MxPx - Both Ends Burning (DVD)
Left Coast Films
Directed By: Bryan Buchelt
Release Date: December 1st 2011
Both Ends Burning is a splendid documentary film, produced by Left Coast Films and Directed by Bryan Buchelt, that details what a typical day is like, on and off tour, in the extraordinary lives of legendary pop-punk band MxPx. It is important to establish the fact that this film is a documentary, because, due to the fact that this is a film about a band, some viewers may walk away from the movie disappointed by a lack of live performance footage. Fans of the band should not be disappointed by this fact though, because MxPx released a Live DVD, titled Triple Threat, which includes three different live shows, as recently as 2009. Moreover, MxPx has released a plethora of Live DVDs, in their Bootleg Series, through their own web store. Therefore, since there is no shortage of MxPx live footage available on DVD, if Both Ends Burning had turned out to be yet another, simplistic, live DVD, the movie would be utterly redundant and boring. Instead, Both Ends Burning is more of a true, musician inspired, documentary, along the lines of Tom Petty’s Runnin’ Down a Dream, as it offers a backstage look into the lives of an influential pop-punk band that has helped to shape the evolution of the genre over the last twenty years.
Both Ends Burning is bookmarked with scenes of MxPx preparing to perform their seminal album, Life in General, live, in its entirety. The first time the band played Life in General, in its entirety, was on July 17th 2010, at the Hard Rock Casino’s Wasted Space. The show was intended to be MxPx’s last show as a full touring band, as their drummer, Yuri Ruley, was set to retire from touring after the show. Thus, the film opens with stunning black and white shots of Las Vegas, including scenes of the MGM Grand and the Hard Rock Hotel. MxPx is preparing to play their show, as the camera follows them from their hotel rooms, up the elevator, through the lobby of the hotel, through the backstage entrance of Wasted Space, and finally onto the stage in front of a sold out crowd. Meanwhile, as the camera follows the band, the viewer is treated to testimonials from band members, perhaps the most heartbreaking one, to fans, coming from Yuri himself, as he states, “You can’t go from doing that [touring for 15 years], to going to work at the same place every day.”
These opening scenes set the tone of the film quite nicely. Both Ends Burning is not a completely celebratory piece on the band’s success. Instead it is more of a melancholy retrospective on a band that is perhaps nearing the end of their historic run; yet still doing their best to remain prominent in the overcrowded pop-punk genre that they helped to popularize in the first place. Perhaps the most fitting way to describe the tone of this DVD, to true MxPx fans, is that it is basically the song “Where Will We Go?” in movie form, and that is definitely a compliment.
As MxPx takes the stage at Wasted Space, right before they are about to perform their first song, a title card pops up that states, “In the summer of 2008, MxPx began documenting life on the road, with the intention of giving fans a personal look into the highs and lows of touring.” That should be enough to indicate to the viewer what type of movie they are in for, and from that point on, the movie flashes back, with the use of several different styles of cameras that give the movie a true professional, yet independent, feel, to give fans an intimate glimpse into life, on and off the road, with MxPx.
In some off the road moments, fans are invited on a tour of MxPx’s Headquarters. Mike Herrera walks the viewer through a building, which used to be “The Clubhouse” where the band recorded, but now serves as an office, storage center, and merchandise headquarters. This scene leads to the most standout, and emotionally charged scene of the film. Mike starts going through his storage boxes, with his mother and friends at his side, and finds old memorabilia and mementos, that he has completely forgotten about over the years. He sits down and reminisces over everything from: the bands first t-shirt, rare vinyl of Teenage Politics, personal photographs of the Pokinatcha recording sessions, a Teenage Politics cassette (with rad clip art), to the oversized belt buckle used for the Before Everything and After photo shoot. It’s easy to empathize with Mike’s nostalgic moment, as so many of us find “long lost treasures” when cleaning out a garage or storage space. Therefore, this nostalgic scene only serves to humanize the band, and give viewers a sense that they are an actual part of the bands’ life. This is something that MxPx does so well, and it is a reason why they remain popular to this very day. Die hard fans of MxPx often cite that they don’t feel like fans; instead the band always finds a way of making fans feel like they ARE PART OF the band.
Scenes with MxPx on the road, include globe trotting adventures that take the band everywhere from Brazil to Indonesia. The band travels through villages in the jungles, which Mike describes as “the poorest people [he has] ever seen, it looked like National Geographic.” This is some truly stunning footage, with scenic imagery that most fans of the band will never be able to see in person. In fact, the scope of MxPx’s travels, throughout the film, serve to highlight the fact that MxPx themselves would have never had this type of travel opportunity if they were stuck in Bremerton, and they hadn’t been such an impactful band. When MxPx isn’t traveling off the beaten path, the movie also offers very fun scenes of their visit to the Indiana Aviation Museum (where they were all allowed to fly a training airplane), of the band discussing the importance of the Life In General album during a 107.7 The End radio interview, of Mike giving a fan a Pokinatcha Punk tattoo, as well as a look into how Yuri relieves his stress, through walking around towns, during tours.
