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Thursday, December 14

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Feature Thu Oct 05 2006

Bloodshot DVD Sets New Standard For Obligatory Retrospectives

Everybody has a DVD; it's outrageous. I defy you to browse the dreaded “Music" DVD section of any big box store without direction. Have you ever seen a greater collection of things that, under any circumstances, you would ever watch? How could the perpetual chronicling of Paul Oakenfold, U2, Cannibal Corpse, Cypress Hill, and Insane Clown Posse possibly be worth producing? I like Cypress Hill, but it's just too much.

And somehow, even with all that, Chicago's own alternative to country (alternative to alt-country/country-country alty-alt/country-cum-punk) maverick label, Bloodshot Records, has coughed up a fascinating, shaky and oh-God-what-do-we-even-have-on-video retrospective. It's wild. Really, you don't see this stuff anymore. The DVD itself isn't particularly coherent; it's by no means a documentary. Bloodied But Unbowed: Bloodshot Records' Life in the Trenches is a menu: songs, stories, galleries, and credits, and it's best that way.

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"Songs," the collection of live performances and music videos category, opens up with an intro that sets a tone consistent with the entire remembrance and examination: Bloodshot bastard genius Jon Langford, speaking to an audience at some undivulged location, dually praising and berating the label. It goes on to advance visually enhanced music from Bobby Bare Jr., Split Lip Rayfield, Ryan Adams, The Detroit Cobras, Alejandro Escovedo, Wayne "The Train" Hancock, Old 97's, Jon Langford (within and outside of Waco Brothers), Paul Burch, and about a dozen others.

It's all a bit shaky, but without explanation, the section holds together. Some of it's great, some not, some hilarious and awkward. A whole lot to take in, really; I mean, some of this stuff is out there. The Sadies give us an odd little instrumental , leading up to long shots of band members looking uncomfortably cold, performing to a frigid landscape. Ryan Adams plays "AMY" in at a tight, unmoving, black and white shot. It appears to be a live performance as the crowd is audible, but there's no way of knowing. They prefer not to tell us these things. The Cobras dish out the ultra-sex, Wayne "The Train" displays his namesake, Split Lip Rayfield continue to leave me disheveled, and Waco Brothers rule.

Here's a Transmission premiere of the Waco Brothers performing "Death of Country Music", from the DVD, courtesy of Bloodshot Records.

The performance was filmed at the old home of Fireproof and Screwball Presses (rock poster and record sleeve printing houses), as well as Hi-Ball Records (former Coctails' label).

Brilliantly devastating are Sally Timms and Jon Rouhouse doing a quiet "Perfidia," and Jon Langford's shit-and-spit "Nashville Radio." These two, out of the entire 31 performances and videos, taking into account the inexplicable exclusion of Neko Case from this section, encapsulate this label's sound, though, as evidenced, nothing can quite capture the spectrum.

Opening up the "Stories" section, "Blood, Sweat, and Beer: A Bloodshot Primer" doles out a lot of deserved and defiant self-congratulation, albeit in the guise of self-deprecation. Giving a touch-and-go explanation of the evolution of the scene and label, Sally Timms' lauding bravado narration is oh-so-cleverly spliced with candid shots of the label's shitty office, cheeky co-founders Rob Miller and Nan Warshaw, Bloodshot artists and employees pretending to be petty in a fun way, as well as old-timey art and photography that seems wildly out of place. Funny, but too desperate in its fear of the generic, the primer is simply a necessary not-all-too evil.

If Ryan Adams' docu-mini does anything, it makes me miss Ryan Adams. Remember that guy? He was so cool. Good crazy. Good reactionary. Funny. "A Heartbreaker Road Trip" parades the old dog around, as long as you can get past the absolutely ridiculous sunglasses he wears throughout half of the piece. While Bloodshot doesn't provide nearly enough live performance footage, between the onstage jokes and backstage goofing around, the interviews and conversations with Adams remind me how much everyone used to love this guy.

"Stories" continues from there, giving a taste of The Meat Purveyors' psychobilly traditional music performed at the annual Bloodshot barbeque. "I (Heart) My Label," another tongue-in-cheek tribute to/slam against the company, with lots of quipping artists. "Chic-A-Go-Go! Salutes Bloodshot Records," one of the funniest recordings, gives the only Neko Case clip: lip-syncing on Chicago's favorite public access dance party bizarro world. BSR @ SXSW explains the evolution of the Bloodshot Barbeque in Austin, and "On The Turnpike" displays Split Lip Rayfield's virtuosity over their, both professionally manufactured and DIY instruments, as well as their guns.

In the final "Stories" entry, a retrospect within a retrospect is advanced examining and edifying Chicago's much-loved country trio, The Sundowners. In what would otherwise be a pat on the back, Bloodshot, which produced a Sundowners compilation, give us a modest and touching look at these unintentionally influential Chicago country stalwarts, whose songbook supposedly numbered around 15,000. In it, we're given 20 minutes of something else, something different...three guys that could probably play almost any country song ever written, with lots of harmony and no drummer. It adds a historical perspective on a DVD that often makes time seem irrelevant.

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The gallery and credits sub-menus provide the expected. The gallery has an archive of some really cool, crude posters for various shows, and the credits menu rolls the credits, literally. That's how discombobulated the whole thing is; I had to move the cursor to roll the credits.

While screening this, with a bold fear of my own lack of ability, I asked my girlfriend to take some cursory notes. Before she nodded off, one of the few notes she took watching the primer jokingly reminded me how masturbatory this all is. It read, "I like how I can see pictures of places I've been to, on TV." While almost too much of it takes place at The Hideout and there are lots of blurry shots of Delilah's and Empty Bottle, I still wouldn't let her comments dissuade you. I liked this crazy, wild mix-‘em-up. Disinterested in continuity, format, space, and time, it feels significant nonetheless.

You can catch some sneak peeks of the DVD on the Bloodshot Records' YouTube channel, where they've been leaking some of the segments for a few weeks now. The DVD Bloodied But Unbowed: Bloodshot Records' Life in the Trenches officially hits the stores on Tuesday, October 10. Come out and celebrate the release on Monday, October 16 at the Darkroom (details in Slowdown).

-Andrew Kachel



Andrew Kachel is a dangerously overworked publicist.

Nathaniel Grotte also contributed opinions, ideas and enthusiasm for this article.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »

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Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
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