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Originally published Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 3:03 PM

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'What Did You Expect?': Big applause for band Archers of Loaf

A review of "What Did You Expect: The Archers of Loaf Live at Cat's Cradle," Gorman Bechard's winning concert film that captures a moment in recent music history when the 1990s indie-rock band Archers of Loaf reunited at a club after a 13-year hiatus.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 3.5 stars

'What Did You Expect? The Archers of Loaf Live at Cat's Cradle,' a music documentary directed by Gorman Bechard. 89 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains some swearing). Northwest Film Forum, through Thursday.

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Can a really bad name for a band affect its destiny?

We'll never quite know in the case of 1990s indie-rockers Archers of Loaf. But, as we learn from the exciting concert film "What Did You Expect?," the group's handle was randomly chosen by its North Carolina members, who were soon sorry.

Despite critical praise, a cult following and a record contract, Archers of Loaf never found satisfaction. The four members went their separate ways in 1998. But last year, the now-middle-age and highly likable musicians reunited for two instant-legend Chapel Hill club shows, followed by an appearance at our own Sasquatch! Music Festival.

"What Did You Expect?," filmed at that club, reveals that, after a 13-year hiatus, singer-guitarist Eric Bachmann, guitarist Eric Johnson, bassist Matt Gentling and drummer Mark Price had no trouble sliding back into their often-captivating sound.

Well, that's not entirely correct. In one of director Gorman Bechard's many delightful backstage interviews with the Archers, Bachmann confesses difficulty recalling how the group's guitars and bass were eccentrically, inconsistently tuned on their landmark, earliest recordings. That foggy memory makes it hard for the Archers to replicate those great tracks on stage, but they soldier on and sound amazing.

Bechard gets the band talking about a night they were treated to an after-hours look at Mount Rushmore, about abandoning the comforts of a tour bus for the camaraderie of a van, and Johnson's decision to attend law school.

But in the end, the film is about good music. The Archers' sometimes near-exotic chord progressions, their blend of raw power and mesmerizing hooks on the likes of "Fabricoh," "Might" and "Wrong," and their '90s slacker-rock flourishes make "What Did You Expect?" a winning concert movie.

Tom Keogh: tomwkeogh@gmail.com

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