The early hits of Sly and the Family Stone are timeless. "Dance to the Music" and "Everyday People" never went away. But Sly, aka Sylvester Stewart, did. He delved into drugs, gained a reputation for not showing up at his own concerts, and by the late 1970s, he had largely disappeared from public view. Fans caught a glimpse of him when he miraculously showed up for the band's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 (walking onstage after the band apologized for his absence), and he performed at the 2006 Grammy Awards, but his mic was cut off by accident and no one heard him sing. A weathered-looking Sly performed at the 2007 North Sea Jazz festival in the Netherlands.
Tracking down Sly is the subject of Dutch filmmaker Willem Alkema's Coming Back for More, an entertaining labor of frustrated love that almost comes off like a mockumentary. It's one well worth viewing both for revisiting the band's history and the Sly interview Alkema eventually lands — half of which is a bizarre sequence that takes place in a van cruising empty strip malls at night in California, while Sly sits on the floor wearing a sort of Spider-Man outfit.
Most of the film is in English, but some of Sly's personal and musical history is narrated (subtitled in English) by Dutch twins who are devoted fans. It's not clear why the two take up so much time in the film, but they helped lead Alkema to Sly.
The film is borderline surreal throughout. There's fantastic footage of Sly and the Family Stone performing in the 1960s and '70s — complete with afros, bushy muttonchops, gold chains, cascading fringe, glittering jumpsuits, etc. The Dutch twins' comically ineffectual detective work could have been cut down, but it's a suitable prelude to the near-broke and eccentric lifestyle Sly reveals. His life seems to have touched everything scandalous going on in California music and culture, including ties to the Manson Family crimes, selling his publishing rights to Michael Jackson and other bizarre twists. The film has screened in a few international film festivals, but it doesn't currently have a distributor, so this is a rare opportunity to see it and trip from 1960s pop stardom to huffing the fumes of never-ending celebrity. (It's not covered in the film, but Sly recently released I'm Back on Cleopatra records, and he appears to be trying to make a comeback.) Presented by the Contemporary Arts Center, the New Orleans Film Society and DJ Soul Sister. Tickets $7 general admission, $5 CAC/NOFS members. — Will Coviello
Coming Back for More
7 p.m. Tuesday
Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp St., 528-3800; www.cacno.org