Noys R Us, in association with Chapter, bring incendiary cult rock documentaries to their natural setting – the live music venue. “The project was born of a pretty organic conversation with Chapter”, organiser Mark Gubb tells me. “In a wider context, I think live music venues are great venues to watch films like this in – less formal than a cinema setting, loud, with a bar just a step away. It just makes for a slightly different environment and experience”. It’s certainly not a rigid screening; Mark approaches the screen and introduces everybody to the night, briefly outlines the film and shows some trailers for upcoming films As the Palaces Burn and A Band Called Death.
This week’s offering at The Full Moon (complete with popcorn, plush armchairs and a well-stocked bar) was Last Days Here, which tracks indie label owner Sean ‘Pellet’ Pelletier’s renewed interest in obscure 70s heavy metal band Pentagram and his attempts to get lead singer Bobby Liebling off crack, out of his parents’ ‘sub-basement’ and back on stage for a reunion show.
‘I was saving these for when I got big’, Liebling says as he fingers through demos and newspaper clippings, ‘and that never happened’. He’s pictured scratching himself repetitively, murmuring about parasites and surrounded by squalor. Yet the film never pities, places undue blame or revels in his destructive addiction like countless age-old rockstar biopics; it focuses rather on Pellet’s hope for his recovery, placed somewhat precariously in a fanatical interest in his music. As Liebling interrupts an interview to search for a piece of stray crack, the audience is unsure.
There are a few hard-hitting moments, but by and large the film is jovial, tongue-in-cheek and a little balls out and brash; everything you’d expect from a heavy metal documentary. The editing is adroit and the cinematography, in its fly-on-the-wall honesty, paints a sometimes embarrassingly intimate picture of Bobby Liebling’s life, friends and family, flitting between soul-searching interviews and his mother bringing him a grilled sandwich. Pellet makes him sign a piece of paper that states if he uses crack again after that day, Pellet will gain his entire record collection – and it’s a ‘kick ass record collection’.
It focuses on idiosyncrasies and switches between bizarre anecdotes to tell the tale, rather than chronologically tracking Pentagram’s demise. Liebling lost the band a record deal with Columbia, had to be dragged on stage half-conscious after an overdose and messed up a big opportunity playing in front of Kiss in the band’s basement studio by not booking the day off work and turning up late still in his janitor’s uniform. Despite his failings, he’s not an all-out villain; throughout the film he demonstrates startling sensitivity as well as an overriding urge to return to the stage.
This is most apparent in the off-beat love story at the centre of the documentary, his romantic involvement with a young Pentagram fan. The relationship catalyses Liebling to move out of the sub-basement back to Philadelphia, where she teaches him how to do adult chores, like opening a check-in account and doing laundry.
Though the film is naturally dominated by Liebling and his larger than life character, Pellet shines too, progressing from Pentagram nut and music nerd to Bobby’s manager and friend. He astutely notices a renewed cult interest in Pentagram’s music on social media, understands the scene perfectly and works extremely hard to organise Pentagram’s comeback. You find yourself routing for them, even though you had no clue who they were before the film. As Mark says “films like these really bring people out of the woodwork … I think rock/punk/metal/alt are genres that first get you when you’re young, so there’s a connection with the culture and the energy in these films that’s never lost.”
The next Noys R Us screening, As The Palaces Burn, takes place at Chapter Tue 1 – Thu 3 April.
This documentary follows the internationally acclaimed metal band Lamb of God on their fateful 2010 tour which sadly included the death of a fan in Prague and the subsequent manslaughter trial of lead singer Randy Blythe. This fascinating documentary which started as a demonstration of how music can bring people together deals with the tragic events and provides a rare chance to see Randy discussing the trial.
With introduction by Noys R Us’s Mark Gubb on Tue 1 Apr.
029 2030 4400 / www.chapter.org