We Fun not so much

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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.

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Comments

  1. LovethatPBR

    May 18, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    great blog post. Some people say our indie arts culture is just empty hipsterism; this film feeds that assumption.

  2. An Artist

    June 13, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    We Fun is a better documentary than “We Fun not so much” is a headline. The sentence including the phrase “and, well, WE Fun really isn’t” is just bad writing. When you watch a movie, Steve, it isn’t your place to bring your baggage in and then use it to criticize the end result.

    And what does your final sentence have to do with anything? I suppose your written features are all a cultural rainbow?

    To the commentor LovethatPBR: Which people say “our indie arts culture is just empty hipsterism”? What does that even mean? Whose fault is it that the rock idiom is tired or that typical musicians aren’t scholars or character actors flipping a switch when the cameras roll?