By Maggie Pehanick
Updated April 22, 2011 at 10:37 PM EDT
  • Music


Sometimes I’ll go fishing for deals at strip malls or outlets (basically, any store that has “Basement” or “Rack” in the name) and I spend so long grazing the miles of Lycra and spandex blends that everything starts to look good, and suddenly I find myself walking out with a recycled bag full of ill-fitting lady suits. Then I wander into a full-price store and the sparkly new clothes with their unripped seams make me realize everything I just bought was crap.

That’s how I felt last night at the unveiling of Talihina Sky: The Story of The Kings of Leon. Now, I’m definitely not saying the Tribeca Film Festival is a strip mall stocked with poorly-sewn velour sweatsuits, but I am recognizing my unfortunate tendency to be mesmerized by a lot of sub-par films until a genuinely good one snaps me back to reality.

Admittedly, I’ve never been a big fan of the Tennessee rockers. (Hardcore fans: please don’t leave flaming bags of dog doo labeled “Sex” on my doorstep in an effort to prove an ironic point.) However, I found myself inexplicably loving Stephen C. Mitchell’s unflinching look at the band’s rise to fame at its world premiere last night. It is, as I overheard some girl saying in the cinema bathroom last night, “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll at it’s finest.”

Except it’s a lot more, too. In addition to drunken nights on the tour bus and illicit substances on their private jet, the 87-minute documentary, spliced with loads of raw footage from the band’s recent tour, features strong undercurrents of religion, family values and politics. In particular, the film illustrates the four-member band’s clash of all three value strains against those of their conservative, Pentecostal family. And it does so without exploiting the humble roots of the Followill family band (brothers Nathan, Jared, and Caleb, and their cousin Matthew).

So yes, I did have to print out and label a key for myself so I could distinguish each Followill, but I will say it was worth the shame-inducing glances from the KoL superfans surrounding me to view the flick. I laughed (a lot more than I imagined I would) and I learned. In fact, I absorbed some interesting tidbits about the boys and their family that I would like to share with you until Talihina Sky hits your multiplex.

  • Nathan had a tumor the size of an egg on his head as a baby. According to his mother, doctors said it would take three to five years to go away. She asked the church to pray for him and two days later, the tumor had disappeared.
  • Growing up, the boys’ mother referred to the television as “The One-Eyed Devil,” while rock music was “Devil Music.” (Sidebar: Did they grow up inside the movie Footloose? Where is John Lithgow? Get out here!)
  • A frenzy broke out in their small home town when The Price is Right flashed a cover of their Rolling Stone cover as a prize on the show.
  • Caleb admits that when a record exec came to them and flatly told them which songs from their album should be singles, he felt “like he’d just watched a smut film. Like, ugh.”
  • One of the first rock albums Jared ever listened to was the Pixies’ Surfer Rosa, given to him by the “goth kid” in his class.
  • There is a scene which shows the band filling out their absentee ballots back stage. Apparently, Nathan’s heavily Republican mom sent a note along with it advocating, “Do the right thing. No one has to know. Jesus will know.”

After the screening, Director Mitchell, Producer Casey McGrath and three out of four Kings (all but Matthew, who has a baby due with his wife in three days) showed up for a short Q&A, taking questions from the audience for about ten minutes.After the exposing peek into their lives we’d just witnessed, it was almost fluid to see them, clad in skinny ties and cowboy boots, joke about the their lack of privacy, raising their kids as Scientologists (joke, I said!) and Caleb’s lack of experience with gay sex.Of their music, Caleb admitted the third KoL record was underrated, the fourth was overrated, and the fifth, “well, Hell, you haven’t heard it yet.”So are you dying to see the the Kings of Leons, unmasked? Do you think you need to be a hardcore fan to enjoy a rock documentary? Might this rival your favorite rock docs of the past?The Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMixRead more on John premieres Cameron Crowe-directed music doc starring himself and Leon Russell, plays the hits at Tribeca Film Festival‘Glee’ creator Ryan Murphy offers apology to Kings of Leon; did Gwyneth fix it?

Kings of Leon

  • Music