Woodstock Film Festival
" October 3, 2009"
by Robert Putignano
Kevin Zegers and Jason Ritter star in The Perfect Age of Rock 'n' Roll; the critically acclaimed Spike Lee is the executive producer for this engaging film/music project that was shot mostly on location in New Jersey, New York and Los Angeles. Scott Rosenbaum deserves top shelf kudos for writing and directing this intriguing cross country film.
The main theme focuses on a punkish rock star Zegers, and the story flashes back to the time when the band was trying to regroup and record their third album, and forward to current (not so good) times. And here is the basic theme; after their massively selling debut recording, lead vocalist Zegers treks back to his Long Island hometown to re-recruit the guitarist/songwriter Ritter who was largely responsible for their debut smash. As often happens, the songwriter receives no writing credits and seemingly leaves the band. After the follow-up album goes nowhere, the singer pretty much has to suck up and convinces the talented songwriter/guitarist to put the band back together in its original form.
Of course there are some strings. Specifically, the songwriter wants to travel cross-country in a bus as opposed to flying. So guess who the bus driver is? Peter Fonda is the perfect actor to portray an aging hippie who lived through and endured the '60s and '70s. Along the way, the rock band wanders into to a juke joint to see their Blues heroes jamming away and joins in with the their heroes. There are several fascinating moments throughout - some dramatic, other parts sad - but it's also humorous. For example, the traveling band enjoys testing the lead singer to guess what is playing on the radio. He never gets it right. These "guess the artists" tests take place several times and always had me in stitches. This vocalist had no clue. Of course, the band manager/bus driver Fonda and the band mates loved taunting him, making for some of the most fun segments to watch.
Last but not least, this '90s era rock and roll movie also pays homage to Blues masters, Specifically: Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, Sugar Blue, Willie 'Big Eyes' Smith and Bob Stroger, all of whom make appearances in this highly entertaining flick. The Perfect Age of Rock n' Roll is an interesting concept that portrays the ups and downs of the music business, and exemplifies why it is such a tough game. Bottom line is it's a wonderful premise to build around, and all the actors and performers interact neatly.
I had the opportunity to interview The Perfect Age of Rock 'n' Roll Producer Joe White: "Everyone worked really hard on this film. We are at the point of figuring out the distribution, and we are trying to be selective about who we hand our baby to. This story is a precious legacy to us. We didn't make it to make money or to make ourselves famous. We made it because of our love and respect for the art form.
"The film really is a wonderful commentary on the bastardization of the Blues into rock n roll. I have had a few people who have seen it more than once, and they all say the same thing, that it's better the second time. A lot of films are made with timing in mind, and they choose celebrity over talent. Every actor in our film really took on the role. We lived it hard and fast while making it, and every ounce of that commitment is on the screen from the talent you see on camera down to the nice people who kept the coffee hot on the long nights of shooting.
"Having the Blues band in this film was just a further commitment to the authenticity, its magic and its currency. It's intangible but very real. We hope that everyone has as much fun watching it as we had making it."
After the screening in Woodstock, and topping off the evening, the movie stars' Blues band performed. And what a night it was. The band started as a guitar, bass, and drum trio, and as the night went on Sugar Blue, Hubert Sumlin, and Pinetop Perkins were featured. First up was Sugar Blue, who (as always) exhibited high voltage harp playing and vocals and for my ears was the most intense segment of the evening. Sugar Blue's new CD Threshold, by the way, is a more than worthwhile listen. Check it out!
Next up was the always dapper Hubert Sumlin who stepped right up to the microphone and stated, "Ladies and gentleman, I feel really good tonight," and he wasn't messing with us. Mr. Sumlin was very much on his game on this very special night. Hubert's interplay with Sugar Blue was tantalizing as it became obvious that both musicians have huge respect for each other and listened carefully so no one ever touched the other's toes.
Finally, it was the ever youthful Pinetop Perkins who closed out the Blues show, and ageless wonder dazzled. Not only does Pinetop look strong, he also obtains a youthful facial stare, smile, and his timing is still impeccable. So imagine having the likes of Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin and Sugar Blue in the same band closing the night out!
If there was any downside to this performance, it was that during the all-star jam with Pinetop, Hubert and Sugar, Bob Margolin had his guitar turned up far too loud, so much so, he drowned out Hubert.
No matter, this was a great night of film and music. It's rare that we see segued programming such as this. Now for the hopeful news. The plan is eventually to start to dog and pony this excellent film and have the band play afterwards all across the land! Let's hope this happens, and best wishes to everyone involved in this outstanding production. Should this become a reality, don't miss it! If it doesn't, check out The Perfect Age of Rock 'n' Roll, You won't be disappointed.
Bob Putignano: www.SoundsofBlue.com