Director Jessy Williamson and his crew spent several years rounding up fans and staff from the decade-defining music venue The Warehouse, the rock venue on Tchoupitoulas Street that hosted The Grateful Dead and Fleetwood Mac on opening night in 1970 and was the place in New Orleans to see live music until its closing in 1982.
Williamson's documentary A Warehouse on Tchoupitoulas is a nostalgic, if overly sentimental, look back at the forgotten landmark. What it lacks in style and editing it almost makes up for in photographs, memorabilia and tall tales from the film's talking heads, though most of their stories have a "you had to be there" quality. Although it's about music and the people who performed at the space, the film has no interviews with musicians other than Deacon John Moore (whose psychedelic blues band often made appearances), nor is there any music — in place of a soundtrack it uses generic, royalty-free music clips that add nothing to the movie. Long-winded stories from former staff members, including founder Bill Johnston (who died earlier this year before the film's release) are left to capture The Warehouse. While the film includes dozens of interview clips, the stories are broken into clunky chapters (one of which spends too much time early in the film discussing construction of the bathrooms) rather than a chronological timeline of The Warehouse's history, which began with a bang and closed with a whimper.
A Warehouse on Tchoupitoulas captures, though not elegantly, an important decade in the New Orleans music scene, and the film will satisfy fans of the venue who want to reminisce about its heyday. This screening is part of the New Orleans Film Festival. — ALEX WOODWARD