For Those About to Rock

An unsung metal band hits rock bottom in Anvil!

Anvil! The Story of Anvil ***

At 9:15 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 5 and at 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 6 Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque 11141 East Blvd. 216.421.7450 $8

It's the summer of 1984, and a heavy-metal tour featuring the Scorpions, Whitesnake, Bon Jovi and Anvil has hit Japan. All the bands would have multi-platinum success. Except for Anvil. Testimonials from Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash, Motorhead singer Lemmy and Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich guide Sacha Gervasi's Anvil! The Story of Anvil. Scenes from that 1984 tour give way to recent scenes that show what became of the Canadian rockers.

Drummer Robb Reiner took a job in construction, and singer-guitarist Steve "Lips" Kudlow works for a catering company. "For all this horrible shit I have to go through, I have Anvil that gives me my happiness," says Kudlow. "It could never be worse than it already is." The guys get together to perform at a crappy sports bar to celebrate Lips' 50th birthday before leaving for a European tour.

That ill-conceived trip includes stops in Munich and Prague, where the club owner won't pay the band because only a handful of fans show up. A fistfight ensues, and the guys eventually get their money. The "Monsters of Transylvania" concert, which draws 174 people in an arena that holds 10,000, doesn't go over any better. Spinal Taps references come to mind as the group haggle with promoters and booking agents. Everything implodes by tour's end.

When Anvil get back to Canada, no labels are interested in signing them (even though they borrowed money to make a new album.) So the guys decide to self-release This Is Thirteen. The movie ends with the album's unnoticed release, but since the film came out, AC/DC tapped Anvil to open a few stadium shows. And This Is Thirteen has since found a home on VH-1 Classic, which will reissue it this month.

After seeing the film, you'll understand why the guys have finally gotten a break. A loveable loser whose passion far outweighs his intelligence, Ludlow makes a compelling anti-hero you can't help but sympathize with.

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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