Will play for Beer is a documentary that looks at the vibrant independent music/arts scene in Seattle, Washington. As a Torontonian, if you regularly check out live music in the city, you will feel right at home watching this documentary. There is definitely a certain kinship between the scenes– and Seattle’s challenges feel very much like those Toronto artists face.
“Everyone in this town is a musician. Everyone in this town is in a band. Everyone came here in the ‘90s with dreams. People have broken dreams. There’s legends in this city.” djblesOne ~ Don’t Talk to the Cops
Director Carrine Fisher wonderfully and succinctly captures the interconnectedness, passionate, and mishmash world of the independent, underground, DIY, music scene in the city. From hip hop to punk, she showcases, and talks to, an eclectic array of bands– La Luz, Deep Sea Diver, Don’t Talk to the Cops, Champagne Champagne–as well as indie label owners and curators in the city. She also speaks to musicians Rachel Ratner and Keith Whiteman, the creators of the Seattle Band Map. The map tracks and illustrates the numerous collaborations and connections between local bands.
As with many parts of the world, Seattle artists are facing similar challenges–the dream, the competition, transitory venues, the fantasy of the major mainstream label, the support of the small, more focused, indie label—and the sacrifices that come with each. There’s also the reality that most are making very little money from their music. Bands are often playing for beer, free pizza or as a Don’t Talk to the Cop member humorously shares, even spaghetti.
Musicians admit that it’s a challenge to get people out to shows. On any given day there is a plethora of talented bands performing to an audience that is hungry for new music but unwilling to pay for it. This has created a hodgepodge element to the scene. Temple of Cairo is a clothing boutique, indie label, hosts curated events in the backroom, and is one of the founders behind a new Seattle festival called VIBRATIONS. Indie label, ggnzla RECORDS, offers everything from vinyl, alcohol–they’ve figured out that people rather pay for booze than art nowadays– to soda, compilations, screen printing, bingo and karaoke. Then there’s rap Master Maurice–a jack of all the oddest trades. On any given day you may find Maurice running his own psychic hotline, sending burgers in the mail, selling his fantastic paintings, or being hired for his famous vigilante rap phone calls that you can pay 17 bucks for. Don’t Stop Believin Records is quite simple in comparison, besides championing bands, one of its goals is to help usher in the tape cassette renaissance.
With its focus on the contemporary music scene, Will Play for Beer feels fresh, relevant, and important for all the indie musicians out there. Check it out! (Chaka V.)