Hooking kids up with rock

the man behind the curtainThe story goes like this: An irascible musician trades his failing music career for the opportunity to teach kids the essence of ROCK. He derides their soft pop musical tastes and berates their timid performances, yet eventually the teacher and pupils come together through music, and learn a little something about themselves in the process. This is the true life tale as told in Rock School, a documentary that scored 15 fewer Metacritic points and $79.9 million fewer box office dollars than the Jack Black vehicle you might be thinking of.

I missed the showing at SxSW, but the beloved Alamo [South Lamar edition] brought the film back for a special screening last weekend. Paul Green was in attendance, in character as the swearing sherpa to his touring band of prized pupils. The event served as a kick-off for the school’s new Austin chapter, the latest addition to Green’s expanding empire of after-school abuse.

I expected the curriculum at Rock School would be little more than Stuffing Your Sock 101 or A.P. Facial Orgasms for Soloists, and in fact the film shows no real evidence of technical tutelage. But even if it ain’t Juilliard, Paul Green does succeed at getting gigs for his students and providing them with stage experience. Rock School won’t replace film school or clothing boutiques as breeding grounds of disaffected aggression, but it does manage to put some kids on the fast-track to the reality of success and failure in the music business.

Perhaps it’s inevitable that the next generation of rock will owe its live music chops more to the rantings of a manic white guy than the lure of backstage hummers and drugs. That 16-year-old singer certainly can gyrate like Robert Plant, but it gets a little weird when you think it’s because a 40-year-old man taught him to do it. Rock becomes a little dirtier, and not in a good way, when all its elements are absorbed by proxy rather than good ol-fashioned self-destructive behavior. Are we really going to find the next Hendrix or Stevie Ray that way?

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