The unassuming, down-to-earth Jersey rock band From Good Homes now has an unassuming, down-to-earth documentary. “Charlie Loves Our Band,” made with the jam/Americana band’s cooperation, will debut at this weekend’s New Jersey Documentary Film Festival in the band’s original hometown of Sparta. The 8:15 p.m. May 13 screening is sold out but a screening has been added, May 13 at 6:30 p.m.
Also, the band — which broke up in 1999 but has undertaken various reunion projects since 2009 — has announced a Sept. 17 concert at the Fields at Waterloo in Hackettstown. Tickets go on sale May 13 at 10 a.m.; visit etix.com.
The thorough and very entertaining film’s director-writer, Victor Guadagno, benefits from an abundance of film and audio clips of the group, at all stages of its career. He is even able to show some of the musicians performing together in the days before the group was formed, and includes rare stuff like footage of band members Todd Sheaffer and Brady Rymer backing singer-songwriter Jack Hardy on a European tour in 1988, and From Good Homes’ national television debut, a few years later, on the “Everyday with Joan Lunden” television show. Guadagno also interviews band members as well as associates, fans, friends, family members, club owners and journalists. (Full disclosure: I’m one of the talking heads in the film.)
This is not a typical rock documentary in the sense that there don’t seem to be any major scandals or big personality conflicts in FGH’s history. They seem to be a bunch of regular guys who genuinely like each other, as musicians and people, and stayed together until the collaboration simply ran its course, and they went on to other projects. (Most prominently, Sheaffer now fronts the progressive-bluegrass band Railroad Earth, and Rymer is a three-time Grammy-nominated children’s entertainer.)
With top-notch songwriting, a dynamic stage presence and inventive arrangements that often prominently featured mandolin, violin and/or saxophone, From Good Homes got further than most bands, releasing two major label albums (in 1995 and 1998, both on RCA) and touring all over the country. But they were never able to get to the next level — that one lucky break a band often needs to get ahead proved elusive — and RCA appeared to lose interest.
What makes their story unusual — and Guadagno is wise to devote a good portion of the movie to it — is that they were able to build a community around their music, like a mini-version of what a group such as The Grateful Dead or Phish has been able to generate: Devoted fans who don’t just see an occasional show, but see every show possible, and become friendly with other diehards, and basically live for the music in a way that goes way beyond traditional fandom.
“No matter what they were doing or where they were going, we always found a way to get there,” says fan Rich Pietrowitz.
“I remember that we used to have to threaten them to stop by 3 a.m.,” says Tim McAllister of Jigg’s Corner in Butler. “People would be going nuts. I’d be like, ‘I’m going to shut the breakers off, man.’ ”
For more on the film festival, visit njdocfest.com.
For more on the film, visit charlielovesourband.com.
For more on the band, visit fromgoodhomes.com.
Here is a trailer for the film:
We need your help!
CONTRIBUTE TO NJARTS.NET
Since launching in September 2014, NJArts.net, a 501(c)(3) organization, has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of any amount to NJArts.net via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to NJArts.net to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.