Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sonic Youth: Sleeping Nights Awake

Another year of inspired film and video programming at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts comes to a close next weekend with Sonic Youth: Sleeping Nights Awake. Entirely shot by high school students working under the guidance of Project Moonshine, the film documents a July 4, 2006 Reno concert by everyone's favorite post/punk/noise/avant/alt rock band.

Director Michael Albright founded
Project Moonshine in 2005 after completing an internship with famed documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles (on the Christo/Jeanne-Claude NYC art installation The Gates). Upon returning to his native Reno, Albright set up a non-profit to instruct teens on how to document important events in their community. In June 2006, a Project Moonshine staffer sent an e-mail to Sonic Youth requesting permission to film an upcoming concert, and not unsurprisingly the band said yes.

A week later, seven lucky kids found themselves playing basketball and go-carting with Sonic Youth, as a segue to shooting backstage interviews and the concert itself. The resulting B&W digital video project world-premiered at San Francisco's
Noise Pop Festival in March, 2007. It's received a bit of tweaking and played some minor festivals since then – and finally got its big push at this year's Cinevegas. That's where Variety's Robert Koehler caught it and filed this rave review.

The Reno concert was one stop on Sonic Youth's 2006's Rather Ripped tour. From what I understand, ten songs are performed in the film, including four from
Rather Ripped (Do You Believe in Rapture, Pink Steam, Incinerate, James Run Free) and some classics from the SY catalogue (Tom Violence, 100%, Shaking Hell, Mote and best of all, Kool Thing). I caught this show live at San Francisco's Fillmore Auditorium later that autumn, and as a veteran of a dozen or so SY concerts I can attest that it was one of their best.

The supreme highlight of the
Rather Ripped tour – and any SY fan who saw it knows what I'm about to say – is that KIM DANCED! Yes, Kim Gordon, the band's steely, ultra-kool-kitty bass player actually set down her Gibson Thunderbird and twirled, twisted, go-go-ed, hopped, jerked and swam her way across the stage. Suddenly I knew how people felt in 1939 when GARBO LAUGHED in Ninotchka! Kim Gordon and I are the same age (55) and the other SY band members aren't far behind us. As I slide into my geezer years, it's a relief to still have Sonic Youth around to supply the soundtrack. And I can't wait to see how seven Reno teens put a fresh spin on one of the few bands I still bother keeping up with.

Here are a few related links worth checking out:

Sleeping Nights Awake trailer (big and slow)
Sleeping Nights Awake Trailer (small and fast)
A detailed techsoup article on
Project Moonshine and the filming of Sleeping Nights Awake
Dennis Cooper's blog interview with Kim, featuring six YouTube clips of KIM DANCING!

Sonic Youth: Sleeping Nights Awake screens at 8:30 pm on Friday and Saturday, December 19 and 20. Preceding those screenings at 7:00 pm will be Muppets Music Moments, a 70-minute compilation of musical numbers from the Muppets TV show, including clips featuring Elton John, Paul Simon and Deborah Harry. Single tickets are $8 regular, $6 seniors, students and YBCA members. An extra two bucks gets you the double feature.

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