Ratt playing at Ram’s Head Live in Baltimore

Is rock ’n’ roll dead? It’s a heretical notion that, nonetheless, seems to gain credence in certain circles every decade or so. Filmmakers Steve LaBate and Scott Sloan are eager to provide the ultimate document of the music and culture’s vitality. After being laid off from his job at a phone company this spring, Sloan joined forces with LaBate, an editor at Paste Magazine, to embark on a 40-day tour of the country to film and interview 40 rock bands, to try to capture the essence of rock ’n’ roll in America in a documentary called “40 Nights of Rock & Roll.”
Although LaBate and Sloan had a list of “dream” bands for the project, they had to settle for an itinerary based on how far they could travel in a day. A friend in Atlanta arranged the schedule of musicians, and at the beginning of May, they kicked off in New York City. Since then they’ve been on the road, filming band such as Ratt, Third Eye Blind, and Murder By Death, among many others. Energy drinks fuel their efforts, as well as what LaBate calls “the perfect mix of whiskey and ham sandwiches.”
Their findings so far? “Rock doesn’t have to be in huge arenas,” Scott said by phone earlier today. “It can just be a bunch of kids headbanging in a basement listening to a local band. It might be changing, the styles and the way it’s played, but rock is definitely alive and well.”
After a 40-day splurge of filming and rocking out, they’ll cut together the film and hopefully release it by mid-August. “We’re going to send it out to as many festivals as we can, but for the time being we’re still keeping all our options open,” LaBate said. “Right now we’re just focusing on getting the filming done — the fun part.”
This Saturday, May 22, they arrive at White Water Tavern for the Thick Syrup Records birthday show, where Brother Andy and his Big Damn Mouth, Androids of Ex-Lovers, and Smoke Up Johnny will, undoubtedly, advance their thesis more than anyone they’ve encountered yet.