2007 SXSW SPECIAL SCREENINGS FEATURE! I’ve lived my entire life in the San Francisco Bay Area and I’ve never, ever understood the local obsession with jam bands. Namely, the obsession with the Grateful Dead. To echo a bartender (Maccarone) in “Electric Apricot: Quest for Festeroo” I (expletive deleted) hate that (expletive deleted) band and all the (expletive deleted) people who worship them. There, I said it. When Jerry Garcia died I thought the whole “lets follow a jam band around for years on end” way of life would end but then came Phish, String Cheese Incident, Government Mule and others to carry the “torch.” Even more disturbing to me personally was the development of “Les Claypool’s Flying Frog Brigade,” a jam band fronted by bass playing God and Primus founder Les Claypool. What was the world coming to? Yet after watching “Electric Apricot: Quest for Festeroo,” a genius mockumentary on the jam band scene, I’m willing to forgive Claypool for his jammy tendencies.
“Electric Apricot” is a jam band who lives just outside San Francisco in ultra-rich and Hippycentric Marin County. The band consists of Steve “Gordo” Gordan (Kehoe) on guitar, Steve “Aiwass” Trouzdale (Gates) on bass, Herschel Tambor Brilstein (Korty) on keys and Lapland “Lapdog” Miclovich (Claypool) on drums. The band is really just getting started as we get to know a little about each member. Where they work, live and so forth. We also meet their tour manager “Smilin’” Don Kleinfeld and the bands financial backer Drew Shackleford (McCulloch) who are trying their darndest to get “Electric Apricot” onto the most prestigious jam band festival around, “Festeroo.”
Having managed bands and been a part of the music scene in the Bay Area for over 15 years, the inside jokes are so funny they zoomed past hilarious and right back to realistic in no time flat. Several times I found myself laughing at the comedy onscreen as much as at how much Claypool simply nails the personalities of musicians and their fans. Every character in the band is fully realized. Brilstein is one of those Zen-master yoga lovers who can still fly into a rage at any second. Lapdog is so self absorbed into his mediocre drumming, he refuses to even comprehend other peoples advice or criticism. Hippies crack me up because they portray an air of “everythings groovy,” but it’s only really groovy when they’re getting their way. For a first film it’s impressive the way Claypool has crafted each person to perfectly explode into one another as the band hits the recording studio and then the road. For as great as the fictitious band is, the fringe characters are also classic archetypes of music fandom.
There’s “The Tapers” (Green and Stone) who spend their time dwelling on the intricacies of setting up the perfect rig for taping live shows. There’s the fans, desperate to prove they’re the bands number one cheerleader all the while trying to set themselves apart from their pack of twirlers by inventing new dance moves. My personal favorite was the sound tech (Bachar) who just wants so bad to be accepted and welcomed into the fray he ends up alienating everyone around him. From there, bandmates bring in girlfriends and their own issues and it all ends up as a rolling roadshow of hippy skewering mayhem.
Although I mentioned how much I love “Electric Apricot: Quest for Festeroo” because I totally get the crowd Claypool is parodying, I think that even those (luckily) unfamiliar with the jam band subculture will get the joke. I also loved how the film didn’t devolve into just another stupid stoner comedy where everyone runs around baked out and pandering for laughs. This film is smarter than that and a much funnier result is achieved. There’s also not too much swearing or crude attempts at humor which was kind of refreshing to see. Like many of Claypools bands, “Electric Apricot: Quest for Festeroo” is bound to be a cult hit. I’m just hoping it will have the chance to play before a bigger audience as I feel the film is just plain hilarious and I was extremely impressed at the way Claypool pulled it all together in his first directorial effort.