Now Focus

We were watching the signs go by: Antwerp, Leuven, Amsterdam, Groningen. Felt like we'd been on the road for weeks. Eric asked if I was hungry.

I turned to answer him, expecting to see him gripping a steering wheel. Which would have been odd, because we were sitting on the couch. The film we were watching, "Still Crazy", about a group of aging rockers who reform and tour the dumps of Europe, had us revisiting the types of places we'd been spending every evening in, only a few short weeks ago.

"Look at us," I said. "We can't stop touring. When we're not out there, we watch other people doing it. We could be watching "The Man Who Would Be King".

"Is that really much different?" Eric asked.

We started with Saxondale, the brilliant Steve Coogan series about an...ahem, aging roadie who keeps fighting the good fight while running a pest control business in the suburbs. The music of Focus screeches and yodels over the opening and closing credits.

The show only ran for two seasons, so to stretch it out we watched Oil City Confidential, the new documentary about Dr. Feelgood. I knew enough about the band to be interested, but wasn't prepared to be completely blown away. Wilko Johnson is a complex, entertaining narrator and the way Julien Temple pieced together band footage with old British gangster films (what movies are these clips from and where can I see them?), photos, clippings and some soft fictional footage was clever and imaginative but to a point. One of the best band documentaries I've seen.

Then we went back to Saxondale for a few more days, until we'd watched even the extra features a few times. Not ready to move on, we fell back on Still Crazy which is corny as hell but always works for me.

I keep coming back to one scene - there's this snowy parking lot in the middle of nowhere. The band pulls up to a deserted cultural center and follows a lone set of wet footprints in through the theatre doors. The place is completely dark except for cold blue stage lights. A smoke machine is hissing, the smoke swirling and catching the dim light. Steely Dan is blasting from the P.A. while a shadowy figure sits in silent reverie in the center of the theatre seats, hands folded as if in prayer. The sound man.

They ask him if there's any way he can get someone to clear the ice away from a treacherous loadin area. Like the Grim Reaper, he points them to a broom closet, where there's a crude shovel and bag of rock salt.

After the interminable soundcheck, he tells the band about the highlight of his year, no - his life, when a certain Dutch group came to play, only three short months before. He rhapsodizes about their musical brilliance, their humanity, while barely hiding his contempt for the band in front of him - as if to say, "see what I'm reduced to now, working with you losers".

To emphasize his point, the dressing room has one of those hospital-style TVs mounted high up on the wall, where a video of Focus' live performance at this very venue plays relentlessly. The group asks if they can turn the TV off, or at least turn the sound down. He says he'll see if he can find a ladder. But he never comes back.

Shit. That wasn't in the movie, that was some Belgian venue a few weeks back.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpV5InLw52U&hl=en_US&fs=1&]