dig! (Ondi Timoner)
Dig! is the story of two west coast bands, the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols, over seven years. The film centers around the concepts of artistic integrity, success, sacrificing for art, and facades. With equal footing, in regard to exposure, influences, and opportunity, the bands ultimately take divergent paths in their approach to music. DIY vs. room service, stumbling vs. posing etc., is an interesting watch, but when compared to the music created, fairly irrelevant.
In everything but stability, the BJM outrank the Dandy Warhols. Without today’s Dandy’s, Laguna Beach would be missing a theme song. Conversely, the ex-members of BJM are still living for music- from working in a record shop to playing in Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. The Dandy’s have written some good songs, but their last album was bland pubescent pop. BJM, surviving self-destructive antics, have put out twelve strong albums. Anton Newcombe, frontman and sole constant member of the BJM, is a prolific minstrel whose independently achieved successes rival those of bands on the upper tier of major labels.
The film does exaggerate the cliches of both bands- one being dysfunctional and the other, “the most well adjusted band in America.” I have seen the BJM a number of times without any outbreak, while Dig! seems to show a fight in each of their live scenes. Courtney Taylor, frontman for the Dandy Warhols, makes reference to his band almost splitting up due to drug abuse. However, the greatest conflict in “Dandy Warhol World” is ex-drummer Eric Hedford’s post-filming interview, where he refutes Courtney Taylor’s claim that he does everything and still gives the band fifty percent of his songwriting money. This claim is not addressed by anyone else in the Dandy’s, and only viewed as an extra scene. There are also Courtney’s rants against Capitol and record labels in general, yet not one scene of even two Dandy’s arguing. Filmmaker Ondi Timoner’s portrayal of the Dandy Warhols as a Brady-style happy family contrasts nicely with the BJM, but is quite unrealistic.
This minor flaw aside, Dig! is a very funny, (mostly thanks to tambourine man Joel Gion, who graces the cover) accurate depiction of what it’s like to be in a band. Flashes of glamour, yes, but also frustration, long hours, and toil. Its crowning achievement is probably that it has assured both the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols a place in rock history.