Mention the name Jeff Krulik anywhere around here (Washington DC and environs) and four words generally come to mind: “Heavy Metal Parking Lot.” Made with Jeff Heyn, that quintessential back yard short, which the homegrown filmmakers shot of Judas Priest fans in the parking lot (doh!) of the now deceased Capital Centre in Largo, MD, will mark its 25-birthday next year (and celebrations will occur). But in early May 1985 (a year before the filmmakers shot whacked-out heavy metal fans in that well known Prince Georges County asphalt patch just outside the Washington Beltway), there was a whole lot of carousing going on in a (then) somewhat remote area of Potomac (Montgomery County), MD, a posh northwestern suburb of the nation’s capital. At the time I was living in neighboring Bethesda, maybe 10 minutes from the locale of what was basically a party of high school kids (many from Winston Churchill H.S., where my kids would attend a decade+ later), out getting drunk and high, and hoping for a pleasant, parent-free weekend of music from some area R&B, “Southern Boogey,” rock ‘n’ roll and heavy metal bands. Billed as Full Moon Jamboree, a thousand or so kids gathered in a field, their cars passing close-by mansions, their music often annoying those homes’ disapproving inhabitants. Long before cell phones, iPods (heck Apple’s Macintosh computer was barely a year old), and other present day means of social connectivity, it was invitation by flyer, land-line phone, and other antique word-of-mouth techniques.
Jeff Krulik wasn’t there. He didn’t get the memo.
Rudy Childs was, with a new Panasonic video camera (quite the novelty among the concert-goers) and some of his friends. He shot about 45 minutes of home movie video on VHS tape before the gizmo’s battery died and he got too drunk to care about finding somewhere to re-charge it. One of Rudy’s buddies had a CBS News microphone, a “gift” from the Reagan presidential inaugural, its centrality in many frames becoming part of the film’s many amusing anecdotes. Randy’s crew pry the crowd with the camera and poke their microphone into any willing mug, many obliviously s**t-faced to the wind to remember it years later.
It was 20 years later before Jeff learned of the footage and met the key figures behind the event, including promoter Billy Gordon and residents Tito Cantero, Ken Guillette, and Chris Lucid, who lived near the concert area in a place called “The Farm,” where they perfected the fine art of partying. Jeff found some news coverage (featuring some still active local talent) with Gordon and elsewhere, shot more video with key “personnel” and attendees, and with NYC-based editor Greg DeLiso, has crafted a heavenly inspired work. Five years later, “Heavy Metal Picnic” had its premiere (early beta releases have made the rounds, including a presentation at 2009’s Found Footage Festival) in Silver Spring, another DC suburb and home to the American Film Institute’s Silver Theatre.AFI hosted the screening on Friday, August 6 to a near capacity crowd. (The post-film partying, with many of the 1985 event survivors in tow, is undoubtedly still playing on at McGinty’s Pub as I write this piece.) Krulik has often had successful, turn-away audiences at AFI for his array of snappy, likable, and generally non-commercial (i.e., personal) projects, including the February 2007 presentation of his “The Legend of Merv Conn,” about an area accordionist. “Picnic” was shown as part of AFI’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Showcase (MARS), which highlights newsworthy filmmaking from the region, featuring both locally made films and the work of filmmakers with local ties.
What makes “Heavy Metal Picnic” zip by is how Krulik has taken the original footage and juxtaposed his new material featuring the same characters 20+ years on in their lives, including event creator Billy Gordon, now based in Orange County, California, where he produces Motorcycle Enthusiast events, as well as the guys whose field was used for the occasion. There’s no story, per se, but the audio-visual presentation (presented on Digibeta) had a serene fluidity and humorous undercurrent that sweep the audience up with delight. It’s a rousing success, as one lively individual follows another on screen, some with more memories left intact, others with a bare minimum. Krulik trains his camera on some watching the original footage for the first time in decades, recognizing themselves in various states of disarray and drunkenness. The director then accompanies the guys as they revisit the scene of the crime (in a post Q+A, there was some question if they actually went back to the exact party spot) and leave their manly mark on some of the surrounding shrubbery. Actually, their uninhibited pissing may be childish, but they were also drinking a ton of beer. When their kidneys need attention, nature’s outdoor scenery spells R-E-L-I-E-F. The only indoor plumbing in the vicinity was in homes probably bigger than the entire original concert area.
No, it wasn’t Woodstock. But that larger-than-life celebration in Bethel, New York, was certainly on the minds of all those attending the Full Moon Jamboree. And no, “Heavy Metal Picnic” won’t cause of flood of film-inspired intruders to scavenge the backwoods of Potomac a la the commotion that befell Burkittsville, another Maryland community, in the aftermath of “The Blair Witch Project,” the 1999 low budget phenomenon. But it does deserve a wider audience (and the eventual DVD will allow for more back story, etc.). Krulik has captured a piece of our local past and shared the excitement of all involved with tonight’s audience in an amusing and entertaining manner.
Although it probably isn’t coming to a theater near you anytime soon, check out the trailer. It’s always fun to see the jackass in some of us.