Monday, 19 December 2016

"...Stay Groovy...Be Free..." - Roadies Season 1 TV Show - A Review by Mark Barry...




"...Stay Groovy...Be Free..." 

You know the way you love a cult TV program like "Ballers" or "Weeds" or "Lip Service" or mainliner groundbreaking quality like "The Wire", "The Sopranos", "Breaking Bad" - stretching back to "The West Wing", "Northern Exposure" and "Frasier" - and you're bereft when it's over - well Cameron Crowe's "Roadies" is the same for me.

Full of characters you actually like and storylines that unfold like flowers and written from a place that is real and knows its subject inside out - this affectionate and at times soppily nostalgic look at a typically deranged and tattooed road crew on a tour in 2016 USA with a fictional band is just so bloody entertaining.

Beautifully filmed in 4K and featuring a different city for each episode as the tour winds towards L.A. (there's a unique opening collage every week that shows that city's strengths and beauties, Seattle, New Orleans, Houston etc) - at the heart of "Roadies" is good writing from Director and ex Rolling Stone scribe Cameron Crowe. He's touched on this territory before in his superb film "Almost Famous" where he goes on the tour bus as a young journo back in the heyday of Seventies Rock. But all of that history and knowledge is naught without the troupe of actors and actresses to carry it off - and 15 or more characters in this 10-part Season 1 rock every scene with f-words, dodgy hair decisions, unwashed bodies and way too many espressos to keep them functioning as human beings.

The attraction/tension between Staton-House Band Tour Manager Bill (played by Luke Wilson) and the gorgeous Production Manager Shelli (played by Carla Gugino in her best part) is palpable - and I could look at skateboarding Rigger and budding photographer Kelly Ann (played by England's Imogen Poots) until my eyes bleed. Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rafe Spall and Colson Kelly (aka Machine Gun Kelly) all shine too as do Peter Cambor and Ethan Michael Mora who plays one of the band's children who might or might not be the spawn of Beelzebub.

There's very cool parts for Luis Guzman as Gooch the Tour Bus Driver who talks a lot but never anything wise, Branscombe Richmond as Puna the Indian Security guard whose in touch with all manner of spirits and can sense crap-about-to-go-down from a hundred paces and absolute casting genius in Ron White as Phil the 60-year old legendary roadie who spouts Jack Daniels wisdoms at the drop of his leather Lynyrd Skynyrd hat and has shot two people who annoyed him in his colourful past. Jacqueline Byres is the ditzy, loveable, restraining-order groupie who sneaks into every gig by hook or by crook and practically implodes if she gets near anything that resembles Tanc Sade and Catero Colbert playing Christopher House and Tom Staton - the I can't live with him but I can't live without him either songwriter nucleus of The Staton-House Band. There's a hilarious Rainn Wilson as the pompous critic Bryce Wilson naked on a piano in front of an audience - confessing his inner most feelings as they YouTube his druggy meltdown (someone who took umbrage to his online dissing of the band popped him a Joshua Tree root in his complimentary coffee).

Throw in cameo appearances from rock's founders Lindsey Buckingham, John Mellencamp, Jackson Browne and Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and new carriers of the flame like The Head and The Heart, My Morning Jacket, Halsey, Lucius, Gary Clark, Jr, Reignwolf, Frightened Rabbit, Best Coast, Jim James and Robyn Hitchcock (to name but a few) - and you get something that's hugely entertaining, funny, sexy, cool and rammed with references that an old fart like me gets (Jackson Browne covering Little Feat's "Willin'" in Episode 10). This is the kind of program that can namecheck Hendrix and Kenny G in the same breath - play unheard material like "Maggot Brain" by Funkadelic and "Mohamed's Radio" by Warren Zevon and fit them in as if it was the most natural playlist in the world. Acoustic jams on the bus - Halsey walking through the stands singing to an enrapt crew during her soundcheck - Rosanna Arquette taking a photo of the band as they wreck a 'death of Rock 'n' Roll' shoot in true smash-em-up Who style.

I warmed hugely to Cameron Crowe's recent movie "Aloha" movie whilst others slagged it off - couldn't wait to tell us how he's lost his touch with filmmaking and music in general (detractors for "Roadies" want to tell you the same). But I find his writing warm and hopeful and humane when so many other TV programs seem only to focus on brutality, torture and nastiness as a badge of cool.

Sure "Roadies" is clunky in places – the relationship between Kelly Ann (Imogen Poots) and the corporate axe-man Rafe Spall never quite ignites in a truly believable way – but that's countered by amazingly touching moments between other characters. In truth despite its flaws I loved every minute of "Roadies" where episode after episode shined - even if there was six different directors at the unruly helm. And you can't help but feel that the family of actor journeymen and women making this were feeling damn lucky themselves – blessed to have been involved in something so effortlessly cool - enjoying every Tom Petty guitar string, Rolling Stones plectrum and signed Led Zeppelin photo on the walls of gigs.

Everyone loves a road movie. Roll on Season 2 and Joy To The World and Three Dog Nights to the entire cast, crew and writers...
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