SXSW 2013: Good Vibrations
The new film about Terri Hooley’s enigmatic Belfast record shop and label had its American premiere last night
I’ve talked here before about people who never see the stop sign when it comes to music. These are people who are so in thrall to the sounds they hear in their head, to the music which powers and energises and enthuses them, that they keep on going long after everyone else has seen the light. You, OTR readers, know these people, these nutters, for whom music remains a huge part of their life forever and ever and ever. They can’t live without music – and, best of all, they never lose the thrill of hearing new music for the first time and falling head over heels in love with in.
There’s a fantastic scene in Good Vibrations, Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn’s flick about Belfastman Terri Hooley, the man behind the record shop and label of the title, which had its American premiere at SXSW last night. Hooley has opened a wee record shop in the middle of town to sell the music he likes. One day, a kid comes in looking for The Buzzcocks and Hooley hasn’t a clue what he on about. Undetered, the kid hands him a poster advertising a punk gig in The Pound featuring Rudi and The Outcasts. Hooley’s curiosity is piqued and he heads along.
When Rudi begin to play, Hooley is overcome with emotion. He has never heard anything like this in his life before. This is music which stops him in his tracks, causes his emotions to run high, throws him right round the room and makes him try to articulate how he feels. The best way to do that, he finds, is to start moshing and jumping and leaping with the rest of the audience. Hooley is hooked and the Good Vibrations’ shop begets a label to release Rudi’s “Big Time” single. Within time, a gang of cheeky scamps from Derry (Hooley has a great aside about Derry when he first meets the Undertones, which went over the heads of the US audience last night, but had me in stitches) arrive into his shop and the rest is, well, history and a signed photo of The Shangri-Las. Hooley, it is safe to say, has never seen the stop sign.
It’s a superb, warm-hearted, funny, wild and spirited film. I don’t know Hooley at all, but I’ve heard a lot of yarns about the man and Richard Dormer fills the big screen with his protrayal of the wide-eyed dreamer and music fan. The film also does a good job of capturing the atmosphere of those dark times in Seventies’ Belfast and how Hooley’s punk mob splashed some much needed colour and brightness into the proceedings. Musically, it’s a blast because those tunes have never aged and still retain that sense of innocence, wonder and fervent belief that the world can be changed by a three minute pop song.
Meanwhile, beyond the cinema (and we saw this in the Alamo Drafthouse, our second favourite cinema in Texas after the Paramount), the good vibes are everywhere. Today, we have the annual changing of the gaurd. The geeks, nerds, SEO experts, social media gurus and their clans leave town taking their caffeine-induced evangalism for apps and tech and their freshly pressed chinos with them and the music mob take over. From now until the very early hours of Sunday morning (and yeah, from conversations last night, it seems that those Prince rumours are on the money so cue mad scramble by thousands of people to get to that particular gig), it’s largely bands who will have our undivided attention (well, once we have finished constructively disrupting the music business at 11am local time). The real job of work and heavy lifting at SXSW, convincing people to see brand new acts in action, has begun. Those bands could do with a Terri Hooley on their side.