SPIRIT FIRST

5 Stars
Year Released: 2012
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 15 minutes
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If you’ve never heard of folk rock singer-songwriter Levi Weaver, that’s okay – Weaver is not eager to make himself into a household name. For Weaver, his “ultimate relief” is the knowledge that he will never win a Grammy. And, hey, when was the last time that you heard a musical performer say that?

Filmmaker Ryan Ondriezek’s intriguing documentary short follows the under-the-radar Weaver as he criss-crosses the country in pursuit of his musical passion. Weaver is popular enough to snag club dates and sell CDs to admiring fans, but the film spends more time on a few of his more eccentric gigs, including a performance in the corner of an old-style vinyl record store and a solo turn at a party in a private residence. “There is no exchange rate for the amount of work put in to the amount of success received,” he explains.

How did Weaver come to this point in his career? It is hard to say. The film’s compact running time does not allow for a great deal of biographical information on Weaver’s career – we know he is older than 30 because, as he volunteers, he “came to grips” about never becoming a star when he reached the big three-oh.

Fortunately, the film offers generous samplings of his songs, and his compositions resonate with a gritty and emotional ache that suggest a cogent yet lonely voice trying to be heard at an intimate level. Indeed, Weaver’s movement against the banal tide of popular culture is beautifully captured in a brief moment when he visits Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood and looks about in bemusement at the wave of obsessed tourists drinking in the tacky splendor of the locale.

In the course of this handsomely filmed and crisply edited short, Weaver emerges as deeply talented soul whose wisdom was obtained through hard knocks and harsh reality. Weaver half-jokingly claims that he is still in the “childish stage” of his music, although the maturity of his words and performing style seem to suggest otherwise. Ultimately, this excellent production offers a reminder that sometimes it is the creative artist who understands the ways of the world, while the rest of society is drastically out of tune.



Posted on July 14, 2012 in Reviews by
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