The Foo Fighters made history on Tuesday night, with fans flocking to cinemas across America for the multi-theater one-night-only simulcast of their chronological documentary Foo Fighters: Back and Forth, followed by a live 3D performance broadcast live to over 80 theatres around the U.S. Cinedigm Digital Cinema, run by former Overture Films founder and CEO Chris McGurk, produced and distributed what it calls the "first ever, live 3D widely released music performance."
Directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker James Moll, the documentary tracks the 16-year history of the band from its start as a Dave Grohl solo project in the wake of Nirvana all the way through the making of its newest album Wasting Light (Wasting Light – Review), which was recorded in frontman Grohl's garage on analog tape.
The film itself is an even-keeled portrayal of the band's chronology and humanity, detailing the demise of Nirvana through the recruitment and departure of assorted bandmembers, with all the associated rock n' roll trappings: music, drugs, ego, tension, vulnerability and lots (and lots) of sweat. The somber moments are poignant reminders of the traumas and darkness of the past, while the high points are some of the most soaring musical experiences a human being could possibly imagine.
Grohl's relationships with each member is clearly defined, as are the struggles that remain a part of the band's legacy. In order to safeguard against any rekindled tension, Grohl chose to watch the film before the rest of the band. He explained in February, "I watched the movie first before the band did. I asked to watch it before the band did because I didn't want it to break up our band."
At the end of it all, there were no regrets. "I think that's good because it means we're telling the true story," Dave explained.
That doesn't mean it's all roses and pleasantries, however. Speaking to BBC Newsbeat about the now-legendary story of re-recording former drummer William Goldsmith's parts for second album The Colour and the Shape, Grohl said, "It was brutal. That part made me incredibly uncomfortable. I told everybody, 'There's going to be something for each one of you in this movie that will make you feel incredibly uncomfortable'."
Drummer Taylor Hawkins had also voiced personal concerns about releasing the film, which features coverage of the drummer's 2001 overdose and subsequent coma. Hawkins said, "I wish we wouldn't put the f—ing movie out to be honest, because I'm not really comfortable with the public sort of openness. I'm really not."
Ultimately, however, the film leaves viewers with a sense of real renewal for the Foos, with a healthy dose of behind-the-scenes looks into the making of their latest album Wasting Light, which was recorded in Grohl’s garage using nothing but analog equipment and tape machines. The atmosphere was familial and entirely on personal terms, a meaningful next step after playing two sold-out shows at London's staggeringly massive Wembley Arena.
The high point of the film's Wasting Light sessions arrives when Dave's very young daughter interrupts a moment of intense concentration while recording a guitar part to tell him, "You promised to take me swimming." He can't help but laugh, grasping that this is the price of the trade-off of not slaving in a pro studio with an army of employees riding sticks of professionalism.
In conclusion, Grohl ends the film with “…I feel bad about the bad things, I feel good about the good things…I wouldn’t change a thing.”
At the conclusion of Back and Forth, moviegoers were instructed to put on their complimentary 3D glasses, at which point the rockers tuned in live via satellite from a San Fernando Valley studio, playing a live set of their upcoming album Wasting Light in its entirety. For fans both familiar with the record as well as those who hadn't heard the entire thing yet, it was a rare and thrilling experience to witness the band, 20 feet tall and leaping through the screen, playing airtight renditions of the new material (with particularly rockin' extended jams on a few tracks). And if you haven't heard the album yet, listen here.
If you missed the film premiere, never fear – it will also air on VH1 this Friday night at 7pm PT/10pm ET.