On Saturday night Brendan Canty (Fugazi) joined Jerry Busher (French Toast, etc.) and members of Califone on a far-east Williamsburg roof to accompany the animated films of Brent Green. (A still from his superb film "Haldacol Christmas" above.)
It was a gorgeous night rich in Spalding Grey-esque "perfect moments": the last waning moon of summer rose blood red as the band played an opening set before the films. Canty was on violin and guitar, Busher layered percussion, Becker played bass. Green added jangly banjo and fuzzy guitar riffs.
Most of this pre-screening set was country-western and folk inspired rock, with swinging, eccentric improvisation. I loved hearing Canty sing for the first time, something I don't recall him doing with Fugazi. So it was a nice surprise for me to hear him adding deep, lonesome vocals to some of the arrangements.
The band stepped off when the screening started. By the way, the Rooftop Films trailer is nothing but 44 seconds of holy shit. Check it out:
Bill Plympton showed up to introduce his amusing selection, a sequel to his hit short "Guide Dog". Another stunning highlight was "The Origins of Electricity" by Benh Zeitlin, which told the story of two small light bulbs sneaking inside a movie projector to witness the dark history of electric light.
Also unforgettable was the hilarious "Who I Am and What I Want" by Chris Shepherd. You can find a clip from the film at slinkypics, where the movie is summarized thus: "This film is about who I am and what I want. It is NOT about who YOU are and what YOU want. You always think everything I make is about you but it's not. It's all about me..."
At the end, other members of Califone emerged to add fiddle, hollow-body guitar and trumpet as the band accompanied Brent Green's films. Much of the score was propulsive and jittery; it gelled exquisitely with the images. Brent provided narration over the music in an anxiety-ridden voice, which fit the tone of the films (and the name of his website, "Nervous Films" ).
His animation has an intentional low-fi warmth to it; the hand-drawn characters drift through their worlds with visible scotch tape guiding them along. The eerie little stories are rich with surreal and wildly imaginative moments. My favorite (out of many) was perhaps the last, "Hadacol Christmas", a counter-myth about a lonely, skinny Santa who turns to cough syrup to escape his dreary solitude. It climaxes in a spectacular scene of a drunk Santa on a roof "conducting" the emissions of factory smokestacks.
Due to an unexpected gap in the program, there was a surprise treat: the band played along to Brent Green's wonderfully weird video for Califone's "Spider's House". (Listen to the song on their myspace jukebox; also check "Leon Spinx".)
Brent Green (and his films) will be joining Califone this fall. They play a CMJ show at Tonic November 2nd, Joe's Pub on November 9th and Southpaw on the 10th.