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2009 film festival: See 'Old Dog'

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 11, 2009 - Old Dog, New Trick,with The Pride of St. Louis,Directed by Mike Steinberg & Thomas Crone

I suppose I should start with a disclosure: Despite being a lifelong St. Louis native, I managed to make it through the '70s without ever hearing Mama's Pride or Pavlov's Dog. I was aware of their existence and later even had a nodding acquaintance with the Pride's Danny Liston (whose restaurant Seamus McDaniel's is one of Dogtown's finest attractions), but since my musical tastes drove me away from the "Real Rock Radio" of KSHE somewhere around 1972, I don't recall ever actually hearing either band.

The link behind these two films is that both are about local musicians who fell just a few feet short of national success 30 years ago but still carry on making music nonetheless. There's a poignancy to both films, not just out of nostalgia for the denim-and-patchouli '70s but from the behind-the-curtain look at an industry that turns music into a commodity, offers Faustian deals to young bands, and turns its back on them the instant something new comes along.

Those respective shots at glory from 30 years ago prove to be only a minor point in these two films, which deal respectively with members of Pavlov's Dog and Mama's Pride as they reflect - not dwell - on the past. In both films, the subjects continue to perform, either on their own or in occasional reunion concerts, but time has taken away the rock-and-roll-lifestyle posturing and replaced it with a more mature love of music.

Along the way, the films do an excellent recalling a long stretch of local musical history, from long-shuttered nightclubs of the '60s to the early days of FM radio in the '70s. You don't have to be a fan of either band (you can even be as utterly unfamiliar as I was) to enjoy these simple, honest portraits of local talent who managed to survive the clamor of the music industry by dropping the industry and keeping the music.