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The Conversations: Rock Concert Films

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The Conversations: Rock Concert Films
The Conversations: Rock Concert Films

Jason Bellamy: For one of my younger brothers, 2010 was the summer of music. Approaching his junior year at the University of Oregon, he spent the past few months attending about every concert that came his way in the Pacific Northwest. The criteria seemed to be this: If the concert was within driving distance and featured loud (preferably metal) bands that hadn’t had a big hit since before he was born, he was going. And so he rocked to Iron Maiden, Cinderella, the Scorpions, Billy Idol, and more. He rocked at large arenas and relatively intimate county fairs, sneaking up to the front of the stage when he could to snap pictures that he would eventually file along with similar snapshots of bands like AC/DC and KISS.

My brother loves music—if he’s partial to rock and metal, he’s rather indiscriminate within that genre (if you couldn’t tell). But I think the biggest reason my brother attends concerts is because he loves the energy of the live events, where he doesn’t just hear the music but feels it, too. Even when you’re pressed shoulder to shoulder with other attendees, and even when the musicians are so far away that you need to rely on the video screens to see the musicians’ expressions, there’s something very intimate and magically visceral about concerts. You can know every note and lyric of a band’s work from listening to their albums, but somehow seeing them live makes us feel as if we know them better, or know them for the first time.

Maybe that phenomenon is what inspires filmmakers to make concert documentaries in the first place: the challenge of simulating the feeling of being there. There are numerous films about musical artists—from A Hard Day’s Night (1964) to Elvis: That’s the Way It Is (1970) to Bob Dylan: No Direction Home (2005) to This Is It (2009)—some of which go backstage, some of which play historian, some of which are hardly about music at all, and so there’s no way we could have an all-encompassing discussion about that larger cinematic genre and its many sub-genres. Still, it’s a genre worth tackling, and so in this discussion we’re going to focus on five films—Woodstock (1970), Gimme Shelter (1970), Stop Making Sense (1984), Rattle and Hum (1988) and Instrument (2001)—that despite their incredible diversity have one thing in common: their chief aim seems to be to replicate the sensation of being there. And in the case of the first film, Woodstock, the music might be the least interesting part of that experience, am I right?

The Best Albums of the 2000s

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The Best Albums of the 2000s
The Best Albums of the 2000s

This list of 200 great albums, my belated decade retrospective, is an attempt to capture the essence of the past decade in music, as I’ve experienced it. The years from 2000-2009 happened to coincide almost exactly with my own education in music, the time in my life, from college onward, when I became deeply invested in and immersed in music of all sorts. It was during this time that I began writing about music, that I explored previously unimagined styles and forms, that I started my own record label and began recording my own work. This list is a tribute to the artists and albums that opened my ears to the dizzying diversity of sonic possibilities that we so conveniently lump together as “music.” It is an attempt to corral the breadth of my listening, without subduing the catholicity, sprawl, noise and messiness that make music so exciting to me in the first place.

The fact that this list is composed of so much varied music made it difficult, if not impossible, to assemble in any coherent fashion. In some respects, it’s a pointless exercise to balance the relative merits of records so different from one another as to be from different universes—but nor did I want to separate out different musical areas into their respective ghettos. All rankings here are approximate, then, general markers of my appreciation for a particular album. In the interests of preserving the list’s variety, I’ve also limited each artist to a maximum of three separate entries. Scattered throughout the blurbs are quotes from reviews I wrote when these albums were new, to connect this list back to my last ten years of listening and writing about music. I hope this list does for perhaps a few people what the music I’m talking about here did for me: excited me, suggested new possibilities in sound, made me happy, moved me, shocked me, made me sit up and listen intently.

Read the feature over at Only the Cinema. It is divided into four parts: Part One (#200-151), Part Two (#150-101), Part Three (#100-51) and Part Four (#50-1).