One of the best comedies of the eighties, This is Spinal Tap, made fun of metal bands that took themselves too seriously and was hell-bent on achieving success although the time had already passed them by. This could be seen as an exaggerated version of the story of Anvil. Anvil was popular in the mid eighties for about a millisecond before dropping off into obscurity. Two of the band members kept the dream alive and stayed together determined to achieve success like so many of their peers do. The years pass and success is elusive for them. This is the story of their last-ditch effort to make it in a scene of constantly evolving young musicians.
At the start of the film you meet Lips, the lead singer of Anvil. He is working for a catering company in his hometown of Toronto in order to pay the bills. The drummer works construction and talks about how his doctor says he is improving upon his depression. Each one has a family and a life to support. But their passion is not paying the bills. They decide to go on a European tour managed by a crazy Hungarian woman in order to see if they build some buzz about their band again. Shades of This is Spinal Tap come to light when they meet their peers who barely remember them, they don’t get paid, play to crowds of five or less, miss several trains and sleep in bus stations. The future for their band looks grim.
The difference between This is Spinal Tap excluding the obvious is that your connection with these band members is strong. You feel it from the very beginning when Lips jokes about his job at a catering company. You want them to succeed, although you know that a band in their fifties playing music that was popular in the eighties will never reach the heights that they want. And yet they do, don’t they? With this documentary release, they play venues that would have been closed to them before and are taken serious as documentary subjects. They recently played my adopted town and the local art theater held two sold out screenings of the documentary followed by Q and A by the band afterwards. Then they played a sold out show in an intimate venue. However the crowd did not look like what you would expect from a typical thrashing metal band. Most of the people were young hip college students sucking down PBRs and craft beers. Only a few people actually knew the music. I have to admit that I did not know the music except what they played in the documentary. I came out of curiosity. I stayed because I responded to their earnestness. They played with such commitment and although it was not my type of music, I still had a good time. In an interview with the local alternative newspaper, Lips says that his personality is his music and that it doesn’t matter if people come because they like the music or because they like him. They are intertwined and that is evident from the performance I saw.