In Heaven There Is No Beer (2012)

Description (from the DVD sleeve):
IN HEAVEN THERE IS NO BEER chronicles the Los Angeles “Kiss or Kill” music scene (2002-2007). Fed up with the wretched Sunset Strip pay-for-play policies, “too cool for school” trendiness of the Silverlake scene and apathetic crowds, the bands that made up Kiss or Kill forged their own scene based on great music, cheap booze, low cover and a mid-western sense of community and friendship.

At its peak, Kiss or Kill had more than 100 bands on its roster and over 1,000 local L.A. fans. But as Kiss or Kill grew and became more popular, it eventually became the very thing it was fighting against.

Major Cast:
Sugar Bang Bang, The Dollyrots, Midway, Silver Needle, The Letter Openers, Zeitgeist Auto Parts, The Oaots, King Cheetah, The Randies

Special Features:
Over 30 minutes of Bonus Material, 4 Deleted Scenes, Trailers & Promos, 4 Full Length Live Performances, Photo Gallery with Director’s Commentary, Director’s Notes

Directed by Dave Palamaro

 

Music documentaries can be very hit or miss. Sometimes you get something that is really entertaining, engrossing, and just all around fun, and sometimes you get something that is very academic, bland, and boring. I am glad to say that IN HEAVEN THERE IS NO BEER is the former, not the latter. The film documents a music scene that popped up in Los Angeles in the mid 2000’s, and it is something I’ve never heard of before, so right away it got my attention. The music itself is a mix, but overall has a bit of pop-punk influence running through most of the bands, so it was a style that I can get into as well. I had never heard of Kiss or Kill before this film, but if I lived in L.A. in the mid-2000’s, I could easily have seen myself enjoying a lot of these shows.

The core Kiss or Kill lineup (from their first comp CD)
The core Kiss or Kill lineup (from their first comp CD)

The film is a document to the rise and eventual fall of a very specific scene, and is mostly told through the voice of members of the bands that were involved. The granddaddy of Kiss or Kill was Bang Sugar Bang, and they make up a lot of the documentation, but there are literally dozens of other band’s members interviewed, as well as a smattering of dedicated scenesters as well. Through their stories, and a ton of live footage, the story of the coming and going of this scene is told with great aplomb and reverence. It is an interesting story that unfolds in IHTINB; a scene that is really built on love and compassion for the other scene members eventually unfolds when it gets too big for that love to function correctly anymore, and then the music vultures swoop in and begin picking out members of the scene for greater acceptance. It really makes me think of what I would expect Seattle’s scene was like in the late 80’s/early 90’s before Sub Pop and Geffen blew up, and our radios all started spouting the Seattle Heroin Howl. With this comes great drama, and makes the plot of the film move at a good clip, never boring the viewer.

Rob Z, Kiss or Kill's emcee extraordinaire.
Rob Z, Kiss or Kill’s emcee extraordinaire.

On the production side, this was a movie that was mostly shot on crappy digital video in the mid-2000’s. So, don’t expect beautiful HD imagery or wonderful pre-programmed camera movements and composition. Mostly, it is a bunch of fan-shot stuff, intercut with very standard interviews, so if you can’t deal with the video quality get out of the kitchen… or living room… or wherever the T.V. is. With a film like this – a music film about bands that most of us have never heard of – you have to expect and embrace the fact that it’s not going to be pretty to watch. None of these bands had publicists, documentarians, etc.; very few of them even ever had a record deal. So it’s not going to be your latest Metallica or Pink Floyd doc in any way, shape, or form. But if you are prepared and accepting of the fact that this is NOT going to be the prettiest video you’ve ever seen, IHTINB works just fine on the production side. Thankfully the audio is overall above average, even for video that was shot in a club the size of someone’s basement. The real gem on the production front is the editing; the edit is really well formed, and moves the story along perfectly.

"Front Row" Joe, a fan who went on to form a band that became a part of the scene.
“Front Row” Joe, a fan who went on to form a band that became a part of the scene.

Overall, IHTINB is a really fun documentary. It delves into a scene that not a whole lot of people probably have ever heard of or otherwise might care about, and it does so with tenderness to the people involved in what was obviously a life-changing time for many. The music is really good if you like that sort of thing, and most of the people interviewed are characters in their own right. They make it fun to watch, and easy to get into. The only real downfalls of the movie are the video quality, which unfortunately will turn off some people. However, I think most folks that enjoy documentaries are not going to get hung up on the full-screen, mid-2000’s imagery that is used to tell this compelling story. And it is that: compelling, as well as a really fun ride.

 

Overall 8 / 10

IHTINB on the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2015412/

IHTINB for sale (as of March 25th): http://mvdb2b.com/s/InHeavenThereIsNoBeer/MVD5932D
https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/in-heaven-there-is-no-beer/id828745554

IHTINB site: http://www.facebook.com/InHeavenThereIsNoBeerMovie

In Heaven There Is No Beer (2012)
In Heaven There Is No Beer (2012)
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