Directed by Paris Patton and produced by Stacy Peralta (of Dogtown And Z-Boys fame), Vans Warped Tour: No Room For Rock Stars was put together from over three hundred hours of footage shot on the road during the 2010 installment long running yearly punk tour. Having been around for well over fifteen years now, the Warped Tour has gotten to be pretty popular and while it's stretched out over the years to become more than just a travelling punk rock circus, the emphasis on music that most wouldn't consider 'mainstream' remains the same.
With only two months to travel all across the continent, the documentary (which was produced with the full blessing of the powers that be at The Warped Tour) is an interesting mix of interviews not only with the musicians involved in the tour but also with various fans and, more interestingly, with the behind the scenes guys. Responsible for setting up and tearing down a veritable village before and after each show, the documentary gives us a firsthand look at what's involved in this aspect of the production.
There are a lot of bands featured very briefly here, but the emphasis is on Mitch Lucker, frontman for Suicide Silence, Christofer Drew of Never Shout Never and Mike Posner. As the movie moves from the start to end of the tour we see Lucker deal with the inner conflict he feels - touring is essential for his band and there's no way that they could survive without it. Additionally playing on The Warped Tour is a great opportunity for them but on the flip side, he's got a wife and a kid at home who he is quite open about missing dearly. Drew has a bit of a career breakdown as the tour moves on, unsure what direction to take things in, while Posner's career starts to really take off as the tour progresses and he starts to see the fruits of his efforts paying off in a bigger way than a lot of the acts that are on the tour with him. Just as interesting are the segments that cover the band Forever Came Calling, who follow the tour around in their own van hoping to sell enough CDs to fans that they'll get some attention and hoping that attention will land them a spot on the tour at some point.
As all of this plays out we get to know some of the backstage workers who come back year after year to work on the tour. We also catch up with some repeat veterans of the tour like Pennywise and bands that are coming to prominence outside of the Warped Tour circle like Polar Bear Club. The real focus of much of the documentary is to show us just how much work goes into pulling off a tour of this caliber and who fickle things can be. A perfect example is a freak rainstorm that shows up, meaning one of the acts can't go on stage. Not going on stage means CD sales at the show are going to be affected which in turn hurts their bottom line. You don't get the impression that most of these guys are in this to get rich, but you've also got to take into account their need to make a living at this and their need to pay their bills just like the rest of us.
Shot almost entirely in cinema verite style the film is appropriately unpolished in appearance, tone and structure. We get a lot of 'fly on the wall' moments as the ups and downs of the tour are captured and presented to us in a very matter-of-fact manner that thankfully lacks any pretension. When it's all said and done you don't really have to be a punk rock fan to appreciate this (half of the acts on the Warped Tour aren't really punk anymore anyway), all you really need is an appreciation and understanding of the lengths a band will go to in order to tour and to get a shot at making it.
No Room For Rock Stars looks okay in 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen. Some shots look better than others and a lot of this just has to do with how and when the material was shot in the first place. Digital cameras were used for the entire shoot so don't expect anything remotely resembling film but the production doesn't need it. The image is clean and fairly crisp with good colors and decent enough black levels. Some shimmer is present throughout and there are a few compression issues here and there but as this is a test disc, maybe those will be corrected on a final pressing? Who knows...
The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix is clean, clear, well balanced and free of any hiss or distortion save for a few scenes that have a bit of wind noise. Rear channels aren't used as well or as often as they could have been but channel separation helps spread out the mix nicely and the music sounds good.
No extras on this test disc at all.
No Room For Rock Stars doesn't really tread much new ground in the world of 'working band' music documentaries but it's interesting enough that if you're a fan of any of the groups involved you'll want to check it out - and even if you're not, it's still worth a look. It offers an interesting look at life on the road and it gives us some insight not just to what the guys on stage go through but what the behind the scenes workers have to deal with as well. The test disc sent for review looks and sounds okay but features no extras at all. Rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.