Dreaming in America

Nichols is two shits to the wind, as he states repeatedly; drummer Roy Berry walks off in disgust. The scene is a low point for the band, yet also signals the beginnings of a new start that will eventually peak with the release of their new record, Nobody’s Darlings.

DREAMING IN AMERICA: A FILM ABOUT LUCERO (EastWest/Liberty & Lament)

Aaron Goldman’s 70-minute snapshot into a slice of the career of Southern rockers Lucero succeeds on two fronts. On a base level, the film contains plenty of interesting characters and scenarios that make the film enjoyable to music fans in general, not just fans of Lucero. Also, the film takes a look into the mechanisms of the music industry and how a single decision might end up being a godsend—or the biggest mistake the band will ever make.

Dreaming begins simply enough with a white on black caption: “Every year tens of thousands of bands cross this country in the hopes or making it…most fail, and a few succeed. This is a story about one of those bands.” We are then introduced to Lucero singer/guitarist Ben Nichols, who rambles onstage about how this was an important show and he fucked it up. Nichols is two shits to the wind, as he states repeatedly; drummer Roy Berry walks off in disgust. The scene is a low point for the band, yet also signals the beginnings of a new start that will eventually peak with the release of their new record, Nobody’s Darlings.

As the film traverses, live footage from town to town is spliced with musings from individual band members—the lion’s share coming from Nichols—as well as from Lucero’s booking agent, fans, and others. These conversations show a strange contrast from the to-the-point style of manager Thaddeus Rudd and the down-to-earth nature of the band members. While the band voices a pure need to tour and make the new record, Rudd speaks in the terms of cold numbers

The story of the making of this album—produced by the legendary Jim Dickinson (Replacements, Big Star)—is the point where the roots of potential band strife are laid. As we are told at the film’s onset, Lucero is a band without a label. (Their previous label has gone on extended hiatus.) Undaunted, the band records the disc anyway.

Afterward, Nichols states his desire not to sign with a major label: “I don’t want to go there. We are not big enough to go to a major label. We just aren’t.”

While you don’t have to have to be a super sleuth to figure out what happens next, the contrasting reactions of the other band members, mainly bassist John C. Stubblefield, leaves one to wonder if band has made the correct decision. Is their new “independent” label really giving them the control that Nichols so desires, or is it a well-oiled Warner Brothers Trojan horse? While Dreaming in America concludes with the high note of the release of Nobody’s Darlings, this chapter of Lucero’s existence screams, “To be continued.”

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