In the early 1980s, Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Robb Reiner were on their way to the top of the heavy metal heap. The Canadian rockers had been playing together since they were 14, and their band, Anvil, known for its fast and hard-driving, speed metal sound, was sharing the stage with some of the world’s biggest rock bands. Although their music had a big influence on groups like Metallica, Anthrax and Slayer, Anvil never achieved the same level of success as their raucous peers. But they never gave up their dream.
Anvil! The Story of Anvil, is a funny and inspiring documentary that catches up with Lips and Robb, now in their fifties, as they balance boring day jobs, family life and keeping the band alive. Opening Friday, April 24 at the Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, Anvil! The Story of Anvil was directed by Sacha Gervasi, who at age 16, joined the band as a roadie during an unforgettable 1983 North American Tour. Twenty years later, the successful screenwriter looked up his old friends and convinced them to let the cameras roll as they tried to reignite their rock star careers.
“They had two different reactions to me making the movie,” Gervasi said in a phone interview. “Lips started to cry. He knew that something special was going on. Robb was a bit more, ‘huh, why would anyone care about Anvil?’ I said, ‘Because it’s about you two guys 40 years after you made a pact to rock forever and you’re still doing it!”
The film follows the band during a “come-back” tour of clubs in Europe — their biggest gig in 20 years. You feel the love and respect they have for their fans, and you cringe as they face one disappointment and disaster after another — they miss their trains, they get lost, they argue, they play in near-empty venues and they don’t get paid. Yet they keep believing they’ll catch a break. Maybe that will come with their 13th album, but first they need the money to produce it.
“It’s about never giving up hope,” Gervasi said. “If you can just hang on when it’s excruciatingly bad then at least a miracle is possible. That doesn’t mean it will happen but it’s absolutely impossible if you give up.”
(2 of 2)
You don’t have to be a fan of heavy metal to enjoy Gervasi’s film. Anvil! is really a portrait of perseverance and enduring friendship.
“The audience is coming in with a preconception of heavy metal, long-haired guys and ‘isn’t it funny and silly.’ By the end they walk out going, ‘these guys are real people with real families,’ and regardless of what you think of heavy metal, they are authentically connected with what they are most passionate about.”
Chuck Bartels, an instructor at the Detroit School of Rock and Pop in Royal Oak, who plays bass with R&B artists Bettye LaVette and Thornetta Davis, said he was a fan of metal music in the 1980s and was surprised when Anvil disappeared from the scene.
“They were one of those bands that opened the floodgates for a lot of other bands,” he said. “They were ahead of their time and they’re finally getting the recognition they deserve. They should have gotten it a long time ago.”
Call the Main Art Theatre at (248) 263-2111 for movie show times. The Anvil Experience — the movie premiere and a live performance — will happen at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 21 at the Crofoot Ballroom in Pontiac. Call (248) 858-9333 for ticket info.
CASINO ROYALE BENEFIT
Get ready to spin the roulette wheel and bid for prizes at the YWCA – Oakland Branch Casino Royale Benefit, 6-11 p.m., Saturday, April 25. This year’s 14th annual auction includes gambling entertainment — craps, roulette, blackjack, hold’em — but auction coordinator Barb Glidden tells me there’s plenty to do aside from rolling the dice. There will be bucket raffles, 50/50 raffles, a super silent auction and a live auction with prizes that include vacation cottage weekends, Detroit Tigers tickets (plus parking!), sports memorabilia, and more. Tickets are $30 which includes $10 in gambling chips, food and non-alcoholic beverages, or $20 if you skip the gambling. The evening also includes a cash bar. George Gomez is back as the master of ceremonies and auctioneer. Rocker mom Paula Messner of the Candy Band will be the chef, making everything from “soup to nuts.”
“We really do a nice spread. All kinds of munchies from Italian to Mexican to Greek, meat lovers and veggie lovers alike, healthy to non-healthy!” she said.