For almost 20 years, the Beastie Boys have been experimenting with ways to fuse a do-it-yourself, punk-rock attitude with hip-hop's arena-sized spirit. Now, in the age of the all-purpose hand-held gadget, leave it to a concertgoer and his cell phone to inspire a document of the group in perhaps its ideal element: live, in New York, filmed by fans from their seats.
"It just seems like so many concerts videos and films I see are done in this one style, with the flying boom that kind of swings out over the crowd," said Adam Yauch, a.k.a. MCA — and also a.k.a. Nathaniel Hornblower, the name under which he's directed many of the Beasties' videos and their upcoming concert film, "Awesome: I F---in' Shot That."
"I was looking around on our Web site one time when we were on tour," he continued, "and someone had filmed something on his phone. It looked really cool, just a little clip of the band running on stage at the beginning of the show, maybe 20 seconds long. There was something about the hand-held thing and the rough edge of the way the stuff looked, and I thought it might be interesting to document the show like that, by giving lo-res cameras to the audience."
And so they did. At a sold-out show at New York's Madison Square Garden in October of last year, the Beastie Boys handed 50 Hi-8 video-cameras to fans all over the famed arena — and for one evening, those fans became concert cinematographers.
"It was pretty short notice," Yauch revealed. "It really came down to just few days before the show. We thought we really should do it at the Garden, and we posted on our site's message boards asking people who had tickets if they'd be interested in filming. A bunch of people responded, and we asked them for their seat numbers. We looked at a seating chart and found people who were spread out pretty evenly around the arena — on the floor, in the nosebleed [seats] and whatnot. They had a specific place where they met up before the concert, the cameras were handed out — they left their drivers licenses as collateral — and they shot the show and gave the cameras back. One of the basic guidelines was to shoot the whole time, not to stop the camera, so they'd film throughout, right through to the very end."
Yauch — whose nom de cinema comes from his middle name, Nathaniel, and the fact that he likes the weird way that "Hornblower" sounds — said that the editing and mixing of the film is basically finished, and moviegoers can expect to see it released theatrically sometime in the "late winter, maybe early spring" of 2006.
"THINKFilm is helping us out with all that stuff," he said of the distribution firm that recently secured worldwide rights to the movie.
More pertinently, what does a band do with 50 Hi-8 cameras once they've served their purpose?
"I think we returned them to the store the next day," Yauch said, laughing. "Naughty, naughty."
The Beastie Boys' singles collection, Solid Gold Hits, drops November 8; the live "Brass Monkey" video — filmed at the Garden show — is included on the expanded CD/DVD release.