Local Rhythms – White River Indie Film Fest

“Woodstock” was a subversive movie.

I saw it at age 13, and soon after attended my first rock concert, with tickets I’d won from a local radio station (which had itself gone overnight from top forty to rarely playing the same song twice in a 24-hour period).

Across America, teenagers began buying Jimi Hendrix and Santana albums – or, to their parents’ horror, starting bands.  All of this happened because of a movie about a three-day music festival.

Perhaps “Girls Rock!” will similarly incite my daughter’s generation to strap on a Fender and find their inner Kim Deal.  The documentary, about an Oregon rock n’ roll academy that caters to girls, is the most intriguing of four films with music at their center featured at this year’s annual White River Indie Film (WRIF) Festival.

The festival starts Friday at the Tip Top Café with an art and movie memorabilia auction gala, followed by a decidedly anti-consumerism film – an odd juxtaposition, I know.

“What Would Jesus Buy?” follows Reverend Billy, pastor of the “Church of Stop Shopping,” and his 45-voice gospel choir, as they travel cross-country to warn of the impending “Shopocalypse.”  OK, It’s not exactly a music film, but festival director John Griesemer says the singing is “amazing.”

John Sayles’ latest screens on Saturday; “Honeydripper” tells the story of a juke joint owner (Danny Glover) trying to save his business with a show by a famous electric guitarist, at a time when plugging in was a new idea.

“Guitar Sam” fails to show, forcing him to choose another, quite hilarious, solution.  The film also stars Mary Steenburgen, with music from Keb Mo’ and Texas bluesman Gary Clark, Jr.

John Turturro made “Cigarettes & Romance” in 2005, but never found a distributor.  That’s surprising, as the film includes “Sopranos” star James Gandolfini, Christopher Walken and Kate Winslet.

The offbeat musical begins with a duet (Gandolfini and his neighborhood trash haulers) of Englebert Humperdink’s “World Without Love,” and features a lusty performance of “Piece of My Heart” by co-stars Susan Sarandon and Eddie Izzard.

The film screens at 10:30 Saturday, even though it sounds like a perfect midnight movie, reminiscent of Sarandon’s first flick, “Rocky Horror Picture Show”.

But, according to Griesemer, “10:30 is the new midnight – up here anyway.”

WRIF is an “an effort unto itself,” says Griesemer, “an arts organization showing films that the other places don’t know about.” Festival details and show times are on the web at http://www.wrif.org.

What else is happening in the next few days?

Wednesday: Pat Benetar, Lowell Memorial Auditorium – Since her beginnings as a rock diva in 1979, this pint-sized powerhouse has charted a ton of hits, one of which (“Hell Is For Children”) launched a charity, and been an MTV goddess when such a thing mattered. She’s still missing from two places, however: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and iTunes.

Thursday: Alan Hague, New England College – There’s a bit of Dashboard Confessional in this Providence-based singer/songwriter; he’s an excellent guitarist as well.  Hague used to front a punk band called D-Day, and his vocal cadences (as evidenced by his three-song EP) owe a debt to that genre.   Wrapped in acoustic melodies, it’s different – pleasantly so.

Friday: Doc Severinsen, Proctor Academy – When (and if) I make to 81 years old, I’ll be glad if I can breathe, let alone play a trumpet.  But the “Tonight Show” bandleader didn’t hang up his horn with Johnny Carson retired.  He now lives in Mexico, where he discovered guitarist Gil Gutierrez and violinist Pedro Cartas, who join him for a Spanish-flavored program entitled “El Ritmo de la Vida,” or “The Rhythm of Life.”

Saturday: Kid Pinky, La Dolce Vita – The de facto house band at New London’s popular eatery, the Kid and his cohorts (the Restless Knights) play with the spirited conviction of the Fabulous Thunderbirds and the Radiators – ferocious, but with a groove. The bandleader is a triple threat on harp, piano and vocals.  It’s nice to see La Dolce Vita up and running again.

Sunday: Harmonica Blowout, Tupelo Music Hall – Speaking of the blues, this harp summit will be a treat.  Since 1991, “blues survivor” Mark Hummel has led annual summits featuring everyone from Huey Lewis to Charlie Musselwhite.  Tonight’s road show includes Hummel along with former Muddy Waters sideman Jerry Portnoy, Curtis Salgado, and Rick Estrin.

Tuesday: Festival of New Musics, Hopkins Center –
No, it’s not a typo.  For thirty years, this Dartmouth-produced gathering has presented “musics” which are one or two steps ahead of the avant-garde.  Tonight’s performance features college faculty (there’s a grad student show Sunday) joining “pioneers in electronic, acoustic and electro-acoustic music.” Appearing are Will Guthrie, The Meehan/Perkins Duo, Brendan Murray, Amy X Neuburg and Howard Stelzer.

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