Ode to the jam band
The Electric Apricot, featuring Les Claypool (right) gathers for applause after a performance at the Sweetwater in Mill Valley in a scene from Claypool's movie, 'Electric Apricot: The Quest for Festeroo. Provided by Jay Blakesberg
When "Electric Apricot: The Quest for Festeroo" premieres next week at the Tiburon Film Festival, a bit of Marin might recognize itself on the screen.
And not just locations like Sweetwater Saloon in Mill Valley and Fairfax's 19 Broadway. There is many a hippie, aging and neo, who will laugh at the jokes and himself in what might be called an affectionate mockumentary.
Les Claypool hopes they do. The former bass player and face to the legendary Primus alterna-funk band, Claypool knows his cinematic riff on the "jam band scene" is dead on. He should know. He's lived a lot of it.
"There are a lot of inside jokes," says the Sebastopol dad who has evolved into a kind of media renaissance man with a new record, a novel and now a film coming out in the same year.
"Electric Apricot" follows the journey of a tie-dye-clad, organic, chai-swilling jam band on the road to Festeroo, an amalgam of every musical be-in since Woodstock. The 93-minute film is purported to be a documentary made by a graduate student, a ruse that Claypool says "amplified our handicaps.
"That's the look of it because that's what we could afford," Claypool says.
Locals might recognize Grateful Dead legend Bob Weir and Phish's bass player, Mike Gordon. They'll certainly recognize Sweetwater. "The Sweetwater is prominent," Claypool says.
And they might just recognize themselves.
We talked to Les Claypool last week about the jam band phenomenon and the mockumentary genre.
Q: Give us a definition of jam band.
A: Jam band or jam music is more of a state of mind than it is an actual style of music. It's more of keeping the parameters open than it is having a specific sound.
Q: Can the jam band community laugh at itself?
A: I think it has to. I think any community that cannot laugh at itself is doomed.
Q: Do you own a didgeridoo?
A: Would my kids count? My kids have one that a friend of mine gave us. Nobody knows how to play it. It just kind of sits there and looks interesting.
Q: "Electric Apricot" is inevitably going to be compared to "This is Spinal Tap." Are you prepared for that?
A: Oh, yes. Look how many baseball fans there are out there. It's been 20 years. It's about time. I watched "Spinal Tap" about half way through the production just to see if we were stepping on any toes. Looking at it now, it seems much more in your face, much more over the top. Was it ("Electric Apricot") inspired by "Spinal Tap"? I think it was more inspired by Christopher Guest in general.
Q: You were a huge part of Lollapalooza. How much of Festeroo is Lollapalooza?
A: I think Festeroo is a culmination of all the festivals, all the coming together of all the tribes in the nation. You got your Lollapalooza, your Bonnaroos - Festeroo is the potpourri of them all.
Q: Why premiere in Tiburon?
A: Tiburon means the shark. Our company name is BAIT, Bay Area Independent Theatrics.
Q: Describe your last drum circle experience.
A: We shot some of this film up at the High Sierra Festival. I was camping with my family in my little pop-up camper. The kids were already asleep, and all of a sudden this drum circle started. It seemed like (it was) right by my head. The drum circle went on until long after
dawn. My kids slept right through it.
Q: Is there room for a next big thing in music?
A: There's always room for a next big thing. It just depends on what the industry decides it's going to be. There's always a next big thing. I know it's not going to be me and I've know that since I was a kid. I tend not to think in those terms. It usually doesn't have anything to do with me.
Q: What would it take to kill jam bands?
A: It could be this film (laughs). I have a feeling that it's like anything else. It's such a huge thing and it seems to be growing. But it also seems to be evolving. The boundaries that separate it from other things are going to become so diluted that you won't be able to tell what is and what isn't (a jam band). You have bands like Ween and The Flaming Lips and me playing festivals that in the old days would have had the Grateful Dead.
Q: What would be an appropriate occasion to wear tie-dye?
A: Is there an appropriate occasion to wear tie-dye? I wore tie-dye in making this film, that was appropriate. I had a girlfriend who gave me a pair of tie-dye long johns. I used to wear them under cargo shorts when Primus was playing the Omni. Remember when everybody did that? It was a fashion statement.
Q: How much of this film comes from your own experience.
A: A lot of this film comes from my experience or experiences I've heard from others. And some of it is just actual experiences we had making the film. It's loosely scripted. It's all improv based. It's about getting into a situation and reacting to it.
Q: "Electric Apricot" has a song called "Hey, Are You Going to Burning Man?" When did Burning Man become a joke anyway?
A: Is it a joke? I think for my guys in this film, Burning Man is like Mecca. Haight Ashbury is full of tourists now. You have to go to Burning Man to really experience your free love.
Q: Who's your next target?
A: I don't know if I really have a target. I'm not sure if this is really a targeting thing. It's more about the individuals than it is about the scene. It's just that it's the environment these guys are in. The target is more the pretentious nature of these types of individuals. There are posers no matter what scene you're in.
IF YOU GO
"Electric Apricot: The Quest for Festeroo" screens at 7 p.m. March 15 at the Tiburon Playhouse as part of the Fifth Tiburon International Film Festival, which opens Thursday and runs through March 17 with 234 films from Australia to Yugoslovia. Tickets for individual screenings are $7 to $10. An "all access" pass is available for $750. The festival kicks off with an opening night gala Thursday after the 7 p.m. screening of "The Breakup Artist." To find out more and see the full schedule, go to www.tiburonfilmfestival.com.
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