Start packing your checked shirts, grow that beard and stockpile your tiny acoustic instruments – we’re going on tour. Ok, this is rather an embittered way to begin a review but this is simply my attempt to mask the jealously I found myself consumed with throughout the free-wheeling roadtrip that is Austin to Boston.
Having warmed the cockles at San Diego Film Festival and Sheffield Documentary Festival, its selection at the BFI London Film Festival is a happy addition to the Sonic strand, pitching itself as a ‘modern tour done the old fashioned way’.
Fresh off the stage at SXSW festival, four bands – The Staves, Ben Howard, Nathaniel Rateliff and Bear’s Den – pile in to five clapped out VW camper vans and make like beatniks from Austin to Boston, playing a host of gigs from hotel rooms and rooftops to packed out venues, and of course the backs of their vans. Narrated by the husky, whisky soaked tones of Old Crow Medicine Show’s Gill Landry and orchestrated by Mumford and Sons’ Ben Lovett, this purposely lo-fi documentary is a little indie gem.
Our roadtrippers hail from London’s Communion collective, a group of artists who support new songwriting through gigs, a record label and publishing – and clearly now long haul cross-country trips. With three thousand miles from SWSX in Austin to Boston and some pretty close quarters, we’re treated to a digested 72-minute documentary filled with endearing shots of backseat sing-a-longs and jovial japes from the carefree musicians, far removed from the falsities of the ‘big time’. The Staves sisters break hearts in every scene with their goosebump inducing, siren-like harmonies, Ben Howard revels on the small stage but the greatest revelation has to be my discovery of Nathaniel Rateliff’s heart wrenching music.
While Austin to Boston’s Instagram-filtered vision of life on the road could be seen as a tad twee, I’ll still be sticking my thumb out to jump aboard should their convoy ever come by my way.
Austin to Boston screens at BFI LFF on Saturday 18 October (BFI Southbank) and Sunday 19 October (Vue West End).
View the full festival programme online: www.bfi.org.uk/lff
Watch the trailer: