directed by Brett Whitcomb
Playing at The Burton in Detroit…
As I write this review, I am watching The Rock-afire Explosion’s video for Usher’s song, Love in this Club, on YouTube. And somehow, just like that, just as it has happened so many times in these past few months, 20 minutes have just flown by as I watched more and more videos produced by both the Rock-afire Explosion enthusiast (the epically endearing Chris Thrash) and the Rock-afire brainchild (the ego driven idealist, Aaron Fechter), videos that have helped to bring a memorable childhood memory back from the dead. And to think, it all started with Bubba Sparxxx’s Ms. New Booty. Why Chris Thrash chose to break the old champagne bottle against the hull of that particular club song is a question for the ages, but I have jumped ahead of the story, here. Let’s back up. In the 1980s, a young inventor named Aaron Fechter created an animatronic band that took the country by storm, or should I say by explosion. By Rock-afire Explosion, that is. With Fechter’s musical contraption at its helm, the youth-focused restaurant chain known as Showbiz Pizza was unleashed, spawning a craze amongst youngsters that has virtually no adult equivalent, bar maybe the young Elvis Presley insanity. Too bad the entire enterprise lost money hand over fist, until the once noble chain was forced to merge with the far inferior Chuck E. Cheese franchise. Dark days, indeed. And so it went, the illustrious Rock-afire Explosion vanishing into obscurity, until a small group of fans who never let go revived the cult icon with music videos released on YouTube. Now, I’m not talking about old Beach Boys or Raffi songs. I’m talking about stellar, hoodish club songs that inexplicably make me long for the days yore, when the rents got buzzed on pitchers of beer and us kids got to leap through the bacteria trap they called a ball pit. The doc itself revolves around the cult of Showbiz, the strange personae of Fechter, but the heart of the film beats for Chris Thrash, roller rink DJ who purchases a complete “show” to bring his childhood dream to life. Thrash would be a parody if he wasn’t so damn genuine, a true blue dreamer who dares to actually bring his aspirations to life. Brett Whitcomb's doc is technically sound, nothing special, and it is just long enough to keep you interested. What stays with you is an image of Thrash, watching his personal Rock-afire Explosion, his elation and contentment pure and complete. It’s joy the likes of which many of us can only hope to experience. Get yourself some Mountain Dew, a hot pie, and prepare to find that special place where a kid can be a kid, forever.
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