Saturday, September 19, 2009

The First Four Days

so my tenure as a southern arts film tourist has begun...

it was an exhausting beginning, catching a red-eye flight and changing planes and then driving for an hour or so, all with a 50-pound suitcase and a 58-pound backpack to lug around... but once i arrived at my first stop, everything got pretty cool pretty fast.

my bags were so heavy because they were (and still are) filled to the brim with dvds of my movie, "Let Them Know: The Story of Youth Brigade and BYO Records". it examines the careers of the Stern brothers, who founded the band and record label referred to in the title and contributed more than their share to the LA punk scene in the '80s. the dvd is packaged as part of a box set that also contains a double LP compilation of bands covering songs from the BYO catalog and also a full-color hardcover book. beautiful package, but murder on the spine...

upon arriving in bowling green, KY, i sat down for dinner with steve white, the film's host for the evening and the director of the western kentucky university broadcasting program. with us were majorie from the broadcasting department and campus radio station and her punk enthusiast boyfriend, jason. i was hoping to dive right into the southern cuisine on this trip, but we instead went to a nice italian restaurant, which was quite tasty...definitely a step up from airplane food.

the screening and q&a went well despite some audio problems. afterwards, a few students approached me to thank me and even had me autograph their "Let Them Know" box sets, which was incredibly flattering. they were looking to enter the film industry themselves, so it felt kinda cool that i had maybe reassured them that it's not as tough as it seems to break in. i remember being in their shoes and being at a crossroads and being completely petrified of what would become of me after graduation, so it feels good to be on the other side and to be able to say, "don't worry...just go for it."

it had been a long day, so i collapsed pretty early and then got up the next morning to talk to steve's editing class. i was worried i'd run out of things to say and would have lots of dead air but apparently i can run my damn fool mouth like a champ. i managed to fill just under an hour by answering maybe 7 or 8 questions. and again, some students approached me afterwards to say thanks and again it really warmed my little heart.

after that i had the day to kill, so i strolled through bowling green's downtown area and then went to what seems to be the city's biggest tourist attraction: the Lost River Cave. it was a toss-up between that and the corvette museum... tough decision.

i walked along a nearby hiking trail and visited the butterfly sanctuary while waiting for the cave tour to begin. only saw a few butterflies...one of them was dead on the ground when i walked in... i don't know if they can legally call that a sanctuary.

anyway, our guide gave us a surprisingly entertaining talk about the cave's history...apparently they used to have a night club in the cave's entrance in the '30s due to the natural air-conditioning (tommy dorsey and dinah shore both played there!). they still have a stage and a bar and a dance floor set up, all of it opening out onto the cave river valley...it really would be amazing to see shows there. touring bands: get on it!

after the history lesson we got in a little boat and buzzed along the river that runs through the cave and learned about civil war soldiers writing on the walls and jesse james using it as a hideout back in the day. definitely a much more interesting tour than i'd expected.

finally, it was time for me to leave kentucky and head to nashville, TN, and i arrived just in time to grab an amazing southern lunch at Arnold's. thanks yelp.com!! embarrassingly large portions of roast beef and mashed potatoes and greens and cornbread pancakes and strawberry pie went down my gullet, along with sweet tea that felt like a kick in the teeth from an angel made of sugar.

fair warning: i'm probably going to talk about food a lot in these entries.

after lunch, i met with joEl from vanderbilt university, checked out the screening room (nice!), and settled into my (luxury) dorm room before heading out to check out the city.

i weaved my way through the downtown streets for a while, snapping a few photos and soaking the place in. i ended up on broadway for dinner at Jack's, which has a well-deserved reputation for its bbq, and then did my best to walk off the meal while checking out all the bars in the area. it was a wednesday night, but the town was still pretty lively. most of the bars had no cover charge, so i wandered in and out of a bunch of them, checking out the various country bands on the various stages. it's not really my favorite form of music, but the technical talent of some of the musicians was truly astounding.

i got some ice cream and wandered up on a bridge that overlooked downtown and then explored some of the side streets before heading back to my dorm. nashville's all right in my book.

the next morning, i had agreed to speak to professor jen gunderman's History of Rock Music class. i was a little nervous about filling 75 minutes of time, but jen and i decided to do an "inside the actor's studio"-style q&a and she prompted me with questions about punk music and i did my best to sum up 30 years and countless subgenres in about an hour while also offering up personal anecdotes about my film and music career. i managed to get a few chuckles out of the crowd, so hopefully some pieces of what i said had some educational value. the class that was in the room before us was a History of Country Music class and their guest speaker that day was Kix Brooks from Brooks & Dunn, so my class probably felt relatively cheated.

after class jen took me to lunch with sarah childress from the film studies department and ben, one of her students. afterwards, sarah took me to a local record store (they still have those?) and said she'd buy one CD based on my recommendation. after browsing the selection, it came down to Minor Threat's Complete Discography or The Dead Milkmen's Big Lizard In My Backyard...i eventually settled on Dead Milkmen (sorry, ian...) figuring that it might be slightly more accessible.

next was pizza with some other film students...or at least one of them was a film student...there was also some undeclareds and a nursing student in the mix...but it was fun, anyway.

finally, time for the screening. i think we pretty much had 95% of the punk population of nashville in the audience...all 20 of them. the movie seemed to go over well, as did the q&a and a small, informal reception afterwards (punch and cookies!).

this morning, i made it to the airport just in time for my flight to alexandria, LA...only to find that my flight was delayed JUST long enough for me to miss my connection and now i'm sitting in the atlanta airport, trying to rectify my blogging delinquency and blasting Pantera on my iPod to try and block out the shitty music they're pumping in through the airport PA system.

actually, i'd better head for my gate to make sure i don't miss my flight... later!