Review: Long Way To The Top

Welcome to “The Sir and The Sport” movie review where “The Sir,” Kevin Marr, and “The Sport,” Christian Andersen, watch a movie and discuss their thoughts. Today they take a look at rock documentary Long Way To The Top from Late Morning Films.

CHRISTIAN:  The biggest impression this movie left me with was “So, you want to be a musician, huh?” The stories we hear about bands and music artists are usually the ones of excess once they’ve reached the top. The atypical sex, drugs and rock & roll. In interviews you’ll hear members talk about the time spent traveling in the van, loading and unloading their equipment, playing for a handful of people and making no money as they sit poolside looking over Los Angeles. This movie puts you in those vans and shines a light on the struggle of making a name for yourself. It’s not pretty but its not supposed to be and that’s why I liked the movie.

KEVIN:  It certainly isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme, is it? The passion, dedication and commitment are all in plain view of this entertaining and thought provoking documentary. I was floored by the reality of a few different elements. For starters, “starving musician” is by no means a new term in the industry or in society, for that matter, but the details were eye-opening to me. In particular, the segment where one band member confessed to just buying his next four meals from a Shell station while stopping for gas. Far from the glamour so many of us associate with rock stars. Christian, what caught your attention?

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CHRISTIAN:  A couple things really stuck with me. One, and it’s the neat freak in me (don’t judge!), the laundry scenes with them discussing how long it has been since they’ve washed clothes and showered lead me to this thought – “that van must stink.” One guy says “those are my underwear.” I don’t care if there’s any confusion with whom the blue butt huggers belong, if there’s a chance my boys have been where your boys have been, they go straight to the trash. When you’re sniff testing a pair of sweatpants, you’re not in a hygienic place that I could live.

I liked David Ramirez, despite my screaming for him to shower, and really identified with his struggles with solitude. When he was driving by himself with the cameraman, I could imagine how hard it must be when he’s alone. He said something that really resonated with me – after being on the road so long it’s hard to adjust and you become an introvert. In my days covering sports, there were times when I was on the road for weeks and when I came home it was strange to be with my family and co-workers. I would head into the office and really struggle with being back in that environment. I felt like I wasn’t really getting anything done because I wasn’t on the move to the next training camp, practice or game. You’re so alone and locked in with your travels that you embrace the solitude. How would you be able to handle that?

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KEVIN:  You’ve touched on some very hard truths about life on the road. The hygiene issue was one I never took into account before this viewing. They explained that most of the lodging quarters were dumps, all the while piling the band into one room after road trips with them all in one room with wheels. Lack of laundry services and long stints without showers isn’t a problem…until it’s a real big problem, as we began to see. The susceptibility to getting sick and how that lays bearing on the performance. Remember why musicians are out there in the first place – to promote their music. What happens when a flu or sore throat crashes the party? As far as that introversion is concerned, that alone can take one down the wrong road. Alcohol and drug use are always there to numb whatever ails you and then you’ve got a much bigger issue. Christian, what did you think about all of the various obstacles that these musicians have to navigate through, including being on the road for extended periods of time with wives, girlfriends and kids back home?

CHRISTIAN:  I’m not a psychiatrist but I play one on the Internet so lay down on the couch and let’s work this out. The old saying goes, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” I think that’s false. I believe absence makes matters of the heart harder. In a previous relationship, I was engaged and moved out of state for a job and she stayed behind. When she finally moved to me a year later, there was an underlying resentment on her part. Even though we had agreed that it was the right thing to do for my career, it was eventually a factor in our split. In my current life, when I have been on the road for a month, living out of suitcase, my wife has been fine with it and understands the adjustment time when I return. Quite frankly, I think it’s harder for her when I return because she has to learn all over how to put up with me. That was one of the things they talked about in the movie – life at home becomes as difficult as the separation.

Let me lighten the mood a little bit. I’m about to blow your mind. I hope. Wes Borland of Limp Bizkit appears a couple times to provide insight. I want you to watch one of his scenes again and tell me he’s not the Rock & Roll doppelgänger of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. I’ll wait.

KEVIN: You nailed it. Perhaps we’ll see Wes at the Seahawks’ game this Saturday versus Detroit. Let the Lions think they’re seeing double. Christian, what amazes me about these tireless musicians who repeatedly get out there on the road is that today’s music scene feels remarkably different than from years past. With the inception of digital media, are fans still getting out to clubs and venues the way they used to? Do the distractions and options that allow one to get your music elsewhere play a negative role as obstacles for musicians, or do these new channels help in promoting exposure and visibility? Either way, Long Way To The Top is an excellent look into how musicians are faring these days and what lengths some go to in order to survive and chase that dream.

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Long Way To the Top can be seen on multiple digital platforms including iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and more.