Drive Well, Sleep Carefully - On the Road with Death Cab for Cutie
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Drive Well Sleep Carefully joins Death Cab for Cutie on tour in the spring of 2004. Filmmaker Justin Mitchell captured dozens of shows across the country and interviewed the band at length in their hometown of Seattle.
What Filmmaker Justin Mitchell captured in Drive Well, Sleep Carefully is a hybrid concert film and meditation on the strange loneliness and lure of touring. In the spring of 2004, Death Cab for Cutie were on the home stretch of their Transatlantisicm tour that spanned three continents over nearly four months. Mitchell (Dirty Old Town, Songs for Cassavetes) had never been to a Death Cab show before he hooked up with guitarist and vocalist Ben Gibbard, bassist Nick Harmer, guitarist and sometimes organist Chris Walla, and drummer Jason McGerr to shoot the tour's final three weeks, then met them in their hometown of Seattle for post-road interviews. The documentary catches the band at a moment fraught with possibility: after six years of extended tours, four acclaimed full-length albums, regular name-checks on The O.C., and the explosion of Gibbard's side project, the Postal Service, they're poised to trade hard-earned indie success for the wider possibilities offered by a contract with Atlantic Records.
Anyone getting their first look at Death Cab live on this film should expect to be set back on their heels by the band's capacity to tear it up. Theyre frequently called "poppy," but what transpires onstage is flat-out rock & roll. Mitchell tucks most of the interview and road footage between the film's 13 performances, but when he overlays images with the music or breaks for commentary, the effect is nearly always complementary. "Title and Registration" in New Orleans feels even more bleakly beautiful spliced with rainy bayou road images. "We Looked Like Giants" smoothly detours into Gibbard's musings on young love, then cuts back into the performance for a duel-drum-set jam session. "Styrofoam Plates" gets briefly interrupted for an eloquent digression on the funeral that inspired the lyrics; it's just unfortunate that for the remainder of the song the vocals sound so submerged. Given that most of Death Cab's fans are enamored with their lyrics, the film's major flaw is that they're occasionally buried and indiscernible, particularly when a performance takes a ferocious turn--but in consolation, these smackdowns are when the band seems most in their element.
After witnessing this enthusiasm, it's a little surprising to hear that the touring life has started to feel mundane. Aside from the occasional ascent up the speakers to keep things lively, theyre fighting this sensation by putting themselves in the mindset of the folks at their shows. For Harmer, playing huge rooms has made him obsessed with the guys in the back: "Are they rockin' out?" Walla says that he's been making more eye contact with fans on this tour "just to see what's going on," and he's delighted by the huge grins that elicits. Due to their relentless schedule and the "comfy cocoon" of their new tour bus, shows provide their only opportunity to connect and glimpse the impact they're making outside of the dream state of the tour. As McGerr describes it, "You can't see in front of you or behind you. You're engulfed in a fog, and you don't know what things will look like when the fog lifts." This film draws viewers to the edge of this fog, and they sense its charmed disorientation.
The whirlwind nature of the project (compared to, say, the seven years of film that went into DiG!) presumably didn't leave Mitchell the luxury of a ton of spare footage, but the disc includes several worthwhile extras. The "Stability" rehearsal's marred by the muddy, distant quality of the vocals, but the instruments are solid, and it's interesting to see their practice space. An acoustic set of three songs at San Francisco's Metreon comes with some fun banter (Walla declaring his reverence for Sarah Vowell, Gibbard jokingly deflecting a question about his side project), and the stripped-down performance offers a spare beauty uncommon at their electrified shows. The additional interviews include a demonstration of drummer McGerr's rhythmic prowess; a story about the band embracing the slickest stage they ever played and, in Harmer's words, "turning it into the Death Cab on Ice Show" (Gibbard: "I must have fell five or six times on my ass"); and more historical details from "producer, sometimes-arranger-type" Walla on the Hall of Justice studios, a building that, before--becoming the secret headquarters for tracking and mixing The Photo Album and much of Transatlanticism--witnessed the creation of Nirvana's Bleach. The Andycam feature will be most enjoyed by expats of Spokane, WA, for a drunken late-night walking tour of their city, including perhaps the most hilarious 10 seconds of the entire film--the grim look on Gibbard's face as the camera pans the only nightclub they could locate. But the best extra is an intense, gorgeous demo version of "Lightness" with vocal percussion, playing over a triumphant tour montage. If only the circular nature of Transatlanticism hadn't precluded burying this treasure at the end. --Mari Malcolm
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This is a fine back ground piece to anyone that enjoys or follows Death Cab. They have a sound not unlike the one us Pink Floyd fanciers enjoy. If you like Pink Floyd for their innovativeness in music. You will like Death Cab. no more to be said.
Top international reviews
Wer diesen Satz kennt, hat die Band Death Cab for Cutie schon mal live gehört.
Die DVD erzählt die Bandgeschichte von der kleinen Indie Band, die in einem Van durch die USA tourt - bis zur weltweit auftretenden Band die einen eigenen Tourbus hat. Trozdem sind sie auf dem Teppich geblieben und erzählen in den Interviews, dass sie gerne wieder im eingenen Van reisen würden.
Es ist eine Mischung aus Live-Auftritten, Interviews und kommentarlosen Kamera-aufnahmen der Tour.
Sehr gut gemacht.