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Bands on film 

Carsten Knox presses play on the three local discs vying for DVD of the Year honours.

Make a Little Noise

Joel Plaskett takes pride in the fact he’s a rocker. That’s obvious in the simple fact that he uses duct tape to connect his strap to his guitar. The whole singer-songwriter label chafes a little, despite the rousing reception his more acoustic record, La De Da, received on its release in 2005. He once said, with all due respect, he doesn’t want to be mistaken for Jackson Browne.

There’s not much chance of that happening in his concert DVD Make A Little Noise, a raucous, seat-of-your-pants look back at his career so far. The live footage is split into two segments: a concert with his three-piece, The Emergency, recorded at the Marquee, and excerpts from some quieter solo shows at Hugh’s Room in Toronto and here at the Cohn. His solo stuff does feel more mature, but the production throughout the disc has a raw, bare-bones feel, with hand-held cameras and in-club lighting aesthetically better suited to the clanging call and response of the Emergency playing in front of a house full of lubricated students.

Ten videos spanning Plaskett’s career are a nice bonus, as is a three-song EP of tracks produced by Gordie Johnson, the former Big Sugar frontguy, which includes the song made popular by a television ad, “Nowhere With You.” It’s hard to imagine a Plaskett fan being disappointed by anything here and this collection has to be the frontrunner of the three to win on Sunday night.

The Man and His Music

JP Cormier: The Man and His Music is a different kind of thing: a 47-minute reverential artist profile complete with advertising breaks, the kind of thing you’d see on a Sunday afternoon on Bravo—confirmed when the Bravo logo comes up in the end credits.

The basic formula of these kinds of things is adhered to—interview footage of the musician talking about his life and work intercut with concert footage, in this case from the Lunenberg Folk Harbour Festival and Stanfest in Canso. Fellow musicians and associates, including American banjo player Alison Brown, Celtic Colours organizer Max MacDonald and CBC studio producer Glenn Meisner, all offer testimony to Cormier’s prodigious talent right out of the gate, as well as his humour, modesty and his connection to the folk traditions of Cape Breton, even though he didn’t grow up there. The concert footage backs up the tales of his virtuosity with a guitar, banjo, mandolin and so on, though in places the recorded sound is less than dynamic.

The absence of more voices from his personal life and an exploration into his creative impulse, where he finds inspiration for the song-stories in the music he plays, makes the production ring a little hollow. Though what is here is educational and entertaining, and Cormier is clearly a technical wizard, the lack of depth in other areas makes the program feel like more promotional grist, less Life & Times.

C’est What

The final DVD in the running is C’est What, by Chuck and Albert, a PEI-based Acadian comedy duo. The production is a no-frills document of their minimalist stage show, put on in Charlottetown in front of what sounds like a small but enthusiastic audience. As musicians they impress, playing guitar and fiddle respectively, and rhythm bones (think beef ribs as castanets) together, with a dash of dancing, but as comedians something is lost in the translation.

Perhaps it’s that the show is bilingual: Though they make some effort in the routines to accommodate chumps whose French isn’t as good as it should be, there are no subtitles offered on the disc, a big mistake if they want to reach markets beyond their built-in local audience. And, frankly, the material is clunky, with much of the humour borne out of mugging, eyebrow arching, bawdy jokes that were old when George Burns was a teen and the cultural differences between Anglophones and French-speaking characters, with the French guy butchering English in predictable ways. Obviously, the enjoyment of much of this depends on being familiar with the regional idioms, but lines like “eet ees incroyable what you can get at Zellers deez dayz,” aren’t comedy gold, it doesn’t matter where you’re from.

A very poorly timed and ill-conceived spoof of The Crocodile Hunter (flipping into French in an Aussie accent, tres weird) investigating the mating habits of the Maritime male is the nadir of a show that might have had some charm if seen in person in Charlottetown, but just doesn’t come across on DVD.

Carsten Knox is ashamed of his high-school French.


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