Thursday, March 18, 2010

Raq 'N' Roll

I saw an interesting documentary last night. "Heavy Metal in Baghdad" is about a group of Iraqi guys who play in a metal band. The only metal band in the city. The filmmakers brave danger to follow them around, though they only actually play about one performance a year, and risk punishment for looking and acting "western." Of course I can relate to "guys in a rock band" aspect of it, but I think I was more fascinated by it because I rarely get to look into the lives of people of my generation, who speak English, wear band T-shirts, and say "dude" all the time, who happen to be from Iraq. I didn't even know that existed there, but some people risk death to do it.

Gunfire is just another background sound to these people. The city has a 9 p.m. curfew, but these guys know to be in by 5 or 6 just to be "safe." At one point, their practice space is hit by a missile. Again, the "band" aspect aside, this is an incredible look at what your average, innocent citizen of Baghdad has gone through since the U.S. decided it was going to be the ultimate terrorists and turn the place into hell on earth.

Finally the guys all end up in Syria, where millions of Iraqis have fled to. (The film also points out just how many Iraqi refugees there are in the surrounding countries, while the U.S. has let in less than 500 of them as of 2007 or so.) They decide to play one more show there, at a pool hall which has never held a concert before. The show goes well, and you can see it in their eyes after they leave the crowd of 25 people cheering--they just wanna rock! And so they decide to keep going as a band, whatever they may mean.

We also see the band as they react to what the filmmakers had shot up to that point. It's great to see them react to seeing themselves as "stars," before the whole feeling changes as they see footage of their destroyed practice space.

I haven't even gotten into the personalities of the members, and honestly, I missed the beginning, so I could be leaving out vital information, but just go see the thing, eh?

Oh, and there's an update...I searched it online and found out that this band just recently was allowed into the U.S.! They were able to find jobs in the NYC-area and actually played a show in Brooklyn. I loved seeing the picture of them with the long hair they're now allowed to grow....hopefully they do a tour, that would be fun to see.

Also, Alex Chilton died. It amazes me when someone of a certain musical era goes on to exist in another. To make music people like is hard, but to do it again and again as times and tastes change is almost unheard of. How can the guy who sang "my baby, a-wrote me a letter," be in a band decades later, not just as an oldies band or something, but as one that the current youth care about? That'd be like if the guy from Strawberry Alarm Clock was later in Lynyrd Skynyrd.... He was! See what I mean? Okay, maybe not a great example, but still, different eras, styles, same people....
This film sounds interesting.

Plus, Chilton wrote/recorded The Letter when he was 16 (maybe 17?). I know he was still playing but I thought it was sporadic. ... I remember his mid-80s stuff because I was doing college radio, but I didn't care much for it. ... Check out a couple of Big Star vinyl rips from my new favourite blog.

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Location: Rhode Island, United States