SOUND CITY (Dave Grohl). 108 minutes. Opens tonight (January 31) at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. For times, see listing. Rating: NN
Once upon a time in the 70s, 80s and 90s, there was a legendary San Fernando Valley recording studio called Sound City. The place was a dump and smelled of stale beer and old farts, but the music that came out of there - Fleetwood Mac's first album, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' Damn The Torpedoes, Johnny Cash's first, Nirvana's Nevermind - was choice.
Nirvana's drummer, Dave Grohl, fell in love with the place, and two decades later he's chronicled its glories in a new documentary that arrives at the Lightbox just a week after its Sundance Film Festival premiere.
There are some terrific stories here, but the doc is rambling and unfocused; I got the sense that Grohl embarked on the project just to hear about the first time Mick Fleetwood met Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, or to learn who played guitar on Rick Springfield's Jessie's Girl. (It was Pat Benatar sideman Neil Giraldo!) And he gets to mourn the end of the analog recording age brought about by the rise of ProTools and related home recording software.
That takes up about 70 minutes, leaving another 40 minutes to fill with Grohl buying the shuttered venue's revered Neve mixing board and moving it to his own recording studio to make music with the likes of Nicks, Springfield, Frank Black, Fear's Lee Ving and Paul McCartney.
Sure, Grohl seems to be having a ball, but it feels awfully self-indulgent.