Interspersed throughout the film are testimonials from musicians that MxPx has inspired throughout the years. Some of the notable people included in these testimonials, include Stephen Egerton of the Descendents, who recalls being immediately impressed with MxPx when he first met them at the Warped Tour in 1997, Ethan Luck of Relient K, Pierre Bouvier of Simple Plan, and Jay Weinberg of Against Me!, to name just a few. Fans of MxPx will be pleased to hear these testimonials of just how influential MxPx’s music has been over the years. The testimonials are insightful and interesting, especially Ethan Luck’s story about meeting MxPx during the recording sessions for Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo.
The most intriguing segments of Both Ends Burning occur when the band talks about the low points of life on the road. They discuss what a luxury it was to own their own tour bus (instead of having to tour in a cramped van) which they dubbed “The Black Pearl” due to its tendency to have mechanical problems. They also discuss their need for personal space, which is tough to come by on a bus, and how this lack of personal space often resulted in arguments (which may or may not have been instigated by Tom), which sometimes devolved into full-blown fistfights between Mike and Tom. The band should be applauded for sharing these personal stories, which may not paint them in the most positive light, because, again, it only serves to make them seem more human and to make fans feel like they are a part of the group. Moreover, these scenes serve to lend credence to Mike Shea’s, of Alternative Press Magazine, statement in the film, when he proclaims, “The survival rate for bands, like MxPx, to get to twenty years is practically impossible. Those bands earned the right to be called legacy artists.” Mike Shea’s statement is correct, because many bands, who get in fights often, eventually end up breaking up after a period of time, but the fact that MxPx has survived for twenty years through some high points and low points has truly transformed them from eager high school students, anxious to record their first record, to a truly legendary band in the pop-punk genre.
The film concludes, just as it began, with scenes of MxPx preparing to perform Life In General in its entirety, this time, it is for the second time, at the El Corazon in Seattle. It is during this scene that the only fully plugged in live performance, of an MxPx song, is played during the entire movie. Viewers are treated to a portion of “Middle Name”, the lead off track to Life In General, which is a fan favorite at live shows. After "Middle Name" concludes, the band closes things out with a rousing rendition of “Punk Rawk Show”, their closing song for every live show that they play today. Despite the fact that there is a lack of live performances during the movie, there is no other way to end a film about MxPx, than by playing a live performance of “Punk Rawk Show”. True MxPx fans know that hearing “Punk Rawk Show” at an MxPx concert, symbolizes that all the fun that was had that night is about to draw to a close, and in the case of this movie “Punk Rawk” show serves as the capper to a rather fine documentary that was made with MxPx fans in mind. This may be the sole downfall of Both Ends Burning. The movie is going to play perfectly for current, long term, fans, that want to delve even deeper into the lives of MxPx, but new fans might not completely understand what all the fuss is about.
Another major component, that must be mentioned, about Both Ends Burning is the music that is playing in the background throughout the film. Bryan Buchelt shot this film to be a rather melancholy, serious, and heartfelt retrospective into a band that is beloved by many people. Therefore, Buchelt wisely chose to go with some of the more restrained MxPx songs throughout the run time of the film. Viewers will not hear any of MxPx’s faster songs playing in the background (until “Punk Rawk Show” is played at the end, of course), and instead they will be aurally stimulated by acoustic renditions of many of MxPx’s songs, including “Never Better Than Now”, “Last Train”, “You’re on Fire”, “You Walk, I Run”, “End” and “My Mom Still Cleans My Room”, to name a few. The use of these acoustic songs greatly fits the overall melancholy mood of the film, and some of these songs may be a real treat for fans that have never heard them played acoustically.
The real surprise on the entire DVD though, is delivered to viewers that are willing to stick around for the closing credits. During the closing credits, viewers can hear a new, unreleased song, titled “Far Away”, which is currently exclusive to this DVD, that will eventually appear on the band’s new album Plans within Plans when it is released on April 3rd 2012. The best way to describe “Far Away” is that it sounds like the perfect evolution of the power pop sensibilities hinted at on Secret Weapon, The Ever Passing Moment, and Before Everything and After, mixed with the polished punk rock sound that was found on the bands’ latest EP, The Left Coast Punk EP. In short, it’s yet another perfect evolution of the sound that MxPx made a staple among teenage kids in the 90s, and have been improving upon for the last twenty years.
The last title card, to be read, during Both Ends Burning, tells the viewer to, “celebrate the past…embrace the future.” Well, fans already have twenty years worth of MxPx songs to celebrate, and if the song “Far Away” is any indication of what to expect from MxPx’s new album, Plans within Plans, then fans will be eager to embrace the future that awaits their ears. For now though, Both Ends Burning is a very solid effort, aimed directly at the bands’ existing fans, that should offer more than enough MxPx goodness to hold fans over, while simultaneously whetting their appetite for the new album that will drop this Spring.