The Tribeca Film Festival has wrapped, and the next festival red carpet will unfurl along the Promenade de la Croisette for the uber fabulous Cannes Film Festival held annually in the South of France. Media outlets and other pundits have already released their lists of the must see things from the TFF, such as “King Cobra”, the controversial film about gay porn and murder that stars James Franco, among others, and the reunion of the cast and crew of “Taxi Driver”, to celebrate the 40 year anniversary of Martin Scorsese’s neo-noir film about a vigilante NYC cab driver. Another must-see film, held at a special screening on Friday, August 22nd, in a 6th floor theater of the Festival Hub on Varick Street, is Director Barnaby Clay’s SHOT! The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock, an intimate look at the life of legendary music photographer Mick Rock, who is best known for his iconic photographs of David Bowie, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, and Queen. In a documentary as rock and roll as its subject, Mick Rock guides the viewer through his psychedelic first-hand experiences as the visual record-keeper of these legends.
Rock not only recorded his famous subjects through his lens, he also captured their words on tape, recording conversation and rumination about everything from the role of the artist in society to the idiosyncratic banter that transpires between good friends. Snippets of these recordings are threaded throughout the documentary, and they are incredible gems that offer a rare insight into the psyches of not only the doc’s main subject, but two of his closest and most collaborated with pals, Lou Reed and David Bowie. Bowie, unsurprisingly, comes across as deeply thoughtful, intelligent and curious, while Reed, were the listener unaware of the owner of the voice, could easily be mistaken for a cranky curmudgeon with a bitter edge. His voice is, no pun intended, reedy and high pitched, and slightly jarring when one tries to align it with the same vocal chords that emitted “Perfect Day” and “Last Great American Whale”. But that aside, clearly the two artists were creative soul mates, and it is thrilling to hear Rock discuss how their collaborative work brought forth some of the most recognizable imagery of the rock and roll canon.
One of the most compelling parts of SHOT! is the amazing archive of photographs Rock has of Syd Barrett, the tragic early lead singer of the British band Pink Floyd. Rock and Barrett hooked up at the start of both their careers, and the portraits and candid photographs Rock shot of the singer, in his home, sprawling on a bed or on a patterned floor, are ethereal and somewhat ghostly; like their subject. Clay follows Rock into his personal home cavern where he stores boxes and boxes of chromes, prints, contact sheets, negatives and scads of other ephemera collected over his prodigious career. All the while as Rock pores through the boxes, the film records his stream of consciousness storytelling and memories, and the viewer is offered a line into the creative process of one of the most prolific photographers in the music business. Rock goes through chromes and negatives spread out across a light table bigger than three foosball tables, randomly picking up slide sheets and riffing wittily on the mental mechanisms behind the execution of photos of Freddie Mercury, Debbie Harry, who he says lit up on camera as bright as Marilyn Monroe, and Iggy Pop.
SHOT! does not shy away from touching on the subject of Rock’s hard core drug abuse and the ninth circle it landed him in, albeit, and thankfully, temporarily. The photographer suffered three heart attacks and triple-bypass surgery and was financially rescued from the medical bills by two committed patrons in the music business. He re-emerged from this experience renewed and refocused on his art, which he has taken to even more creative heights by transforming many of his photographs into unique works of art, through collage, computer manipulation and reconfiguration. The film follows him into the studio as he shoots the musician Father John Misty and a fashion shoot with Karen O in geometrically patterned couture. SHOT! becomes the story of a phoenix arising from the ashes, as the film ends on a note of promise of more great things to come from the lensman who captured some of the most incredible and talented personalities in the music world.
It wouldn’t be an after party worthy of rock and roll without a shindig from Nur Khan Presents at one of Khan’s grittily fashionable downtown venues, and the bash held at the Dream Downtown, in the Dream Gallery, was lit beyond all expectation. The invitations hinted that there would be surprise musical appearances, but the performers who showed up to take turns onstage to pay tribute to the music of Bowie, Reed, Blondie and Iggy Pop & The Stooges were like Christmas in July for the 500 or so partiers who crowded the stage and packed the room. First up was Karen O, joining her band the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to cover Bowie tunes in an energetic set that showed why she is one of rock’s ruling goddesses of live performance. Wearing a fluffy Rodarte shrug over a purple sequined suit, O brought the kind of glamour and ferocity that makes live performance transcendent. TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe was next up, as well as Sky Ferreira, Dum Dum Girls’ Kristin Kontrol and Marky Ramone, who played drums for a bit, backing O and her band, and smiling as O bowed to him after the set. Eugene Hutz, of Gogol Bordello, literally flung himself onstage and covered The Stooges’ I Wanna Be Your Dog, a cover of an Iggy song that almost outdid Iggy himself for sheer physicality and and energy. The backline for the bands was provided and sponsored by Gibson.
Rock’s manager for over 25 years, and an Executive Producer on Shot!, Liz Vap, of Feralcat Production, worked with Khan to present the after party and organize the event. Guests at the party at the Dream Downtown included Debbie Harry, Rose McGowan, Waris Alhuwalia, Nick Zinner, Todd DiCurcio, Megan DiCiurcio, Scott Lipps, Bob Gruen, Angela McCluskey, and more. Commenting about his good friend Rock’s enduring appeal as a rock and roll photographer, Khan said “If you know Mick Rock you will understand immediately, he’s such a charming guy. He immediately just becomes part of the band in a way. He understands musicians, the Rock and Roll lifestyle because he’s lived it and has shot so many icons in music. Younger musicians are like… ‘he shot Bowie, Iggy, Blondie, etc”. They want to be part of that world and included in the special circle of musicians who adore Mick and his images. He’s so charismatic.. I love that man.”
Khan also talked about why the music of earlier eras still resonates with audiences today, and why the Dream Gallery was so packed to see covers of musicians like Bowie and Blondie. “I think great music always stands the test of time. Especially Iggy, David Bowie, Blondie, The Ramones etc. They defined “cool” NYC in the 70’s and 80’s. They were punk, glam rock that had a rebellious attitude. I think that attitude is what appeals to younger generations who like rock. That scene doesn’t exist the way it used to in New York, so when we do shows like that the younger audiences of today come to see it, because they feel like they missed out on the real gritty New York scene, which is hard to find in the homogenized NYC of today. In Friday’s case, at the Dream Downtown, you had super talented musicians, like the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, TV on The Radio, Gogol Bordello, Sky Ferreira playing songs of musicians they admire, so the musical appeal transcends generations as we saw Friday night.” As to why the crowds are packing the Dream Downtown, Khan says “Let’s face it, I’m very rock n roll. It’s what makes me happy. I try to make my clubs like Electric Room, beneath the Dream Downtown, or any for that matter, have a vibe of what a certain demographic enjoys. The interiors will usually have an edge to them as does the music. In a world that’s very pop, when you come to a place and really enjoy the music you like, you feel at ease and at home. It may be a smaller market these days, but if you like rock n roll, odds are you’re really going to like my venues.”