You’re in a dark club, enjoying a martini and the band is playing some soothing lounge music onstage. You’re feeling fine. And then the singer steps up to the mic and that’s when something strange happens – the lyrics:
I never got along with the girls at my school
Filling me up with all their morals and their rules
They’d pile all their problems on my head
I’d rather go out and f**k the dead
Depending on your musical tastes, you’re either going to leave the club, insulted by the foul mouthed jerk on stage, or you’re gonna go, “Hey, that’s ‘Code Blue’ by TSOL” and then order a shitload more martinis, kickback and enjoy the musical stylings of Black Velvet Flag.
Born of a desire to tweak the nose of their rebellious punk rock youth, Black Velvet Flag was made up of three guys in their 30s who performed lounge versions of west coast punk rock classics. Remember that scene in “Repo Man” when the Circle Jerks are found in a dinky club doing a lounge rendition of their own song “When the S**t Hits the Fan”? If so, that should give you a good idea of what the Black Velvet Flag experience was like. If not…what the hell are you doing reading Film Threat?
Shot in a very run and gun style, such as numerous punk rock docs of the past, “The Rise & Fall of Black Velvet Flag” introduces us to the three members while revealing their swelling hometown cult following in New York City. We then follow the band on a flight to the west coast, the home of their musical inspirado, where they tour California in a van, dipping into Nevada for a gig in Las Vegas. We get to see the fears, the excitement, the successes and the failures of a small band leaving the comfort of their home crowd and braving a whole new audience. And being that this is a novelty band definitely makes things a lot more interesting. Will anyone get it? Will they be pissed off, or will they raise their beers (martinis) and celebrate? It’s all right here.
Filmmaker Sheldon Schiffer provides a thorough documentary on the existence of this quirky band. When all is said and done, there’s never really any question of who these guys were, what they were doing, or what brought about their ultimate demise. Schiffer keeps the viewer interested by not relying mostly on talking head interviews. Mostly, “The Rise & Fall” is a kind of punk rock cinema verite. It’s a tribute to the bands many of us grew up listening to, while at the same time answering the question “Where have all the real punks gone?”