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I gave the Danielson Famile a chance and after a few listens the band grew on me. A few years later I would be the guy thrusting the highly unconventional band on unsuspecting acquaintances. Having previously seen Danielson perform - Daniel Smith sang and played guitar while dressed as a giant tree - I wouldn't shut up about how great the Famile's performances were. The next time the band was in town I convinced some co-workers to get tickets and accompany me, music unheard, only my assurances. While my friends definitely gave it the benefit of the doubt, one of them left after just ten minutes and the other promptly turned her attention to the Jack and Cokes being served at the bar.
Quite possibly the epitome of a polarizing musician, Daniel Smith's music is either loved or hated. I completely understand either decision, but it would be daft to write the man off as some kind of freak. As Danielson: A Family Movie shows, Daniel Smith is more than just a squeaky voice with a penchant for costumes. He is in fact, a fairly normal and nice guy.
While there is no doubt as to who the documentary focuses on, Danielson: A Family Movie does a good job of giving each member of the Danielson Famile their due. What could easily be misconstrued as a cultish clan is revealed as a very close family that enjoys playing music and spending time together. The film begins with a video of the young Famile's first show together and, later, the dissolution of the band is chronicled as various members focus on other careers and burgeoning families.
An interesting - and to the director I'm sure happily unexpected - sub-plot, is the trajectory of Daniel Smith's friend, Sufjan Stevens. Stevens makes his first appearance as a fill-in for a young member of the Famile unable to attend some European shows do to school obligations. Later, becoming a permanent member of the band, Stevens is seen performing both with the Danielson Famile and opening for them as a solo support act. As most know, Stevens' popularity has today infinitely eclipsed that of his former band, but no ill-will or jealousy is mentioned; in the last Danielson performance in the film, Stevens is seen in the audience.
A major theme of Danielson: A Family Movie is Smith's deep convictions and intense faith, which he is constantly commenting on, defending, or explaining as his religion. Random concert-goers weigh in on the subject throughout the film, and one radio interviewer takes a particularly long time to grasp some of Smith's concepts. Not at all deterred by negative comments, Smith is eager to explain the meanings in his songs and how his religious beliefs inspire his art. The film makes it easy to see how seamlessly religion, the band, and family are all intertwined in Smith's life.
Danielson: A Family Movie does an excellent job of showing the progression of the Danielson Famile as a band and the motivations of its main member, Daniel Smith. Informative and entertaining, the film gives the audience a very candid look at its subjects. Devoid of the usual petty squabbling and conflicts featured in most band documentaries, Danielson: A Family Movie showcases the love and ideology behind one of music's most interesting groups. SEE ALSO: www.danielsonmovie.com
SEE ALSO: www.danielson.info
SEE ALSO: www.creativearson.com
An aspiring global adventurer who cut his teeth on the sandy beaches and dirty bitches of Southern California, Kevin Alfoldy now spends his non-vacation days in Brooklyn, New York, where he occasionally finds the time to rub the crust out of his eyes long enough to contribute reviews and feature articles for LAS. A longtime staff member, Kevin also captains the tattered, often half-sunk raft of EPmd, our irregular column of EP reviews.
See other articles by Kevin Alfoldy.
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