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Metropolis / So Socal

Cinema Verite Comes to L.A.'s Club Scene

November 25, 2001|Lina Lecaro

For his new rock 'n' roll documentary, "Badsville," P.J. Wolff spent 18 months filming in L.A.'s smokiest, sweatiest underground music sanctuaries, where would-be rock stars pour their hearts out onstage night after night--often to hordes of loyal followers--but few seem able to break into the mainstream.

"I knew these bands had some interesting tales to tell," says Wolff, whose raucous film showcases local bohemian stalwarts such as Extra Fancy, Motochrist, Texas Terri and the Stiff Ones, Bubble, Pigmy Love Circus, the Streetwalkin' Cheetahs and the Hangmen. The latter's front man, Bryan Small, speaks for many of his colorful peers when he likens his band's early days to VH-1's " 'Behind the Music,' but without the limos and the big bucks to back it up."

A struggling musician himself, Wolff saw making "Badsville" (a mix of interviews and live footage a la Penelope Spheeris' "Decline of Western Civilization"), as a way to bypass the corporate gatekeepers and snag attention for his favorite bands. The result, for sale at Tower Video in Hollywood, opens a window on a volatile milieu where drug problems, stage mishaps, personality conflicts, unappealing day jobs and record deals gone awry are just part of the game.

Despite its cautionary moments, Wolff's exuberant valentine to L.A.'s demimonde die-hards celebrates a subculture where music may not always translate into a career, but often becomes a way of life. "If Joe rock 'n' roller in Idaho picks it up and becomes a fan of one these bands, that would make me happy," he says. "There's such talent here, and hopefully this will help it get some exposure."

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