When most people think of live music in the late '60s, they probably think of Haight-Ashbury, The Fillmore East and West, "Summer of Love"-type things. The new documentary Louder Than Love tells the story of The Grande Ballroom in Detroit and the musical revolution that happened in its hallowed halls.
In the midst of economic and racial struggles that led to riots, fires, and other unrest, there was a haven of peace downtown where local bands were blossoming and the top British acts were making their debuts. The venue may have been peaceful but the music was anything but. The MC5 were the house band and brought their aggressive sounds to the stage. They, along with the other bands that frequented the stage, were playing music to match the upheaval and unrest that was plaguing the city. It was loud and it was rock and roll and it was awesome. "Kick Out The Jams" was a battle cry of sorts, pushing artists to be their best.
I think what the film did most successfully was to properly frame the importance of the Grande, how it fits in to the bigger picture, and giving it its rightful place as a key foundation for the birth of rock and roll. I remember when the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was looking for a home and cities like Chicago and eventual home Cleveland made compelling cases. Detroit was a prime contender, and I think this documentary could have helped make that case.
The interview footage featuring Roger Daltrey, Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper, and more, including key figures in running the venue, was often fascinating. The artists all seemed to have such a reverence and respect for the Grande and fond memories of the crowds and other performers. Drugs and debauchery were also frequent topics of discussion; it apparently was quite a place to be.
The thing that was most interesting was to see the wide mix of artists that performed there and how important it was to the British acts like The Who, the original Fleetwood Mac, Cream, and Jethro Tull to gain a strong foothold in the states. There was some great footage and photos presented. Original concert posters listed some of the greatest line-ups I would have loved to see.
Louder Than Love is a really satisfying film, the information is presented well, and the interviews and such are logically arranged. I would have liked more information on the fate of the Grande post this four-year era. There was footage showing it in obvious nearly demolished state where exposure to the elements has taken its toll but it's not clear how this occurred or what led to its downfall.
If you're at all a fan of the music and want to learn more about this relatively unacknowledged era, Louder Than Love is worth your time. Even as a big fan, I learned a lot and enjoyed it immensely.