SIFF was the Word Premiere of the documentary, Malfunkshun: The Andrew Wood Story. What follows are my thoughts on the documentary and not really a review. It also may contain spoilers so do not say you have not been warned.
Just as I was old enough to con my way into clubs and bars in Seattle but not old enough to be there legally the band Mother Love Bone came on the Seattle scene. They were this amazing band and I had heard stores about an early band with the lead singer Andrew Wood and how he would dress up with the whole makeup think like you might see in the band KISS and the punk band was a bit crazy. Malfunkshun documents this period of time and the end of Andrew Wood’s life. The documentary as a whole was OK but not great. I think people living on Seattle and going to the clubs in the late mid to late 80’s and early 90’s will appreciate it. We learn a lot about Andrew’s life and his first punk band with one of his brothers. We learn how he was a strange kid but yet very talented in many ways. We also learn of his love of football.
At one point in the documentary they show the linage of grunge in Seattle which I think was out of Rolling Stone but maybe it was Spin or some place else like the Rocket but I distinctly remember seeing it back in the day and it showed how members of one band would play together or quit to form new bands. It seemed like the music scene at the time was just one big happy family. One thing I learned in the film was that the first time that Andy got out of re-hab for drugs he was looking for a clean place to live and he moved into a small house in West Seattle with Chris Cornell of at the time the up and coming band Soundgarden (now is his with Audioslave). Chris talks about how he was just blown away by the creative side of Andy and how he would just be amazed by the songs he would put together. Kim Thayil also of Soundgarden fame talks a lot on the film about the lighter side of Andy. Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard (both in Pearl Jam) talk about their interactions with Andy from the Green River and Mother Love Bone days. Also Kelly Curtis I think was the manager of Mother Love Bone before Pearl Jam talks about being out on the road with the band. Both Soundgarden and Mother Love Bone signed their major record deals around the same period of time.
In the movie itself we learn about how dysfunctional the Wood household was and how this lead to Andy really abusing drugs. Both Andy’s brothers talk about their life experiences. One drives a cab on Whidbey island – just a short ferry ride away from downtown Seattle. He talks about his day with playing with Andy in a punk band and then how it hurt when Andy just kind of abandon/quit the band to form Mother Love Bone and did not bring him along. It talks about the other brother who lived on the streets in Seattle for awhile and is still today trying to have a music career. Also in the film is Regan Hagar who was the drummer and then also has played in side projects like Stone Gossard’s band “Brad”. Andy died in March of 1990 at the age of 24. After being declared dead at the scene by EMTs he was revived at the hospital but then later had something like a brain aneurism. Andy’s girlfriend insisted that they not pull the plug until Chris Cornel could be flown back into town so they waited a few days before he died.
The filmmaker, Scot Barbour was at my screening and I was disappointed that he did not do a Q&A because there were many unanswered questions in my mind including that they alluded to the fact that the film was completed in 1999 but it is just now seeing the light of day. Andy’s mom was sitting in the row behind me and you could hear her crying at times during the film which I assume she had seen at least once before if not multiple times already. Andy’s father passed away during the filming of the documentary so he was not interviewed. Walking out of the film I saw many people from the Seattle scene – not to name any names or anything but the likes of Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam or Krist Novoselic of Nirvana may have been seen in the crowd.
As I said in the beginning this was a good but not great doc. If you want to know more about the Seattle music scene in the early days of grunge this will help paint a good picture of part of it.