Dig! (15)

Directed by Ondi Timoner
Showing at FACT until August 11th 2005

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

In 1995 two West Coast bands, the Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Massacre, look destined to make a major impact on the rock music scene. But such are the peaks and troughs of the music industry that the former band became mega stars while the latter group were dogged by drug abuse, constant squabbling within the group and with their managers, and virtual apathy by record buyers and live audiences.

These two ends of the rock 'n' roll spectrum is captured impressively on film by director Ondi Timoner over a seven-year period.

The major figure in the documentary without doubt is Jonestown leader and singer Anton Newcombe, who comes over as charismatic and an accomplished musician but unfortunately his life is totally scewed up by heroin abuse, a dysfunctional family background (his alcoholic father commits suicide shortly after being interviewed for the film) and rejection of friends and lovers who want to help him with his often self imposed problems.

Dig is a furiously paced film at times, showing constant live concert coverage and an endless round of parties and general mad behaviour particularly on the part of the Jonestown. On the one hand the Warhols end up playing in big stadiums and festival while at a similar time Jonestown end up playing in front of a handful of people with gigs often terminated prematurely by members of the group fighting with each other on stage. Newcome, who I have a certain empathy with despite his extreme behaviour bordering on insanity,ends up an almost totally isolated figure while Courtney Taylor, lead singer of the Dandys, and narrator of the film, appears self satisfied with the opulent lifestyle he and his group have stepped into.

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