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Matson on Music

Music news, concert reviews, analysis and opinion by music writer Andrew Matson.

March 2, 2010 at 11:16 AM

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Review: "$5 Cover" premier at SIFF Cinema

Posted by Andrew Matson

lynn shelton david gale.jpg
"$5 Cover" director Lynn Shelton with David Gale, executive vice president of MTV films

Two thoughts following the premier of "$5 Cover" at SIFF Cinema: One, it could have been a huge, embarrassing failure, but it overwhelmingly wasn't. Two, Seattle-via-Everett band the Moondoggies stole the show, and front-man Kevin Murphy was the standout star.

For those catching up now: "$5 Cover" is a docudramedy about Seattle pop music starring local musicians as actors. It will be cut up into 12 webisodes embedded on MTV.com this coming June, but last night was shown in its hour-long entirety at SIFF Cinema, like a movie.

Shelton set out to capture the zeitgeist of local pop music and present the scene's key players, and got both right, or at least right enough, identifying the present creative spirit as a split between Americana rock and spaced-out rap (reductive but accurate), and focusing more on the Moondoggies than any other act (a shrewder move than anyone could have guessed).

The members of the Moondoggies turned out to be great actors, scoring big laughs, communicating real-feeling heartache, and never rushing their speaking parts. Front-man Kevin Murphy was the star of the whole series, and the heart, too, portraying himself as a self-hating guy who'll never know he's as brilliant as he is.

The Moondoggies' mournful ballad "Old Hound" ended "$5 Cover" on an unashamedly sentimental note, its lyric "don't be a stranger" highlighting the project's underlying message that love-based connections between people are precious and tenuous.

I'll break down "$5 Cover" episodes individually when they come out, but in general, let it be known the whole thing is artful, entertaining, and clearly a labor of love. At the after-party at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard, Shelton hugged musicians and MTV honcho David Gale bought the new 7-inch record by Champagne Champagne and THEESatisfaction, two "$5 Cover" stars.

Photo via my phone, image via fivedollarcoverblog.mtv.com

dita vox 5 dollar cover.jpg

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