IT MIGHT GET LOUD is a documentary in which Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, The White Stripes’ Jack White, and U2’s The Edge jam together, and discuss what they love about guitars. “It might get loud,” is something The Edge mutters as he plugs his guitar into the wall of wires and effects pedals that he’s known for. The Edge built a guitar from scratch when he was a teenager, and Jack White hammers one together onscreen in the opening minutes of the film. It serves to demystify the instrument–which the film spends the next ninety minutes RE-mystefying.
Davis Guggenheim, who also directed AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, captures what the guitar meant, and continues to mean, to three innovative players. In the film, Jimmy Page refers to The Edge as a “sonic” guitarist. Jack White is from the “less is more” school. Page did more to define rock guitar than almost any other player, and popularized playing the guitar with a bow in The Yardbirds, and Led Zeppelin.
Back in 1972, when my now super religious sister was still the black sheep of the family, she took me to see Led Zeppelin; my first concert. Needless to say, it was a memorable, mind-blowing exercise. I got my first contact high in spite of the concert being held in an open-air football stadium, and I’ve been grateful to her (for both experiences) ever since. Twenty years later, I ran across a nut case with an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Zeppelin, who told me off the top of his head the EXACT DATE Led Zeppelin played Tampa in 1972. I was understandably impressed. In an attempt to “connect” with my super religious sister, I wrote her an email. The subject line read: “Where were you on July 7th, 1972?” and the body contained only: “You were with ME, watching Led Zeppelin!!” Instead of responding with: “What a great show!” or “I can’t believe I took you to see them when you were only eleven,” or one of the literally hundreds of possible responses, my dear sister wrote me back how sad it was that Zeppelin’s members were in league with the devil. I’m in SHOWBIZ. If I held “being in league with the devil” against people, I’D NEVER WORK!!
I was also lucky enough to see The White Stripes at Los Angeles’ Greek Theater. Jack White plugged in his guitar, and blew the Neil Diamond out of the place. It’s only fair to say that the film was especially interesting to me having seen both Page and White live, but I don’t feel one has to be a fan of the guitarists in the film to enjoy it. The film works because it’s always interesting to hear someone speak intelligently about something they’re passionate about. I saw the IMGL in Sony’s screening room in NYC, and you can imagine the sound system they have. The film sounds flat-out fantastic—you hear every finger on every string. While IMGL gives you a sense of the guitarists featured–it’s about their relationship to the guitar. If you’ve ever done a “windmill” while listening to The Who, this is the flick for you.
The cinematography and the sets are award worthy, and many of the segments are shot at historic locations. Jimmy Page takes the crew to Headley Grange, the estate where Zeppelin recorded “When The Levee Breaks.” Page explains how they got the renowned drum sound on that record–by using a brand new drum kit at the bottom of a stairwell, and letting the sound bounce off all the hard surfaces. It was a concept that ran counter to most recording techniques at the time, and is now commonly done. Edge and the crew visit the Dublin schoolroom where U2 first rehearsed, and Jimmy Page and Jack White play LPs for the camera, and the other two guitarists. It was fun to see a great record transport guys who make great records to the same place they take me. Jimmy Page treats the viewer to Link Wray’s RUMBLE (which was the only instrumental record ever to be banned, because authorities were afraid it would promote gang violence). I loved seeing Jack White play North Carolina’s Flat Duo Jets for his co-stars, and show them a clip of the band performing live from ATHENS INSIDE OUT. It shows whose loins The White Stripes leapt from–the original guitar and drums madman: Dexter Romweber. Dexter favors a frenzied low-fi approach powered by the cheapest instruments possible, a doctrine he’s passed on to White. He has a new record out AND there’s a new documentary about Romweber; TWO HEADED COW. His appearance in a “Sundance Festival Selection” should complete his long overdue resurgence.
The film closes with three of the most important guitarists of their respective generations playing acoustically on a sound stage for a very lucky crew. But for their fans, the real reason to see the film is for the powerful segments of the three of them jamming together on songs from their back catalogues. IT MIGHT GET LOUD is exciting, informative, interesting and groundbreaking. And, in my opinion, it might get nominated!