The remastered 40 BANDS / 80 MINUTES! was the result of a ton of work by a dedicated crew of friends who I can’t thank enough. Check out those smiling faces in the photo up top—what an amazing screening we had!
Now that that’s over, it’s time to tell the long, winding road of a backstory about how the original production happened and how, fourteen years later, it resurfaced. If you are game, please indulge me…
The reissue journey started—just as the original project began back in 2006—with the one-and-only, Jack E. Jett. So let’s get back there…
If you wish, read my three part series on Jack—he was a badass:
Here’s the abridged version:
I was a producer on a pioneering nationally-broadcast gay TV show The Queer Edge by day while I promoted underground concerts at night at Il Corral. Jack, the show creator and host, asked me to book Il Corral performers like The Top Drawer, Nora Keyes, Fireworks, Bedroom Walls, Books On Tape, Laco$te, Michael Lucid, Creekbird among others on his program. Cool underground bands. On TV. National TV. Unbelievable!
When The Queer Edge ended abruptly (the network founder stole the company’s money and locked out employees with no notice), I was left sitting on my hands. And angry. Man, could I get angry back then.
The “revenge” I plotted was somehow continuing the Queer Edge mission of putting cool underground bands on TV.
The QE crew—equally out of work, equally pissed off—agreed to help. This was getting real.
Parallel to this, I had been discussing with Christie Scott from Il Corral about holding the most mega concert ever. You see, I had gotten a bit of a reputation for hosting a half-dozen bands—and sometimes many more—on a Monday night. A retroactive apology to anyone who suffered through those bills. Gas was a zillion bucks in post-Iraq War America and, having grown up in the ’80s and ’90s when we would add touring bands to shows just cuz they showed up, I couldn’t say no to musicians who had traveled so far to play.
Plus, we handled it, you know? My production chops were honed by 2006 and we (myself plus sound person Kyle Mabson, Monday Night co-founder Jon San Nicolas, and the Il Corral folks) could shuffle bands—even a whole bunch of them—on and off the stage and still be done by 1am. Or 2am. Hehe.
So why not more bands—why not… 40 bands? I don’t know why that number was suggested, or who suggested it, but it stuck.
I thought back to the early 1990s when me and my Cleveland friends drove to Ann Arbor, Michigan along with dozens of other artists and taped a two-minute spazz jam segments for a compilation video that Bulb Records and the band Couch organized to support the artists in war-torn Kosovo.
I realized back then that two minutes is the perfect set length and the perfect video length. Maximum energy can be maintained with zero BS. And the ultimate movie length has got to be 90 minutes or less. If we took 40 bands, recorded each for two minutes—that’s double perfection. And all our excitement about the concept—embodied by the exclamation point ‘!”—we’ll just add that to the title like the creators of my favorites Urgh! A Music War and Airplane! and Top Secret! did. And, voila! 40 BANDS / 80 MINUTES! the concept was born.
Filming happened on Monday, March 6, 2006 which seemed portentous (3/6… 666… get it?) and lasted 6.5 hours.
I spent $87 total: I got MiniDV tapes, $5 double-double pizzas from the Little Caesars at 1st and Vermont around the corner from the venue, and even splurged on a few lighting gels from Samy’s Camera.
We knew the bands would have to share equipment (I believe Halloween Swim team provided quite a bit of it… whomever else contributed I thank you eternally) and set ups would be essentially the same. The gels would enable us to vary the lighting for each band to alleviate the visual boredom of the spartan, brick tomb Il Corral stage area. (I’m a Trekkie and had been reading about legendary TOS designer Matt Jeffries who had just a few gray hallways set segments to make look like a whole starship, and he accomplished that by switching gels and throwing light at jaunty angles.)
Compressing lots here, but the filming came and went in a flash. All the performers were superstars. Gowns were the only ones to crash the event—good for them. All twelve alternate bands showed up—no one cancelled—so I ended up with 52 bands in the can. That was not expected. People really cared about this.
I remember we had to control the audience flow into the venue. Crowd members were lined up outside on the street, queueing up to support their friends. I met a lot of new folks that night who became fixtures at the Monday shows I continued through 2014.
After the filming, I still had no regular job so I learned to edit as I cut the video (I called Bret Berg and Eon McKai a ton for advice), burned (literally) through three turn-of-the-millennium Mac laptops (portable tech was not up to a project like this at that time), burned though an equal number of grueling part-time production jobs to stay afloat, and even activated my other professional network—my former Hustler and porn industry contacts—to handle mastering and DVD menus and authoring. (This was a time-honored tradition in L.A. where the adult industry and the indie film cluster are connected if not 1:1 the exact same people.)
My old co-worker, now creative director to the stars (like, for Rihanna and more) Jesse Lee Stout did the titles, and I Heart Lung guitarist / Sounds Are Active label head / all-around great guy Chris Schlarb put the disc out and—bam! Instant “hit.”
For real: we got reviewed everywhere and the L.A. Times said we were the best of the year on the front page of their holiday gift guide (thank you, Ann Powers). Netflix—then a DVD-by-mail startup—bought twenty copies of the movie and rented the crap out of them. We even had a successful eleven city movie tour where I connected with and was supported by friends old and new. I wondered, why tour with a band when touring with a movie is more economical and fun? (Like, duh, Sean—that’s why indie film took off in the first place.)
