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We Fun not so much

For the next few days, you can view "We Fun" -- the documentary about Atlanta's indie rock scene -- in its entirety at Pitchfork, the barometer of the hipster set. The movie, made by a pair of Nashville filmmakers, is supposedly inspired by a 1987 documentary called "Inside/Out," which featured some seminal bands from Athens, including REM, the B-52s, Pylon, Love Tractor, and others. Chris Dortch, one of the filmmakers, talked to Paste in late 2007, when the documentary was still very much a work in progress. In the interview, he said that there is a "legitimate love and camaraderie" among Atlanta's indie rock bands that "you don't find in other cities."

I spent seventy-two minutes of my Friday evening streaming the film and, well, "We Fun" really isn't. But before I get into that, a moment for a full disclosure: Atlanta Magazine figures into a scene late in the film. Back in January, 2008, we organized a photo shoot of the filmmakers with many of the bands featured in the film. Several dozen musicians gathered on the stage of the Variety Playhouse, and just seconds after the photographer started shooting, Black Lips guitarist Cole Alexander opened a fire extinguisher that sent everyone running and coated thousands of dollars of sound and lighting equipment with fire retardant. As it turns out, the post-mess scene outside the Variety is the funniest bit of the movie: Black Lips bassist Jared Swilley tearing into Alexander for ruining the photo shoot and wasting everyone's time, while some other dude tries to defend Alexander by saying because there was no alcohol at the shoot, the organizers "had it coming." (You can see this in the "Strange Faces" chapter of the documentary.)

The scene to me sort of crystallizes what's wrong with the movie -- there's a lot of rock-star affectation, as if the musicians felt their performances on stage weren't enough, and so they had to keep up appearances offstage by swilling alcohol, talking nonsense directly to the camera, rolling around on beds with each other, and creating mayhem for its own sake. It occurred to me that the whole movie might be satirical, but in interviews I've seen with the filmmakers, they seem genuinely envious of Atlanta's music scene and wanted to capture that energy. And in the scenes at clubs and in basements where bands are actually playing, they do capture it. The problem is in between. In the past  half-century, rock-and-roll excess has become such a cliche that it's hard to capture anything truly new, and so when fresh bands are coming up, they're faced with a conundrum -- do we play to type or do we go the other way? In "We Fun," too many bands opt for the former.

On the other hand, the movie promises to be a great time capsule, capturing indie rock fashion at its stinky peak. And if you're not from here, you'd think Atlanta was the whitest city in Christendom.