Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Anvil!: The Story of Anvil! (and...uh....Anvil) - Gramercy Theatre - 4/7/09

This blog is still in its infancy yet I've devoted - what?....3 entries already to this band?

Anyway....on April 7th was the NYC "premiere" ("premiere" gets put in "quotes" because it wasn't really the first time the movie had played in NYC).

Gramercy Theatre - which some may know as the Blender Theatre - has been around since the late 1930s....but has only been a concert venue for about 3 years or so.

Place holds about 600 people with a nice-sized general admission area down front - and then a sorta balcony area with the seats for the lazy folk.

The ticket - which said doors opened at 6:30 - totally lied because we weren't let in until at least 7. As it turned out - the reason for the delay is because of all the V.I.P.'s they had to get in & seated first. Turns out - out of the 600 or so people that the place holds - only 50 tickets actually went on sale to the public.

So - about 550 people are VIPs and 50 people are "common folk"??...hmm....that seems to be quite the interesting reversal of the definition of "VIP" and "common folk" don't you think?

As I approached the doorway, I was stopped by security....for you see - I happened to enter the place just behind Jay Jay French (Twisted Sister guitarist - the guy with the glasses) - and papparazzi (no "quotes" - there actually was papparazzi there) were snapping photos of Mr. French on the red carpet (no "quotes" - there actually was a red carpet).

After the photographers had enough of Mr. French, was finally able to get in & take a the specially designated "common folk" section - which - thankfully, was pretty much right up front (good thing...after all - it's the "common folk" who actually REALLY wanted to be there).

Got to sat next to an awesome girl named Jen who happened to be wearing a "That Metal Show" t-shirt...turns out - we were at the same taping, although I'm ashamed to say I didn't recognize her. I was actually recognized a few times that night for being the guy on the Anvil-episode of TMS who stumped the Trunk by asking an Anvil-related question. Did later see a couple of other people from the taping who I had sat next to.

Right behind us was a couple who had already seen the movie - but prior to that - had never heard of Anvil. When they heard the movie was playing - they had to go because they just HAD to see the band live.

Excellent that the movie had increased the name-recognition of Anvil by probably a thousand-fold....the real question for this couple, though, is: are you now going to go out & buy some Anvil records? 3 years from now when Anvil are playing some club in New Jersey - are you going to make the trip?

After some talk with Jen & the surrounding fellow commonfolk (and spotting Dee Snider & Frankie Bello in the audience) - the movie started.

The movie was excellent.

As a longtime fan of the band - I enjoyed it on a couple of levels.

The obvious level is that - as a fan of the band (and even moreso, as a guy who has met them several times) - the movie is interesting because I get an insider's viewpoint of a band I already like.

But - truth be told - this could never be some documentary about Anvil....because a movie like that would have such a limited appeal it probably wouldn't be worth making (let alone pouring the amount of money behind it that VH1 has done).

No....this movie tells another story - utilizing Anvil as a vehicle in which to tell that story.

This story is - in a nutshell - about 2 guys who NEVER gave up on their dreams.

Who among us didn't dream of being something or doing something when we were kids? Who among us doesn't have a passion that, if given the ultimate freedom, we wouldn't just want to pursue forever?

Here are 2 guys - Robb Reiner & Lips - who started playing music together when they were like 14 years old....and now - in their mid-50s - are STILL playing together...still touring, still recording - despite the fact that they never "made it". They do it for the purest of reasons - the love of it....but that desire to "make it" never left's not completely pure - and there's nothing wrong with that. It's not PURELY idealism at work.

As you follow the story - you follow them on a tour of Europe - well-intentioned but so poorly organized, managed & put together that at times it becomes comical. As a guy who's been on tour several times, I can completely relate to the failures....the clueless promoter at the club who pretends to know nothing about paying you at the end of the show, the pisspoor directions you're given to a club that are no help at all, being promised: "yeah, man - this show's gonna be HUUUUUGE" - which is correct if your definition of "HUUUUUGE" is - oh - 4 people.

The movie works because whether or not you've ever heard of Anvil - you can relate to what motivates these're proud that despite every obstacle, despite making NO money off their band, despite their responsibilities to their families & jobs....they STILL find a way to make it work....because to NOT make it work would make everything else somehow less worthwhile.

At one point Lips articulated something that I've said many times....that working his mundane job was OK - it was fine - as long as there was a next show or a next tour to look forward to.

The movie also works because of the natural charisma of Lips & Robb...and the exact impression I've always gotten from them when meeting them at their shows translates exactly onto the screen.

You're rooting for these guys AND you like them.

The movie is great - go see it.

After the movie was done, Anvil themselves took the stage & played about 5 songs...from what I remember, the very short set was something like: March of the Crabs (with Lips standing in the middle of the audience), This is Thirteen, 666, and, of course, Metal on Metal. I think there was another song in there that I'm missing.

After they were done, people started filtering downstairs for the after-party....drinks, autographs, photos with the band.

The people I was hanging out with (the TMS crew!) stayed upstairs for a bit - and then - a thing that brought a HUGE smile to my face happened:

Lips comes out on stage by himself and starts PACKING UP HIS OWN SHIT!!!!

I couldn't believe it....these guys are being featured now in every major music magazine and newspaper, they just had their movie premiere in front of a packed Gramercy Theatre (with celebrities!), VH1 is throwing who-the-hell-knows how much money behind it....AND LIPS IS PACKING UP HIS OWN STUFF??!!!!

Wow - did that rule....and says a lot about no matter how much publicity & press they may get - Lips & his band truly do represent the common man....they ARE the common band.

Bottom line: if given a choice - I think Lips & Robb would have been way more comfortable sitting with us "commonfolk" than the VIPs.

One last cool thing: I met Mark Goodman (original MTV VJ)....neat!

For your viewing/listening pleasure:

Anvil live - "Winged Assassins"


  1. So pretty much everything they played was off METAL ON METAL?

  2. Awesome story. I still haven't seen the movie.

  3. Oh but you will it'll run on VH1 this summer in OVERKILL mode..just wait.

  4. I just got a chance to read this tonight, and really enjoyed this piece. You brought me right into the experience and gave me a taste of a night I really wanted to experience. I can't wait to see this movie.