SLAMDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! I have to be honest. If I see another rise and fall documentary about an obscure band, I’m going to scream. In the case of Chelsea Christer’s Bleeding Audio, my screams are for joy (I can’t believe I wrote that. I’m so sorry).
Do you know who The Matches are? I didn’t, but now do and am now a fan. The Matches comes from the San Francisco Bay Area music scene from the late 90s. The band (previously known as The Locals) consists of vocalist Shawn Harris, lead guitarist Jonathan Devoto, bassist Justin San Souci, and drummer Matt Whalen. The Matches were the quintessential brilliant band that never reached their true heights compared to NorCal contemporaries, like Green Day and the Plain White T’s.
The four lads met in high school, and from the start, they had a fantastic sound. Their fan base grew from a local grassroots movement, and their success came from their ability to press their own CDs and merch, and put on a kickass show. Their exposure reached national prominence when they toured with the Plain White T’s.
With growing popularity, The Matches were approached by numerous record companies, and being the savvy businessmen that they were, they held out for the best deal. They’d eventually sign with Epitaph Records and produce three studio albums: E. Von Dahl Killed the Locals, Decomposer, and A Band in Hope. As bands do, especially those that warrant a documentary, they fall short of their potential, and they break up.
“…their success came from their ability to press their own CDs and merch, and put on a kickass show.”
Bleeding Audio has all the critical ingredients of an exceptional music documentary. First is the music. 90s rock coming out of the Bay Area was exceptional. The Matches were hard rock/ punk with little bits of everything else (like ska). After watching the doc, I headed straight to my streaming service, and they’re on my playlist now.
We also have fantastic subjects. Each band member is likable and down-to-earth and has an equally amazing insight into what happened to their friendship and the music business. The best part of the film is their reflections on being a band in the 90s and how fame, art, and the grind of touring affected them.
The Matches were essentially kids—high school students—thrust into stardom and forced to become adults fast with arguably disastrous results. As brilliant as they were toward the business, they were just as naïve. They fell victim to the corporate record company rat-race and all at the worst time of the music business as the world was quickly switching to digital and the monster known as Napster. They were not necessarily cheated or scammed, but in the end, they had nothing to show financially for their years of hard work. And then there’s the band’s rebirth.
Again, we get a lot of documentaries all the time about bands and artists that “could” and “should” have been more; there are countless stories of bad break-ups and financial ruin. Bleeding Audio and The Matches tell a similar story, but the music, the band, and their fandom set this film apart from those other stories. Seek out Bleeding Audio and enjoy.
"…the music, the band, and their fandom set this film apart from those other stories."