Saturday, July 30, 2005

DVD review - Beulah: A Good Band is Easy To Kill

Beulah - A Good Band is Easy To Kill
Released: August 2, 2005
89 minutes, plus over 2 hours of bonus material

San Francisco's Beulah should have been massively more popular than they were but the same can be said about countless other bands who toil not quite in complete obscurity but who are perpetually on the cusp of the an elusive breakthrough. They essentially broke up in 2004. Fans of indie pop-rock should definitely check them out.

Front man Miles Kurosky begins the DVD by complaining that someone said a Beulah album was good but not as good as Bob Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks. He goes on to state that he thinks the Beulah album is better than Dylan’s and argues that Dylan’s emotions due to the break up with his wife are not more intense or profound than Kurosky’s. He believes that he was brutally honest and practically “bled on the tape” but doesn’t think Dylan did. His exclamation “Fuck Bob Dylan” is odd but even more so, sad. He’s absolutely frustrated that Beulah had not achieved the type of commercial success that their music would warrant.

He says that certain bands you can only compare to their past, not to other artists. He’s totally right, of course. I loathe when I try to turn people onto lesser known but great indie songs only to have they say, “Yeah, but the Beatles are better.”

At the DVD’s outset, we see Kurosky making last minute arrangements on the phone and then rehearsing in preparation for a 31-date tour in 2003 in support of their Yoko album.

At the first show, in LA, he muses about how the show might result in them getting signed to a major label and receiving a huge amount of exposure. At one stage or another’s, it’s a dream just about every band has.

The DVD follows the band as they travel to each venue play a tune or two and then repeat, with lots of footage of mundane but intimate moments. Trey, the merchandise manager, discusses what he does and it seems sad in way as he appears to be spinning his wheels. He drives, handles equipment, tries not spend any money, eats fast food, and spends time hurrying up and waiting, “keep the groupies away from the band and sleeps occaisionally.”

There are some funny “road trip” scenes like when they are approaching the Arizona border and worry about being searched if they don’t declare their California bananas. In another scene, no one actually works the self-serve gas pump so they leave, assuming that they have fueled up. Fixing a flat becomes a group exercise. There’s the scene which involves a 17 year-old who e-mails the band that she is unable to get into the show since it isn’t an all-ages event. You have to be 21 or over. They invite her to show up at the soundcheck and allow her to join them on stage, tambourine in hand and singing along. In one of the many van scenes, they discuss allowing fans on the stage at a show. Is it being kind or cruel because they can never find the beat? This is followed by shots of several shows in which they brought fans on stage. It’s incredibly fun!

In one scene in Canada, they’re at a fan’s bachelor pad when Miles whips out a new $20 US bill. The fan, Nathan, proceeds to talk about how the US comes up with colorful new money when they aren’t at making war with other countries. He then proceeds to talk about how there should be war against corporate society. Bill the trumpet player, tells him to stop and almost immediately, the room empties. Nathan is left to talk about how he offended his guests but didn’t plan to. They reference the Nathan incident at the end of the DVD by thanking him for his hospitality and saying that no one should be having the Canada vs US debate.

There’s two hours of bonus material including complete live footage of 17 songs from the tour.

A Good Band is Easy To Kill is not meant to be a biographical look at the band but it would have been more interesting if they did include some more information along these lines. Apart from that, this is one of the best “band on the road” documentaries around.

There’s two hours of bonus material including complete live footage of 17 songs from the tour.

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