Christopher Guetig was ready to “drink in” his hometown Thursday – figuratively and literally.
The former My Morning Jacket drummer was at the Old Seelbach Bar celebrating that “One Big Holiday,” a documentary he co-produced with friend and graduate film student Michael Feld, would be opening the Flyover Film Festival at the Speed Art Museum later that evening. Guetig and Feld had traveled all the way from Los Angeles for the occasion.
Feld commented on the bar’s eclectic array of bourbons. “It’s nice there are so many bourbons to choose from in Kentucky,” he said. “In LA, we’re lucky if we have one or two types.”
It’s true. Louisville’s known for bourbon. It’s also known for the Kentucky Derby and Louisville Slugger. But its native residents know it to be so much more than what it’s known for. And in essence, that’s what the film is about.
My Morning Jacket’s philosophy is that what goes around comes around. So they wanted to give back to the community that made them who they are. Though they’ve achieved worldwide renown for their alternative rock music, it was Louisville that helped them break into this upper echelon of the music world.
The band held a concert at the KFC Yum! Center with the Louisville Youth Orchestra on Oct. 29, 2010, donating $1 from each ticket to the Orchestra’s Continuing Education Scholarship Fund. My Morning Jacket was the second-ever musical act to perform in the 22,000-seat stadium.
“It’s really a cathartic experience,” admitted Guetig. “You’re seeing guys who used to play for 12 people now playing in an NBA arena.”
A love story between a band and the city that made it famous, “One Big Holiday” centers on the experiences of My Morning Jacket members preparing for this show.
Jim James, the band’s lead vocalist and guitarist, discussed in the film how special it is to perform in Louisville.
“Every time we play at home, it’s such a crazy mindbender,” he said. “There’s so much more pressure than any other show because you know that everybody’s out there from your high school, college and your family. It’s an intense thing but the love is so rich that you just want to give it back.”
Films nowadays tend to be driven by conflict. However, Guetig and Feld didn’t want conflict in their film.
“We didn’t want to find drama,” said Feld. “We wanted to find beauty and show how special and great a concert can be.”
Guetig left My Morning Jacket in 2002 to pursue his other passion of acting. But his bond with the band persisted. In fact, it was very important to Guetig that the fllm make band members proud.
“I’m very protective of the band,” said Guetig. “I didn’t want to shoot a ‘Behind the Music.’ I wanted to shoot a story film.”
Feld met Guetig in 2008 at an audition his friend was holding for a film. Upon realizing that Guetig used to play the drums for his favorite band, Feld e-mailed him to offer him lunch. He wanted to hear about Guetig’s experiences with My Morning Jacket. Guetig accepted the invitation, and the two immediately became friends.
“We talked for four hours and found out we had a lot in common,” said Feld, who at the time was attending film school at the University of Southern California and working on producing a short documentary for his thesis project.
“It occurred to me that if I could do a film about anything, it would be a film about My Morning Jacket. They do so much to give back to their fans, and put a lot of love and effort into what they do.”
So in October 2010, Guetig and Feld headed to Louisville with a crew of seven to shoot the film. It was Feld’s first time visiting the city. He was eager to see the place Guetig couldn’t stop praising.
The opening scenes of the film comprise settings all Louisvillians are surely familiar with: Cherokee Park, Bardstown Road and Waterfront Park, to name just a few. Feld was grateful for Guetig, who knew Louisville like the back of his hand. His expertise streamlined the process of where to shoot and what to highlight.
“None of the crew had been to Louisville before,” said Guetig. “ It was neat for me to see the city through their eyes. I wanted to share the city like you share movies you like. It overjoyed me how they fell in love with it.”
Though the film does indeed celebrate My Morning Jacket, it celebrates the city that made them, too. Local celebrities like ex-mayor Jerry Abramson, the band Wax Fang, who opened for My Morning Jacket at the Yum! Center, and owner of what used to be the record store Ear X-tacy, John Timmons, made special appearances, emphasizing how integral My Morning Jacket has been to putting Louisville on the map.
“One Big Holiday” has already been screened at the LA Music + Film Weekend and the Chicago International Music and Movies Festival. It was also included in My Morning Jacket’s 2011 deluxe box set edition of the album “Circuital.”
“The band has become a representation of the city,” said Feld.
Now My Morning Jacket makes the city that made them.
(Published in The Voice-Tribune June 14, 2012)