The Austin Chronicle

Rock Out With Your Dogs Out

By Ashley Moreno, September 16, 2009, 12:08pm, Picture in Picture

It’s been a few days now since the release of Beatles Rock Band, and your wrists and knees probably need a break. The good news? A short ergonomic vacation from unlocking new challenges doesn’t have to mean a total halt to your celebration of fine, electronic cover bands. Soon you’ll be able to tag in the 1980s original, the Rock-afire Explosion.

On Sept. 29, filmmakers Brett Whitcomb and Bradford Thomason will release a DVD version of their documentary The Rock-afire Explosion, which screened at the Alamo Drafthouse back in February. The documentary catalogues the rise and fall of Showbiz Pizza’s original animatronic band made entirely of members of the animal kingdom, the Rock-afire Explosion, and how, with a little help from super-fan, Chris Thrash, the group found a new home on YouTube.

This is Whitcomb and Thomason’s debut film, which they decided to make after Thrash’s YouTube videos jogged childhood memories. “I think before we made the film, we were just one in a million individuals who remembered Showbiz Pizza from our childhood,” says Whitcomb. “We weren't ‘fans’ of the Rock-afire Explosion. We just had fond memories of playing in ball pits, throwing Skee-Balls, and watching the Gorilla play his keyboard.” Now that the film is finished, Whitcomb sites a greater appreciation for how seemingly small aspects of our past work together to create a shared cultural experience. “We're still not super-fans like the guys in the film,” says Whitcomb. “But we certainly have a greater appreciation for the art and joy behind it all. It's all tied in with how we feel about media and culture, and I know now that it represents themes we'll probably explore in film for years to come.”

The two have already started work on their next pop-culture documentary, which features The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, or GLOW, and Whitcomb describes as a “campy, wrestling variety show from the late 80s.” Thomason says they were previously unaware of the show’s one-time popularity, which he says peaked at about seven million viewers. “One of the original wrestlers on the show managed to purchase the then-defunct brand a few years back and has been trying to revive it as a female-run operation ever since,” says Thomason. “We've interviewed several women from the show, including some of the more famous names like Mt. Fiji and Matilda the Hun. The stories are phenomenal, controversial, and sometimes quite funny.” No word on a release date yet, but they are about half way through filming.

The Rock-afire Explosion DVD has more than 40 minutes of extras, which include a programming guide from Chris Thrash, footage of other inventions by Rock-afire’s creator Aaron Fechter, and footage of original Rock-afire performances.

To learn more about the film, watch the trailer, or pre-order a copy, visit their Web site here. And if you want to help pick the next song the Rock-afire will perform, then visit Aaron Fechter’s Web site here.

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