Thursday, August 15, 2013

Top Notch Profile Of Power Pop Band Big Star Returns To N.C.

In what sounds like it could’ve been a sequence, or at least a deleted scene, from Cameron Crowe’s 2000 semi-autobiographical rock comedy drama ALMOST FAMOUS, teenage Rolling Stone scribe Crowe, along with rock critic legend Lester Bangs joined over a hundred other rock music journalists who have traveled from all over the country to attend the first and last National Association of Rock Writers Convention in Memphis, Tennessee on Memorial Day weekend in May 1973.

A 16-year old Crowe walked barefoot around the Holiday Inn convention center and Lafayette's Music Room in downtown Memphis during the event that included panel discussions, the midnight premiere of Sam Peckipah’s now classic Western PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID (featuring Bob Dylan in a supporting role), and performances by the little-known musical acts Larry Raspberry and the Highsteppers, Skin Alley, and a little local band named Big Star.

The gig was one of the few live appearances of the band who only recorded a few albums (three if you count 1978's Sister Lovers and Big Star leader Alex Chilton sure didn’t), and, despite strong reviews, didn’t catch on with the public at large during their brief existence from the early to mid ‘70s.

But as the legend goes, Big Star (then a trio made up of Chilton, bassist Andy Hummel, and drummer Jody Stephens) rocked the house and, in the words of rock writer Pete Tomlinson, “turned a crowd of drunken freeloaders into drooling disciples.”

Anecdotes about the convention are among my favorite stories about how the Memphis power pop combo, originally fronted by the late greats Chilton and fellow guitarist/songwriter Chris Bell, attracted critical acclaim, but not hit record status in Drew DeNicola and Olivia Mori’s excellent new documentary BIG STAR: NOTHING CAN HURT ME, currently in limited release at indie art houses across the country.

I saw and loved the film when it screened at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival at the Carolina Theatre in Durham, North Carolina last April, so I'm glad it's returning to the Carolina starting on August 19th-August 28th as as part of Magnolia Pictures’ Summer Documentary Series (check the Carolina's website for show-times). 

BIG STAR: NOTHING CAN HURT ME (the title comes from a lyric in their haunting song “Big Black Car” from the before mentioned Sister Lovers album) is a film that rock lovers, documentary lovers, and especially rockumentary lovers shouldn’t miss.

The trailer:

My review for the Raleigh News & Observer:

“Documentary about pop band Big Star plays in Durham (August 16, 2013)

Read more here:

My interview with film’s co-director Drew DeNicola at the Artery Blog at

“Filmmaker Drew DeNicola discusses his documentary, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me” (August 14, 2013)

Alongside the Carolina Theatre in Durham, BIG STAR: NOTHING CAN HURT ME will also have these other N.C. screenings:

Wednesday, August 21st: 
a one-night showing at Aperture Cinema in Winston Salem at 7:30 p.m. Pop artist/producer Mitch Easter, who’s interviewed in the film, will be on hand for a Q & A after the film. After the screening there will be “An Evening of Big Star” at The Garage (111 West Seventh St.), with local musicians, including Michael Slawter, Doug Davis, Henry Heidtmann, Ken Mohan and Corky McClellan, playing choice Big Star covers. The show starts at 9 p.m. $7 ($1 discount with your ticket from the Aperture's BIG STAR doc screening).

The next night, Thurday, August 22nd, there will be another one-night screening at the Fine Arts Theatre in Asheville. Check their website for show-times.

Lastly, there’s a soundtrack album out for the film, a double LP or single CD that has a great mix of Big Star’s best songs, but in demo, alternate take, and “movie mix” versions. Like the film itself, it's a great primer, but one that has a lot of cool discernible differences to the tracks fans know by ear. The Big Star #1 Record Glow-In-The-Dark Slip Mat (seen above) that you can get with it is pretty cool too. Order the soundtrack here.

So to sum it all up: watch the trailer, read my review and interview with co-director DeNicola, see the movie, fall in love with Big Star, buy the soundtrack and their other albums - then, live a happier life.

Got it?

More later…

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