We're the Weakerthans We're from Winnipeg Caelum Vatnsdal

We're the Weakerthans We're from Winnipeg Caelum Vatnsdal
Caelum Vatnsdal's rockumentary about the Weakerthans' extensive cross-Canada tour in the spring of 2009 is most notable for how completely unpretentiously the horror film aficionado captures the band and their exhaustive trek. We're the Weakerthans We're from Winnipeg is a rather modest-looking document that's well shot from multiple angles and edited effectively without employing any stylistic pizzazz. There's also painstaking craftsmanship in highlighting this country's landscape – from the rustic charm of western Canada's quaint little big cities to the forests, lakes and oceans where the band take reflective refuge from the indomitably endless asphalt and grimy truck stops. Almost all of the 30 dates are represented, with close to one song per city on display, and it's cool to see the Weakerthans – one of Canada's most bankable live bands – alternate between giant venues like Montreal's Le National and the modest MoHo in Peterborough. As the band's principal songwriter, John K. Samson gets the most screen time in the film's incidental moments between performances, coming across as thoughtful as fans might imagine. The surprise star though is bassist Greg Smith, the core band's newest member, who's an endearing hoser, speaking passionately and unselfconsciously about music and finding a groove with the band on-stage. Hearing him discuss such things breathes a lot of life into what is ostensibly a concert film that runs pretty clean. The use of soundboard mixes of these performances means that audience ambiance is cut out to highlight the music, but it limits the electric atmosphere of the live experience in the room, except for a chorus sing-along during "One Great City" at the Phoenix in Toronto that slightly flummoxes the affable Samson. And though the tour was a joint trek with the Constantines, the opening act with such strong ties to the Weakerthans oddly aren't given a speaking role in the film. Sure, it's a profile of the Weakerthans, but someone in the Cons (who were on their second cross-Canada "Rolling Tundra Revue" tour with the Weakerthans) might've had some perspective on what makes the Winnipeg band worth knowing. There is a pick-up in the narrative when the stakes are higher, particularly at the band's hometown shows at the Burton Cummings Theatre. Samson has sung so much about Winnipeg as a place of exploration and frustration, and it's interesting to see him and the band bring these stories to life while actually nestled within its complicated landscape. Otherwise, the most profound insights about the band come in fits and starts, with Smith offering folks anecdotes about life on the road (i.e., he cracks his mates up with a fireside demonstration of how to make "the Beauty," a bacon and marshmallow treat best enjoyed by the wasted), and Samson talking about the importance of laundry. Lead guitarist Stephen Carroll fondly recalls post-show rituals, like listening to AM radio classics on the tour bus radio. Drummer Jason Tait actually suggests that the band haven't broken up because of "economics," but their future is "teetering" for him, based on uncertainty about how they can advance their sound, going forward, while Samson jokes that band splits seem juvenile, like something from junior high. Mostly, this is a film for Weakerthans fans that want to experience a no-frills live show inspired by the beautiful landscape of the Great White North. Plus: "Night Windows" in Edmonton; music videos. (eOne)