back in the day...
December 10, 2010 6:26 PM   Subscribe

Blues Houseparty is a fun, entertaining and highly recommended 57 minute documentary that takes us into a Virginia houseparty of 1989, where the assembled Piedmont blues and gospel musicians and their friends pick guitars, sing, dance and engagingly reminisce on the houseparties of old. Amidst hearty laughs, barbecue and general good times, the guests recount personal memories of fun and rowdiness, corn liquor, 500-pound hogs, the devil's music and the Lord's music. There's a whole lot of cultural history on display here, a slice of black American life that is all but gone now. The mood is infectious, to say the least, and the music just keeps getting better and better throughout the film. The next best thing to being there!
posted by flapjax at midnite (13 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Really, I just can't say enough good things about this film! Watch the whole thing, people, when you've got 57 minutes to spare. But if you've only got a minute or two right now, then just get a taste of some killing tap dance moves from John Dee Holeman at the 34:24 mark. Whoa, is that guy cool or WHAT!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:40 PM on December 10, 2010

flapjax, are you familiar with D. Ray White?
posted by dobbs at 9:00 PM on December 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

I grew up not far from where this was filmed; the whole area is a lot more suburb-ified than it is in the film, and getting more so all the time. I don't know whether this sort of house party still happens around there, but I suspect it doesn't and if it does, it won't ten years from now. Fairfax Station is right now just inside the edge of the sprawling wasteland that is the DC suburbs, and if the economy ever picks up again, it will be quickly surrounded.

I grew up in the 90's, and closer to the city, inside the Capitol Beltway, and it wasn't until I was in high school that I became aware of how recently Northern Virginia got 'filled in', so to speak; from my point of view it had always been tract homes and malls. It's really fascinating to me to watch this and see not just the rural setting, but also the differences in the people: the way they interact with each other, the stories they tell, their accents. You don't hear accents like that from Fairfax natives anymore. Someone who grew up in Fairfax since this was filmed, as likely as not their parents aren't even from Virginia, and they certainly don't butcher their own hogs or drink corn liquor. For better or worse, that culture is gone.

When I was a kid, I didn't know a single adult who didn't have a college education. I didn't get my introduction to the blue-collar world until middle school, when my Dad got the driveway repaved and made friends with the paving guy. They pretty soon started playing old-timey bluegrass together. Just a handful of guys hanging around the living room every month or so, not big like the Johnsons' house party; I would have loved to have had big music parties like that, with all the neighbors bringing their guitars over, but that's just not how it works around there. We had barbeques and stuff, sure, but never with music; I think if we had, the neighbors probably would have complained.

Anyway, I guess that's a long way of saying that I really enjoyed watching this. It's nearly midnight, but I'm closing up my computer and getting my banjo out. I can always tell when music is good because it makes me want to play music, and damn do I want to play some music.
posted by Commander Rachek at 9:05 PM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Looks like all my profs at Mary Washington. It's an okay film, nothing special, but I liked the music. I don't actually believe that having a BS or BA prevents you from playing and enjoying good music.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:11 PM on December 10, 2010

Before I watch lemme say that the Chocolate Drops are my shit, so i expect to enjoy this.
posted by MNDZ at 11:17 PM on December 10, 2010

flapjax, are you familiar with D. Ray White?

No I wasn't, dobbs, and thanks for that!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:39 AM on December 11, 2010

i cant sleep, the sun is coming up, i wish i was at a party like this.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:48 AM on December 11, 2010

Somehow I expect that the home in the video has been subdivided into 20 lots by now and swallowed into a subdivision. I moved back to the NOVA area in 1998. This looks like it was taped in a foreign country. Great video though.
posted by COD at 6:47 AM on December 11, 2010


You always find the best stuff. I thoroughly enjoyed this.

I was living no more than ten miles away when this took place - man, I wish I knew then what kind of greatness was taking place. Heartfelt music and community can be a powerful, powerful combination.

Thanks again.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:16 AM on December 11, 2010

Forgot to mention:

The video synopsis is by Dick Spottswood, who is a American-roots-music scholar. He and Lee Michael Demsey were DJs on WAMU (American University's public radio station). In the eighties, they both hugely broadened my knowledge of, and love for, roots music.

Props to them, too.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:30 AM on December 11, 2010

Wow, yeah, when you said "Virginia" + "Piedmont," I was thinking of Louisa County or something - not Fairfax Station, which is heavily strip-malled and subdivisioned. I'm surprised to see this going on so recently - shows what I know. Nice find.
posted by naoko at 8:36 AM on December 11, 2010

It's an okay film, nothing special, but I liked the music.

Always fascinated at this attitude. What about the film could be better, having been filmed in 1989, containing recorded performances, and capturing something now gone?
posted by jscott at 1:36 PM on December 11, 2010

Well, praise the Lord! Man, this hits me so right in so many right places I'm beside myself.

Reminds me of a time when I got invited to Sunday "after meetin'" dinner once in N.C. I was the only white guy there, and while it wasn't as lively as the party in this film, it sure felt like home to me.

Now, what do I think about this film? Well, I played it through on my garden speakers while BBQing and entertaining. I'm watching it again now. Some of the very best things to come through MeFi have been various field recordings and I believe that this is the best of them.

This is a slice of life that can't be reproduced. Ever. Thank you, flapjax!!!!
posted by snsranch at 6:35 PM on December 11, 2010

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