Phoenix doesn’t get a lot of press for their interpersonal drama. There are no Liam-and-Noel-sized egos or fits of Thom Yorkeian existential despair (surprising, for a bunch of Frenchmen). So when the documentary film From A Mess To The Masses went live today as a free stream on Vimeo, we weren’t quite sure what to expect from watching these nice enough looking dudes who have some pop hits. And … the documentary is, it turns out, pretty tension-free. The footage here is taken from the band’s 2009-2010 tour for Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix and aside from typical backstage stuff, here are four interesting things you’ll learn.
The band was conceived as a studio project. There were no venues in Versailles in the mid-’90s, when the band started, apparently, so they didn’t play live for years. They credit this with making them a stronger group of songwriters, and for the ultra-high production quality of their albums — while other bands were getting drunk at shows, they were holed up in the studio and listening to records.
They were shocked to blow up so quickly in the U.S. By the film’s climax, which sees the band winning Grammys and playing Madison Square Garden with Daft Punk, they’re able to take things more or less in stride. But early on, when they’re on their first U.S. tour, they seem flabbergasted: “We started the tour in Bonnaroo. We heard the crowd screaming, and we thought it was for someone else.”
They think Kansas City is in Kansas. While talking about the tour’s surprising reception in the United States, a band member expresses shock at how many people came to see them at their Kansas City gig at the Uptown Theater in 2010. “It’s a mystery that people in Kansas come to see us!” Actually, they were people in Missouri. No biggie, though — easy mistake to make!
For a band born out of the studio, they now flourish in a live setting. The highlight of most rock documentaries is the performances, and From a Mess to the Masses gets this part right. The performance footage here really helps capture what’s so special about Phoenix. The film spends a lot of time talking about how the band is still a studio project in a lot of ways, but for a studio project, they sure bring it on stage.