The Anvil Experience at Slim’s 4/12/2009

by Gordon Elgart on April 12, 2009

A great movie about a not-so-great band

A great movie about a not-so-great band

The Anvil Experience at Slim’s promised a preview screening of the documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil followed by a live performance by the band itself.  I figured this was going to the best possible way to see this movie, so off I went.

I’d be lying if I said I were familiar with Anvil.  Their name sounds familiar, but it’s so generic, it would sound familiar to anyone, I’d imagine.  They are a Canadian metal band that’s been playing together since 1978, and although they were influence on a few more famous bands, they never found success themselves.  Thirty years later, they still play together and try to make their rock and roll dreams come through.  The band goes on a comically bad tour of Europe, tries to get a record deal, and just try to keep themselves together as a band.

I’ve seen interviews where the band’s leader “Lips” does not like comparisons to This Is Spinal Tap, but here comes some.  And if he has anyone to blame, it’s the director.  There are some spoilers in the next bullet points, both for Anvil! and This Is Spinal Tap, so be warned.

  • There’s a scene where the two old friends who started the band together sit in a restaurant and sing the first song they wrote together.
  • There’s a scene where the guitar player turns his amp up to 11.
  • One of the friends quits the band at one point and has to be brought back into the fold.
  • Anvil visits Stonehenge.
  • The movie finishes with a triumphant concert in Japan.
  • The drummer’s name is Robb Reiner.  No, I’m not shitting you.

The parallels come so fast and furious that at times I wondered if I was being taken in by some art project, some created band for the movie.  I was in the middle of a crowd of old metal fans wearing vintage Anvil gear, so unless they were in on it, this is a real band with a real history.

The movie is consistently entertaining, often funny, often moving, and I recommend it for pretty much anybody.  The movie was made by a fan of the band, someone who had been a roadie for them many years ago, and the love for the music and the people is apparent on screen.

As soon as the movie concluded, Slim’s raised up the movie screen and the band Anvil performed a short set.  To give you some idea of how much of a metal cliche this band is, let me list the songs they played:

  1. This is Thirteen
  2. Six Six Six
  3. White Rhino (with a 7-minute drum solo)
  4. Metal on Metal
  5. Mothra

Can you think of a more apt collection of song names?  I’m telling you, no one could make up a more ridiculous band.  And when I say “ridiculous band,” this is a good thing.  Anvil are pretty sloppy, and the material isn’t particularly interesting. This leads me to believe that part of the reason they never really made it is because they were never all that good.  After seeing their story, I like them and I’m rooting for them.  They’re musicians, they’re Canadian, they love their families, and they are definitely playing music for the right reasons.  This movie has had some success already in the UK, and they now have professional management and a booking agent, and it’s clear that they are about to ride a short of wave of notoriety.  It’s about fucking time.

The crowd was still chanting “Anvil!  Anvil!  Anvil!” when the lights came up at Slim’s, but the night wasn’t over until Lips and Robb Reiner came out to chat with the fans and sign autographs.   They looked happy as they could be, and I doubt they’re going to leave until everyone gets some time with them.  In fact, I left the club about a half-an-hour ago, and I bet they’re still there, posing for pictures and signing autographs.  Their moms must be proud.

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ben April 13, 2009 at 2:02 pm

Even ironic fans are still fans.

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DJKuulA April 20, 2009 at 7:31 pm

I remember Anvil from the ’80s. Then again, I’ve forgotten more metal bands from the ’80s than most people will ever know.

When comparing real bands to Spinal Tap, one has to bear in mind that a lot of the material in Spinal Tap was based on actual events (mainly involving Black Sabbath). Other documentaries about metal bands of that era reveal plenty of additional parallels. (Cf. “12 Wasted Years”)

So the similarities are no surprise — except for the drummer’s name. That totally blows my mind!

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