Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It Got Loud

Well, the Large Hadron Collider started up today without a hitch. Everyone still here? Good. I love this headline from National Geographic: Large Hadron Collider "Actually Worked". 14 years and $8 billion later, I would hope so. Today was the first attempt to send a beam of protons around the 27 kilometer tunnel. I'm told it takes one ten-thousandth of a second for a the proton beam to circle the ring, so I can only imagine how anticlimactic it was to push the "on" button. In any event, scientists were ecstatic. Apparently Stephen Hawking bet $100 that the elusive Higgs boson will not be found, but it may be a few months before we find out who's right.


So I'm back from the big T.O. and I'm extremely thrilled to report that indeed I was able to attend the world premiere of the rock doc It Might Get Loud at the Toronto Film Fest last Friday night. Yes, it got loud... as it should, considering the film's subjects JIMMY PAGE, JACK WHITE, and THE EDGE were all in attendance! They received a rousing ovation from the audience as they entered, shuffling down the rows to their reserved seats-- not far behind me! Oscar-winning director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) was there to introduce the film, thanking the guitar virtuosos, the film's producers, and his wife Elizabeth Shue(?!). Utterly surreal watching a movie alongside these guitar greats.

The film kicks off with a shot of a cow. At a farmhouse in Tennessee (if I recall), Jack White hammers together a homemade instrument out of some blocks of wood, a coke bottle, and wire. Plugging it into an amp, he rips through some invented riffs. "Who says you need to buy a guitar?" he quips, as the opening credits roll. Central to the film is an epic Summit meeting of the three guitarists at an L.A. soundstage, which is interspersed with the subjects telling their own stories through individual interviews, revisiting locations of personal significance, and messing around in their own studios including the recording of unreleased new songs.

Some highlights include Jimmy Page playing a record of Link Wray's Rumble from his extensive home collection and goofily air strumming along with a huge grin on his face; The Edge revisiting his old school in Dublin where he once answered a leaflet posted by Larry Mullen Jr. advertising for bandmates, which would eventually become U2 (he ponders if he hadn't seen that ad and says maybe today he'd be a bank manager); and Jack White teaching a 9-year-old incarnation of himself the folk-blues standard Sittin' On Top of the World. At The Summit, all three swap tales and ideas about the electric guitar... of course, we're all eagerly anticipating their jamming together. They take turns leading the others through their own songs: The Edge on I Will Follow, Jack White on Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground, and Jimmy Page on Whole Lotta Love, though on the latter Jack and the Edge merely watch with big grins as Jimmy plays. One of my favourite parts of the film is the three of them trading solos on In My Time of Dying in their distinct styles. AWESOME. It's curious to watch the Edge here because a completely different thought process seems to apply to his guitar solos while Jimmy and Jack clearly have their roots in the blues. If you're a fan of any of these bands, this film is pure gold.

After the film, all three guitarists, the producers, and the director went up on stage for a brief Q&A. I recorded the last couple questions:

For the cover lovers, it must be noted that their Summit ends with them getting together to play The Band's The Weight with Jack and the Edge swapping verses. Jack agrees to take the high notes on the chorus while Jimmy mumbles something about not being able to sing at all. Man, they have got to release an official soundtrack to this film.

My top three covers of The Weight:

Tok Tok Tok - The Weight [originally by The Band]

Aretha Franklin with Duane Allman - The Weight [originally by The Band]

The Moog Machine - The Weight [originally by The Band]

Led Zeppelin, U2, and the The White Stripes as you've never heard them:

Nuspirit Helsinki - No Quarter [originally by Led Zeppelin]

Nossa Alma Canta - Desire [originally by U2]

Nostalgia 77 featuring Alice Russell - Seven Nation Army (Grant Phabao Remix)
[originally by The White Stripes]

I had hoped to have an amazing postscript to this night after I was by some stroke of luck able to score a ticket to the fabled It Might Get Loud after party as a media guest (don't ask). But the party was a total bust. Clearly there was an exclusive party within the party for special people only, so I was out in a jammed room with the other schmucks and party fillers. Pure Hell. Utter shallowness on display in full force and free drinks! I held on for 2 hours in hope of a rumoured jam session, though obviously this wasn't going to happen or at least not for us peons to hear/see. The only person of interest I saw was Richard Branson (or a look-alike) cutting through the lobby to the hotel elevators. The next day I read a small blurb in the paper that 2 of the 3 guitarists played (doesn't even say who) and those in attendance included Michael J. Fox, Bryan Adams, Geoffrey Rush, ex-Leaf Tie Domi, probable ex-Leaf Mats Sundin, and some Blue Jays. Yep, completely different party.

Other tidbits:
  • A clip I had seen previously on YouTube of a teenage Jimmy Page playing skiffle guitar on a TV show in 1957 appears in the film and the crowd erupted in laughter when they heard young Jimmy's career aspirations. Check the full segment here.

  • With Jack in T.O. for this and Alicia Keys also promoting her own film The Secret Life of Bees, producers took advantage of the opportunity to film the music video for their James Bond theme duet Another Way to Die somewhere in Toronto on Saturday. By the way, did you see the new Quantum of Solace trailer released a day or two ago? Check it out. And a surprising Bond tidbit from It Might Get Loud itself... The Edge asks Jimmy Page if there are any recordings they'd recognize from Jimmy's stint in the 60's as a session guitarist on numerous recordings. His answer: Goldfinger. Wow, news to me!

  • The other film at TIFF I saw was a midnight screening of JCVD, a new film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme as himself. A meta look at Jean Claude Van Damme's life surreally crossed with Dog Day Afternoon. A surreal, funny film and Van Damme shockingly delivers a riveting confessional monologue. Again: Van Damme and riveting in the same sentence. And I just have to mention that the JCVD end credits also roll with a cover song-- Bowie!
    Marie Mazziotti - Modern Love [originally by David Bowie]


a Tart said...

Wow, Mr.Fong, you are one lucky dude! Thanks so much for writing this up, even living vicariously has its rewards, xoxoxo

Anonymous said...

some great hits!thanks you so much!

Fongolia said...

a tart: Just you wait until you see what I've got lined up for next week... lucky barely covers it.

a Tart said...

whooo wheee! lucky is us then! :)

Ekko said...

What a heavy post!

BTW-If you are interested in more 7 Nation Army covers, go here:

Anonymous said...

How did you track down that version of Modern Love from JCVD? I've been trying to find it for the last two weeks!

Fongolia said...

As soon as I heard it, I made a note of the artist during the credits, Marie Mazziotti, and when I got home I tracked down the album on eMusic. She has a bunch of covers on the same album including REM's Losing My Religion.