The Americana Music Association has consistently dabbled in film screenings during its annual Americana Music Festival and Conference, trying its best to squeeze quality music documentaries into a packed schedule of showcases and industry events. The offerings have often felt relegated to the under card, through no fault of their own. There is simply too much incredible live music going on. This year’s offerings, however, feel like main events, with both a World Premiere and Tennessee Theatrical premiere taking place on two subsequent nights at the Belcourt Theatre before AmericanaFest even fully kicks in. They also benefit from a strategy, that even if it’s not perfect this year (as you’ll see), could work in the future: separating the film and music in a way that might get festival attendees here earlier, and locals engaged sooner.
The film portion of the Festival begins at the Belcourt Theatre on Monday, September 11 at 7:15 p.m with Thank You, Friends: Big Star’s Third Live…And More. Filmed at Glendale, California’s Alex Theatre and directed by Benno Nelson (Dwight Yoakam: Saw You Comin‘), Thank You, Friends… features music from Big Star’s revered Third album with performances by sole surviving Big Star member Jody Stephens along with Mike Mills (R.E.M.), Mitch Easter (Let’s Active), Chris Stamey (the dB’s) plus the Posies’ Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer. Joining the core ensemble are a star-studded cast of guest artists including Jeff Tweedy and Pat Sansone of Wilco, Ira Kaplan (Yo La Tengo), Robyn Hitchcock, Dan Wilson (Semisonic), Benmont Tench, Jessica Pratt, Brett Harris, Django Haskins, and Skylar Gudasz, as well as a full chamber orchestra led by San Francisco’s acclaimed Kronos Quartet and conducted by Carl Marsh, who wrote the original orchestrations for Third. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Nelson, Stephens and more.
On the following night at the Cannery Ballroom at 8 p.m., a good portion of the cast of Thank You, Friends…will reconvene at Cannery Ballroom to perform Big Star’s Third album in its entirety for the first time in Nashville in its entirety, including original Third conductor Carl Marsh and core players including Stephens, Mills, Easter, Stamey and Sansone (Wilco). This performance will be followed by a set of Big Star hits and special musical guests.
And here we have the aforementioned challenge and imperfect strategy of mixing music and film, for Tuesday, September 12 at 7:15 p.m. is also the date and time of the second big AmericanaFest film offering at The Belcourt: The Americana Music Association and Old Crow Medicine Show’s World Premiere presentation of 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde: The Concert. Last year, to mark the 50th anniversary of Bob Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde, GRAMMY Award-winning group, Old Crow Medicine Show, performed Dylan’s classic album in its entirety at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The event coincided with Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cat: A New Music City, an exhibit that explored Dylan’s time in Nashville. Directed by Lee Tucker, the concert film includes performances of the albums’s classics, including “Just Like A Woman,” “I Want You” and “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Lee and members of the band. Old Crow Medicine Show Present 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde: The Concert will be released on DVD/Blue-Ray by Columbia Nashville Records on September 15.
So you either have a conundrum or you don’t, depending on where your interest lies. One option: See Thank You, Friends: Big Star’s Third Live…And More on Monday night, get completely jazzed over the film and music, and then go see the the live show on Tuesday night at the Cannery. Or go see 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde: The Concert on Tuesday night at the Belcourt and then run out of there after the Q&A to make it to the Cannery in time to catch the Big Star hits portion of the night.
Both film screenings begin at 7:15 p.m. (Doors at 6:45 p.m.) and are included with Americana Music Conference registration badges (RSVP required). General admission tickets are available for $10 at Belcourt.org. Concert is included with Americana Music Conference registration badges or Festival Wristbands, or $15 through the Cannery’s web site.