Finally, after completely spacing on it last spring, I made it to the Tribeca Film Festival. Will and I joined two friends for the final screening of Tell Me Do You Miss Me, Matthew Buzzell’s documentary of Luna’s final tour, which happened over the end of 2004 and the beginning of 2005 (I’ll leave it to Will to tell of their final show and how he came into possession of their bass amp).

For my few readers who may not know of Luna, they were heroes of drone-y, pretty, literate indie pop throughout the 90s and earned a fervent following but never broke through to mainstream success. This fact lends a sense of melancholy as we follow them across the country, through Japan and Europe, then back to the U.S.–they are all 40-ish, talented, hard-working artists who, after 15 or more years in the music business, are (were) still playing small-to-medium clubs, driving a rented van, lugging their own gear, and sometimes staying in youth hostels to save money. The gritty video and low light contribute to the sense of weariness that comes from a long road trip: you never feel quite clean, rested, or well-fed, tempers are short, and people get lonely even when they’re living in close quarters. Guitarist/vocalist Dean Wareham and guitarist Sean Eden bicker like an old married couple (yet also reveal the intimacy of the same), while bassist Britta Phillips and drummer Lee Wall stay mostly on the sidelines and keep to themselves. There are the requisite montages of band members shopping in Japan, gazing wistfully out of the van windows, napping on airplanes, mingling with fans, and playing their final string of gigs. There are some insightful moments, such as when Wareham reads a review of one of their performances in a local paper. He reads aloud the faint praise with which they are damned (“mostly okay music with moments of greatness”) and a description of himself as nasal and impassive (which he kind of is). He tries to laugh it off, but you can see that even seasoned performers are easily stung by casual criticism. Overall, in spite of the above-mentioned rock-doc cliches, I was impressed with how unromanticized this portrait of life on the road was. On a personal note, I was disappointed that I couldn’t pick out anyone I knew in the crowd shots of their final show at the Bowery Ballroom.

After the screening we had the unexpected treat of a Q&A session with the director and Wareham, Phillips, and Eden. I was struck by how much more outgoing and happy Wareham seemed in contrast to his weary, brooding presence in the film. Eden was just as silly and self-deprecating (and revealed a fondness for Gordon Lightfoot, which Will and I appreciated), and Phillips had little to say. They’re all moving on with their own projects and seem happy. And that’s all I have on the subject for now.

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