Fifty years ago, Frank Zappa made his seminal 200 Motels using weird visuals to recreate the insanity induced by touring in a rock band. Half a century later, Tour Movie, written and directed by band member Beau Kaelin, seeks to recreate the drunken blur of a summer tour by putting onscreen a cavalcade of drunken blurs via interviews. In 2017, Louisville punk bands Belushi Speedball and Dick Titty Blood Punch went on tour across several southern cities, playing with the likes of Pissing Contest and Carrie Fisher’s Coke Nail. Unfortunately, they stayed drunk the entire time while consuming whatever drugs crossed their paths. This makes the band members’ recollection of what transpired very hazy.
Tour Movie, like 200 Motels, is first and foremost a trip movie. It is meant to be onscreen in the background of a beer blast or used to enhance the vial of Dr. Gonzo you just bought from the dispensary. Trippy visual and audio filters are generously applied to live footage and interviews. While this may sometimes obscure what is being said or played, it overall takes the viewer on a wild ride through what looks like the cover to Husker Du’s Warehouse: Songs and Stories. It imparts a strong sense of wonder brought on by the intensity of the light shows and melting graphics. If you are seeking visual ornamentation for your inebriation, look no further.
“…seeks to recreate the drunken blur of a summer tour by putting onscreen a cavalcade of drunken blurs…”
The central drive of Tour Movie, arranging the 2017 footage along the lines of the musicians’ scant memories, is unique and fascinating. There are many moments when interviewees stare drunkenly into the camera and say they cannot remember a thing that happened. The fragments they recall are used to create a Frankenstein’s monster of a memory presented in its stitched up to form onscreen. Kaelin rewinds the film if someone remembers something that happened earlier. It is definitely one of the more expressionistic documentaries out there, imparting on the viewers the sensation of what goes on in a musician’s magic garden of nerve-ending insulation.
This isn’t to suggest the film is all style and no substance. Beneath the acid waves of the graphics is a lot of insight into the underground music scene. It goes into those shows where no one is there to watch you except the other bands playing. Also, the pitfalls of the last-minute line-up and venue changes are explored. Plus, there is one really scary story shared where the bands almost find themselves inside the plot of Green Room. Running at almost two hours, Tour Movie will require plenty of substance impairment to squeeze through. If you grease up the rails enough, though, you can ride this one until the night burns out.
"…beneath the acid waves of the graphics is a lot of insight into the underground music scene."