Pop Philosophy

The other Friends; planned insurrection

Going underground Denver's Friends Forever has a unique stage show, in large part because of its stage. The experimental duo — comprised of last-nameless drummer/ vocalist Nate and bassist/keyboardist Josh — performs exclusively in its VW van. The pair drive around until they find a good parking spot, then they set up and play, with Nate spazzing on the van's inside and Josh flailing his way out of the passenger seat window. As the group emits waves of caterwauling noise, its assistant, Jenn, sets off fireworks, flashes a strobe light, and unleashes streams of bubbles.

Friends Forever shows are more about spectacle than sound. Most likely, no one would care a whit about the group if it weren't for Friends Forever, a gut-bruisingly funny documentary by Ben Wolfinsohn, for which he followed the band for eight months. The majority of the film takes place between shows, when the trio is traveling, complaining about oppressive dog odors, and relating pee-drinking stories. Over the course of the doc, Nate, Josh, and Jenn come to inhabit the weird space between performance art, deadpan comedy, and pained confession. Whether explaining that “the reason our band isn't into drugs is we can't even afford drugs to do,” grudgingly documenting rivalries with siblings, or running around a parking lot in a wolf mask dispensing hugs, the members of Friends Forever look at the world through oddly tinted glasses.

That vision is skewed enough, however, that Wolfinsohn hasn't found a distributor for the film. Luckily, HIQI Media owner Oren Biten picked up Friends Forever for his HIQI Film Series, “Where Music Meets Film,” which stops in S.F. at the Red Vic Oct. 19-25. The concept behind the series, which has already played in New York and Los Angeles and will continue on to 17 other cities, is to showcase a wide range of music films that have had little or no distribution. “The idea is to bring together all these different underground music cultures,” Biten says via phone from his Hollywood office.

In addition to Friends Forever, the series features the seldom-seen gem The Blank Generation, which includes early performances by Talking Heads, Blondie, and Television; Rockers, a 1978 reggae tale with cameos by Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, and Robbie Shakespeare; Driver 23, a documentary spotlighting three years in the life of a Minneapolis hard-rock guitarist who spends most of his time in his basement, battling his obsessive-compulsive disorder and his need to shred; and Word and Synergy, which document the independent hip hop and desert rave cultures, respectively. There's even some local flavor in the form of Try This at Home, a heady doc by Bay Area team Elina Shatkin and Thomas Logoreci that highlights the excitement, community, and insularity of Olympia, Wash., and its Yo Yo A Go Go music and art festival.

“Where Music Meets Film” also screens rarely seen music shorts and videos with each feature. Highlights include a 30-minute Radiohead concert in Dublin that has only been shown once, cartoonist/singer James Kochalka's short Monkey vs. Robot, and videos for the Fleshtones, Bob Marley, Sigur Ros, and local hip hopper Mystic.

For more information, call the Red Vic at 668-3994 or go to www.hiqi.com.

First odor on the agenda Upon recently receiving a press release for an in-store performance at Amoeba Music by the Planning Commission, I couldn't help but marvel at what an amazing town we live in. Could Gerald Green and his loft-loving cronies on the city board really have formed a band? (If so, I envisioned a return to that old punk tradition of “gobbing,” in which the audience spits its phlegm at groups.) What's next, Supervisor Ammiano headlining the Punch Line? Oh, wait …

The Planning Commission, it turns out, is a newly formed punk band “devoted to humorous, angry, and topical songs about the S.F. government.” The quartet features Pansy Division co-founder Jon Ginoli, Amoeba employees Tom Lynch and Gabe Wheeler, and Stark Raving Brad, the son of former state Sen. Quentin Kopp. During the short set at Amoeba last week, the group proved that you can be topical and funny simultaneously, especially when you've got great material. Ginoli's rewrite of the Supremes' “Love Child” imagined Duh Mayor's newborn babe wiping her runny nose with silk scarves, while “Joltin' Joe” tackled the loft-building developer Joe O'Donoghue: “His claim of love for homeland/ Is disingenuous/ 'Cause what England did to Ireland/ Is what he's doing to us.” On “Hail to the New Board,” Ginoli sang about how the new supes will “kick the mayor's ass/ The old board used to kiss it/ Whenever he walked past.” But the band's best sing-along was “Condos by the Sea,” which had audience members yelling, “Bring me the head of Gerald Green!” Sounds like Green may have more than gobbing to worry about.

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