11/3/06 Documentary looks at the "jam" culture

Dreadlock culture' and jam bands examined in documentary
Screening at Bama Theatre followed by Q&A with director
By Keli Goodson

A snippet of culture not often seen in the public eye has been captured in an award-winning documentary to be shown at the Bama Theatre tonight at 9.

The film, "Dreadheads: Portrait of a Subculture," looks into the lives of jam band followers who dreadlock their hair and live day today, concert to concert, developing a kind of tribal society as they tour the country with others living the same way.

Steve Hurlburt, executive producer and co-director of the film, is also a writer, photojournalist, and musician, and he said himself and two partners talked about doing a documentary because he was intrigued by the subculture.

"We decided to go for it and see what there was," he said. "I got to thinking that there might be something here worth documenting."

Shooting for the film lasted three summers, from the summer of 2002 to the summer of 2004, he said.

Hurlburt said the film explores the history of dreadlocks, to influences on the kids that caused them to dreadlock their hair.

"Being a white kid with dreadlocks ... you look different from 99.9 percent of society," Hurlburt said, adding that the film also touches on the "things they bring into their lives, good or bad."

The film contains interviews with Jimmy Herring and John Bell, members of Widespread Panic, and Bob Weir, a guitarist for the Grateful Dead, among other artists.

Hurlburt said the artists in his film are rarely seen being interviewed.

Scholars and authors also appear in the film, expressing their opinions on the dreadheads subculture.

"It's a film about a slice of life that's vibrant, active, and a lot of people never get the chance to see," he said.

When working on the documentary, Hurlburt said he wanted to talk to four different groups of people: the white kids who dreaded their hair, the academics to put them into a social context, authors of books exploring the same concepts for their context and the musicians in the bands the dreaded kids followed around, to get their perspective on the culture surrounding them.

The co-director, Flournoy Holmes, doubled as the graphic designer. Holmes is best known for the album package of the Allman Brothers Band's "Eat a Peach," which "Rolling Stone" magazine selected in 1991 as one of the best 100 album covers of all time.

Holmes' son, Fletcher Holmes, was the film editor and main cameraman.

"They were both invaluable in putting together the film," Hurlburt said.

Hurlburt said the soundtrack for the movie features great jam band music, with his own band, Spunhuny, providing a lot of the music.

"Anyone interested in jam bands, or jam band culture, would definitely get a kick out of the movie," Hurlburt said. "It's fun, funny and it has a pretty good sense of humor."

The "Dreadheads" showing at the Bama Theatre will be followed by a question and answer session with Hurlburt.

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