No Room for Rockstars
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Though the trends in popular music have changed significantly since the mid-‘90s, at least one thing has remained the same. Each summer, hundreds of bands pack their bags and their gear and head out on the road to entertain thousands of fans during the 52-day, 43-city Vans Warped Tour. In 2010, documentary filmmaker Parris Patton and his crew joined the caravan—and the result is No Room for Rockstars, a captivating look at the tour, the fans, and (most of all) the surprising variety of artists who make the trip each year.

Though the film offers a look at the sheer insanity of the tour, its dedicated fans, and its hard-working leader, Kevin Lyman, it focuses on telling the stories of a handful of artists—like metal band Suicide Silence, fronted by vocalist Mitch Lucker, a screaming, tattooed family man who suffers from anxiety disorders whenever he’s not performing.

Or, in stark contrast to Lucker’s angry growls, there’s 19-year-old Chris Drew of Never Shout Never, who dropped out of school to pursue his musical dreams and has been touring ever since. Drew performs a poppier kind of music that’s welcomed by crowds of screaming girls—and, between songs, he talks about peace and love.

But while the tour is filled with promising new acts, there are also the up-and-coming superstars, like mild-mannered Mike Posner, whose hit single, “Cooler Than Me,” was already flooding the airwaves as the tour began.

And, finally, there’s Joe Candelaria, an eager musician who decided to travel the tour in a cramped van with his band mates, selling CDs to pay for the gas to make it to the next city.

If you’ve ever attended the Warped Tour (or something like it), you’ve undoubtedly enjoyed an all-day free-for-all of music, featuring both old favorites and new discoveries. You’ve walked away with great memories, plenty of pictures, and probably a T-shirt and a CD or two. But you’ve probably never thought about what goes into making the whole thing happen. No Room for Rockstars, then, is your backstage pass, offering an eye-opening look at the far-from-glamorous lives of the artists who perform day after exhausting day.

For many of the artists, this is their first experience on a tour bus—and most have to share the bus with a bunch of other artists. The tour is a time of partying, of bonding, of living without things like families and friends and showers. And the film does a remarkable job of capturing their experiences, showing how the long days and nights of performing and touring and partying eventually wear on most of the acts. Despite the film’s title, the exhaustion leads many of the artists to their own rock star moment or two—especially Drew, who begins railing on the blatant consumerism of the tour, often whining that he just wants to go home.

Through it all, what makes No Room for Rockstars such an attention-grabbing documentary is the diversity of the personalities who make up the tour. While Drew complains and shuns his fans, Lucker tries his best to avoid panicking while caught up in the push and shove of the crowds, and a modest Posner wanders into the fray (between Rolling Stone photo shoots, studio sessions for his new album, and Regis and Kelly appearances, that is), eager to express his gratitude to each and every one of his fans who made his dream a reality. Meanwhile, Candelaria and friends fight to make it to each stop on the tour—and, they hope, to the spotlight.

Of course, it goes without saying that Warped Tour regulars will want to seek this one out—but you don’t have to be a punk rocker or a metal head to get caught up in this behind-the-scenes look at indie rock’s annual traveling circus. It may not fully capture the concert-going experience (though, if you aren’t a music fan, you probably wouldn’t even want it to), but it does offer a fascinating look at the lives of a variety of hard-working young artists.

Ed. Note: No Room for Rockstars is currently playing in select theaters and at film festivals (like the Cleveland International Film Festival). The film will be available on iTunes on April 2, 2012, and DVD/CD combo will be available on May 15, 2012.

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