed their audiences, but unfortunately not the audience that was watching in the theater, possibly due to the sound quality. I still enjoyed them, especially James Brown, but my friends and I were probably the only ones groovin’ along with him in our seats.

I never really was a of fan James, but he is and always has been entertaining, especially when fucked-up: those patient enough to sit through the whole concert got to partake in James’ bizarre cocaine-fueled, ’70s dance show, “Future Shock.”

I missed the chance to see the documentary “Jandek on Corwood” when it was playing in town a few months ago. Jandek is a singer/songwriter who has put out over 40 albums of some really weird music that sounds like something out of a David Lynch movie, and yet he’s still managed to remain anonymous. I was happy to get the chance to see it, but the film did get kind of cheesy at points, especially the faux-creepo filler between interviews with various Jandek experts. Sandy Bull’s documentary, “No Deposit No Return Blues” should’ve made his story a little more compelling, but the footage of him playing was actually pretty cool. If you didn’t go on this night you weren’t missing much, but I would recommend getting music from both of these artists.

Being a student of French it was mandatory that I see the Serge Gainsbourg retrospective on Wednesday. Though Monsieur Gainsbourg does fit the French stereotype of a drunken, chain-smoking, misogynist sleazeball, after seeing all his footage I understood why his music is as important to the world of pop music as that of the Beatles. What I didn’t understand was how he kept his voice all of those years with his addiction to Gitanes cigarettes.

The sure cheese of Lee Hazelwood’s “Cowboy in Sweden” also made me smile. It featured him with two very lovely Swedish lasses, along with a few other Swedish bands, and although they did sing in English, they didn’t always have the best grasp on the language, which made it all the more entertaining.

Thursday was the day I was really looking forward to. All that was advertised about it said that it was psychedelic and garage, no specific details. I was really hoping they’d do a repeat of the South American rock documentary “Rock Hasta Que Se Ponga el Sol” which blew my mind when they showed it last year. Instead they showed a lot of different footage of garage and psychedelic music shorts from various movies and television shows with a few clips from concerts. Most of the bands I couldn’t name, a lot of them you could probably find on the Nuggets box set. Some of the best footage included Love (I unfortunately walked in just as they were finishing “Little Red Book”), The 13th Floor Elevators, The Creation, The Move, The Blues Magoos, MC5 and the Seeds. The best was seeing Pink Floyd on some British Television show (before Syd lost his mind) arguing with a very cranky German host.

The movie featuring Johnny Cash “Five Minutes to Live” probably wasn’t the best film, but the Man in Black’s performance wasn’t bad at all. He and a pre-Opie Ron Howard made this mediocre mess of a film much more entertaining. The Cars/Suicide concert footage was a kind of a gyp. I thought there’d be a lot more stuff with Alan Vega going crazy and getting into fights with Cars’ fans. It was just some NBC concert series on an affiliate in Alabama, which had a lot of really funny ’70s era commercials. I’ve never been too into the Cars so I kind of spaced off during their set. There was also some Iggy Pop and Lene Lovich videos, which were quite impressive. Suicide was amazing despite having no fights and the band playing only two songs. A lot of electro-clash bands have tried to match this duo’s poise, style and sound, but can’t even come close.

I don’t know if there will be a third annual film fest, but I am praying for it. If there is, don’t miss it. After all, how could you? It’s free!