Giving Fans an 'Awesome' Task

From left, Adam Yauch, Mike Diamond and Adam Horovitz had 50 fans tape footage for their concert documentary.
From left, Adam Yauch, Mike Diamond and Adam Horovitz had 50 fans tape footage for their concert documentary. (By Amber Novak For The Washington Post)
By J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 26, 2006


There is but one approach to talking with the Beastie Boys: Pop some Dramamine, buckle up and hold on tight.

Wordspileup. Things shift quickly. In conversation, as in music, video and now film, the iconic New York rappers tend to be hilariously frenetic, to the point that they leave you dazed and confused.

Consider how the discussion unfolds/unravels when the Beasties are asked about their favorite concert movies, in light of their own concert documentary, "Awesome: I [Expletive] Shot That," which opens Friday.

" 'Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii.' But I'm not really sure if that's a concert film because -- " "I recommend 'Purple Rain.' " " -- the audience is dead." "What about 'Belly'?" "If you play to, like, ghosts, does that count as a concert movie?" "Can you get 'Tougher Than Leather' on DVD?" "Or 'Krush Groove'?" "Sorry that I'm eating. But I'm dying. Fry?"

Some footnotes, reader: "Purple Rain," "Belly," "Tougher Than Leather" and "Krush Groove" aren't actually concert movies, but feature films that starred musicians. The Beasties themselves were in 1985's "Krush Groove" and 1988's "Tougher Than Leather."

Anyway, the Beasties -- Adam "Adrock" Horovitz, Michael "Mike D" Diamond and Adam "MCA" Yauch -- have come to the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference not to play Ebert and Roper but to pimp the experimental "Awesome: I [Expletive] Shot That!"

"This movie's about a guy who's returning from Vietnam," Yauch says, deadpan.

Horovitz: "He's returning just now ? That's weird."

Ha. Ha.

Actually, "Awesome" is an audacious take on the creaky genre for which the group handed out cameras to 50 ticketholders at a 2004 Madison Square Garden concert, instructed the fans to shoot whatever they wanted during the show, and then sifted through the wreckage of all that shaky, low-resolution footage shot from various, oft-bizarre vantage points. The concert was also captured on 11 high-resolution digital cameras, though that footage was used sparingly.

The result is a dizzying 90-minute film that features a staggering 6,732 edits and comes across like a bootleg mix video on speed, with images of the band mashed up with footage of fans dancing and egging each other on and taking bathroom breaks, of Madison Square Garden employees playing air guitar, and, for some reason, of Ben Stiller.

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