JENSEN RUFE IS BETTING that you're going to want to watch an hour-long movie about a music scene in a tiny town you've never been to, and he's bringing backup in the form of an unabashed pop band; the town is Eureka, California, and the band is the Buffy Swayze. Nestled in the upper left-hand corner of California, Eureka is the largest city in Humboldt County and its commercial and cultural capital—but it's not a Big City by any stretch of the imagination, not even by Portland standards, and therein lies the charm of both the Buffy Swayze and Rufe's rock doc about the bands of Humboldt County, Rural Rock and Roll.
Rural Rock and Roll presents a music scene that is incestuously insular—everybody who hasn't moved away has already been in a band together—and sometimes too big for its britches. The film is conflicted, not sure if it's a movie about un-ambitious bands in a podunk town who'll never amount to much, or a tight-knit community that doesn't need outside approval to make its often excellent (and weird) music.
The film's most visible band—the one whose incessant, piano-driven would-be single, "Rock Star," is played about 1,000 times in the course of those 60 minutes—is the Buffy Swayze, who will play at Towne Lounge following the film screening. They're the epitome of a Eureka band, comprising Humboldt lifers like frontman Jesse Pearson, who's depicted slicing tomatoes for his day job at Stars Hamburgers and prancing about like a fey Iggy Pop with his band later that night. Frankly, the Buffy Swayze are much bigger rock stars than they have any right to be. "We used to call it 'karaoke rock for the sexually ambiguous,'" said bassist James Forbes, "but now we have a drummer instead of a drum machine, so it's 'trailer-park glam-rock for the sexually ambiguous." The point is: It's weird, it's good, and it's Humboldt.