But things kinda started going wrong too. The Venice (CA) premiere at the all solar-powered Electric Lodge had terrible sound and video quality, and I didn’t communicate effectively that the twelve bands we recorded in addition to the core 40 bands would not be part of the movie, although they were featured in a separate video on the DVD (10 BANDS / 20 MINUTES! is only available here) so that ruffled some feathers. I apologize for not getting that right—I know that’s still a sore spot. Someday soon I’ll get that piece of the puzzle online.
We sold out two screenings so I was blotto by the end and got stopped by the cops on the way home. It’s a wonder I didn’t get a DUI (I should have) and end up in jail on premiere night. I really don’t know what I was thinking (I wasn’t).
Some post-release issues were admittedly out of my control: Our DVD distributor was so inept that they had no copies on Amazon or in record stores when the positive reviews hit. We had the orders but no product to send. Grrr.
Pitchfork, who were kingmakers then—they could make or break any band or music DVD—passed on reviewing us. They said they didn’t recognize the bands. Six months later after they had “discovered” Health and Mika Miko and Abe Vigoda (all in the movie) PitchforkTV licensed 40 BANDS! for streaming in lieu of reviewing it… trouble was no one had a fast-enough internet connection to stream movies at that time. Another frustrating dud.
Then our distributor Nail went under, effectively sealing away the DVDs until after their lengthy bankruptcy was over. It was the death of home video, an industrywide technological and marketing pivot which meant Chris Schlarb lost his shirt on the movie and decided to get out of the label business altogether. I still feel bad about how Chris fared after he put so much good faith positive energy into things.
We also had to abandon Il Corral and relocate Monday Nights to Pehrspace. That didn’t turn out so bad in the long run, I guess, but Jon was not involved any longer and that was a sad development.
Then there were the bad things that happened just post-40 BANDS! that were in my control. I can admit now I just straight-up blew it. I delved deeper into drugs and partying and began a decade-long slide into hopeless addiction. I remained productive for almost a decade but that’s where the bad using originated. My relationship ended due to my callous behavior and that further threw my life off track.
At the same time I tried to make a sequel to 40 BANDS!—called Friends In Other Dimensions—that was supposed to be an upgrade with better cameras, bigger bands, higher-grade production with, you know, sets and shit. But I made that cliché sophomore filmmaker mistake of being so eager to make a splashy follow up, I threw away creative control along with my dignity and ended up caught in a situation that was over my head. I let a lot of people down. Friends in Other Dimensions remains unreleased. I super-duper blew it.
Years go by. I get sober. The whole scene changes.
And I end up where I started—full circle, back with Jack:
When I unearthed and published videos, photos and blog posts—many never-before-seen—of Jack E. Jett in the fall of 2019, some of you from the now nostalgically warm ‘n fuzzy Il Corral era messaged me and asked: When are we ever going to see 40 BANDS / 80 MINUTES! online?
Give the people what they want, I thought. But, uh, not so fast.
Trouble was the DVD release was the wrong aspect ratio—it was encoded with black bars above and below the picture to fool 4:3 TVs into displaying widescreen, but consequently the movie appeared to be in a tiny box on most modern displays. The picture was interlaced too—set up for tube TVs with their scanning cathode ray tubes. It’s so funny how much tech has changed! And the unmastered sound was never where I wanted it to be on the DVD. Kinda crucial for a music movie.
Enter mastering engineer Scott Craggs who remastered the sound. He was the first guy I contacted in the fall of 2019 to get the ball rolling on the reissue. Scott did a phenomenal job. Considering what he had to work with, I can’t praise him more highly.
The original project files were not accessible as Final Cut Pro 7 is no longer supported and there was no budget to rent an edit suite and restore the movie. So this was to be a “remaster”—Scott’s improved sound, plus no more black bars, plus corrected aspect ratio and de-interlace… and hopefully use the reissue as an excuse to reconnect with what I was missing most in sobriety: the players and friends who made 40 BANDS! in the first place.
I can say now that this remaster project turned out very well indeed—it was amazing to spend a little time with each of you and see your beautiful faces!
We squeaked in our screening right before coronavirus quarantine lockdown hit (whew), and Kim Gordon’s “team” didn’t throw things off too much (three days before the remaster screening Silva Management commandeered half of our original time slot so the ex-Sonic Youth bassist could rehearse… not optimal but we got through it).
As a bonus, I also premiered SEAN CARNAGE PARKING LOT—another long-in-the-can uncompleted project from a slightly more evolved, 2011 iteration of Monday Nights.
Anyhow blah blah. Thanks for reading my tale. I felt like I had to get that out. It’s kinda insider shit but maybe some of you enjoyed it.
I have more video projects in the works that I am excited about sharing. If you sign up for my mailing list, I’ll send them to you first.
In the meantime, stay safe out there. We are living in crazy times.
One thing I’ve been reflecting on is that while it’s not healthy to live in the past, you can’t will it away either. In fact, “visiting” previous eras of life—by watching this movie for example—is a way to see how far you’ve come. To draw strength. To not take the future too seriously. Because the future and the past—they are no different—they remain equally untouchable. In the meantime we will get through things. We’ll enjoy our moment, here and now, to the fullest. It’s all we’ve got.