Dorsia Films just released a DVD chronicling a night at the Showbox with Seattle's Long Winters, fronted by Reverb columnist John Roderick, who's currently on hiatus from his blogging chores as he slaves away in the studio. For what it is -- a no-frills portrait of a fantastic band treating a hometown crowd to a leave-it-all-on-the-floor, tour-capping show -- it's a very worthwhile watch/listen. But for what it could have been -- and probably will eventually be -- it leaves me wanting more.
The best live rockumentaries combine three essential elements: (1) great cinematic chronicling of an onstage performance, (2) a sense of place, which includes crowd reactions and shots of the venue at large, and (3) clever, intimate behind-the-scenes footage featuring the band. Live at the Showbox absolutely nails element #1. Roderick is one of the most dynamic live showmen in all of rock -- and we're not just talking Seattle here -- and the emotional interplay between he and his superb bandmates (which include Death Cab's Ben Gibbard sitting in on drums during "Car Parts") makes for compelling viewing (although the action appears to have been cut in such a way so as to expel some of Roderick's hallmark banter, which, if true, is a bummer). However, element #2 is entirely lacking; crowd shots are limited to shots of the stage from the crowd, not of the crowd. And while you get scant sense of the room the room they're playing in, the Showbox is never captured panoramically. The net effect is they could be playing anywhere, and I think it's fair to expect more from any film along these lines.
As for the third element, it's there, but only in the disc's special features, where a 10-minute preview of Dorsia's forthcoming documentary on the band, Through With Love, can be found. Here we get glimpses of Roderick mercilessly showering his colleagues with shit in the studio, as well as an eye into his oft-frantic creative process and his brotherly relationship with original Winter Sean Nelson. My sense is that the footage from Live at the Showbox will be recycled liberally in this more full-throated documentary -- that the current offering is, in effect, a tasty tease at the masterwork to come. If that turns out to be the case, then I'll be saluting at full mast.