The Ashes of American Flags On Sundance Channel July 3/4

Brendan Canty and Cristoph Green’s magnificent Wilco road film will be on the Sundance Channel tonight at midnight EDT, and tomorrow at 6:00 PM.  How fitting that a road film on this most American of bands would be viewable on Independence Day.

Clearly viewed through the eyes of a musician — Brendan was the drummer in Fugazi — it’s a close-up of a band on the verge of greatness.  Visually magnificent, it gives enough of a glimpse of Wilco, the collection of humans, to make us feel privy to their life on the road; we have a backstage pass, and make use of it; but at the same time, the music is the star.  And what incredible music it is.

I was at the 930 Club show that ends the film, so it’s weird seeing something preserved that lingers in memory.  Tweedy throughout the film comes off as likable, if a little over his head when talking about art.  The physical demand of performing as they do is captured with Nels Cline having to wrap his neck in ice after a show — it’s like seeing a football team after a hard game.  The American scenery caught from the bus is like something out of a Joel Sternfeld exhibit.  There are precious little hijinks captured — no hotel trashing, no groupies, no drugs.  Just an incredible band of musicians pleasing their fans, play for immortality, all captured on HD video.

Watch it on Sundance.  Better yet, download it at the iTunes store.

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