Title: No Room For Rockstars
Director: Parris Patton
A meandering but still punkish documentary overview of the Vans Warped Tour, director Parris Patton’s “No Room For Rockstars,” shot over the 2010 iteration of the event, offers up a slice-of-life look at the punk rock juggernaut, a rain-or-shine misfit circus that crisscrosses North America every summer as a rollicking outdoor minstrel show aimed at kids hungry for live music mainly outside of the glossy pop mainstream. If it’s mostly an amorphous fan’s document that doesn’t locate much in the way of a dramatic throughline, the backstage and behind-the-scenes access will at least still prove engaging enough to its core demographic even if few others.
Launched in the 1990s, the Vans Warped Tour positioned itself as the kind of gritty antithesis to what some viewed as the overblown commercialism of 1994′s 25th anniversary Woodstock concert. (Somewhat ironic, given its titular sponsorship.) Nevertheless, founder Kevin Lyman worked tirelessly to craft a funky fusion of punk rock, extreme sports and temporary-tent youth culture revivalism, where mosh-pit enthusiasts and neo-hippies alike could come together, rock out and enjoy a day. The traveling tour eventually took on a more diverse musical slate, but retained its commitment to bringing live music to a lot of areas that don’t typically get such big shows.
“No Room For Rockstars” provides a snapshot of this grungy, grind-it-out lifestyle, interweaving in characteristic fashion the stories of a couple musical acts, like Suicide Silence, Never Shout Never and Mike Posner. These narrative strands are fine and good, but some of the more interesting and memorable portions of the movie lie in interviews with roadies, and an outside act trying to break in. The latter, Forever Came Calling, exist in symbiotic fashion off the tour, following them from city to city and selling their CDs in outside lines for $5 a pop. Seeing their hometown, the soul-crushing shit hole that is 29 Palms, it’s easy to empathize with their desperate, “Born To Run”-type desire to punch out and escape, and their overweight frontman, Joe Candelaria, develops into the unexpected heart and soul of “No Room For Rockstars” via late-in-the-movie scenes that detail his efforts to convince Lyman to give them a bit of stage time during one of the tour’s final California dates.
Unfortunately, while Patton coaxes out a few comments regarding the tension between thrash-art and commerce – as well as the divide between DIY bands that have sweated it out for two-plus years on the road and an act like Posner, with a major label on his side, pushing press opportunities — he doesn’t really follow up on that conflict in substantive ways. Neither does he get quite enough face time with Lyman, or craft a comprehensive and compelling overview of the many big-name groups that have passed through the tour — acts like No Doubt, Blink 182, Green Day, Bad Religion and Pennywise — and ergo why it’s sustained itself in an era of shrinking recording industry profits. Patton perhaps takes all that as a given, but by not delving a bit deeper he’s created the filmic equivalent of a concert tour T-shirt — nice as a keepsake for those who were there, but virtually meaningless to a lot of others who might still have a passing interest in the subject matter.
Written by: Brent Simon