Two months into the new millennium, a guitar contest was held in San Francisco called the Godathon. With only two days notice, rock fan and ex-Pixar employee Craig McGillivray put together a small crew to document this one-of-a-kind event. While Godathon is similar in namesake and sponsorship (thank you Guitar Center) to other competitions, the organizers of this particular gig were SF's underground metal promoters extraordinaire—Lucifer's Hammer. The judges were members of the Fucking Champs, Lord Weird Slough Feg, and Alan "the metal guy" from Aquarius Records. The trials, tribulations, and name-dropping are preserved for all time on the Godathon DVD, thanks to McGillivray's DIY efforts and strong sense of irony.
Made on a shoestring budget, ("my editor worked for beer and smokes," confides McGillivray) and mercifully clocking in at under an hour, the film reveals the sickening accuracy and sheer talent of dozens of mind-blowing shredders from the Bay Area. Gargantula's Bill Blair is featured on the cover; his long blond hair and woodgrain Flying V look a lot tougher than his soft-spoken interviews in the film. Like most good documentaries, the characters are so bizarre that they couldn't have been invented. Take, for instance, the conservative former US Army military policeman who is also the inventor of a new style of playing called "Sweepatonics."
Though no footage of the audience is shown (making the size and turnout of the event somewhat suspect), the number of quotes from diehard guitar purists serve as a strong enough focal point to carry the film. The nearly unanimous loathing of Yngwie Malmsteen's ego, and the universal love for early Scorpions guitarist Uli Roth displays the collectively unconscious camaraderie of every metal guitarist. As fest co-organizer John Cobbett puts it, "the holy trinity is Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, and Uli Roth."
There is a tongue-in-cheek sensibility throughout the film, which has moments of hilarity offset by other sequences of total six-string grandeur. I'm not going to tell you who wins, but I will say that the final performances are more than deserving of glory and this tiny bit of immortality. Track Godathon down at Movie Madness, Clinton Street Video, or order it online from Aquarius Records.