Sunday, March 3, 2013

Boyd Tinsley Brings His Film, Music, & Never-Ending Hugs to SVA

Boyd Tinsley, most famous for his role as Dave Matthews Band's violinist, can now add film producer to his résumé with the release of Faces in the Mirror.  For the past month, Tinsley has been touring the film across the country: screening it, fielding questions, playing music with local bands, and meeting his fans.  The tour came to its close last night at New York's SVA Theatre, an event that will be remembered forever by fans.

The show was supposed to start at 8:30, but a venue change delayed the setup, and the real show didn't begin until close to an hour later.  Laurie Lehner, a New York singer-songwriter who gained Twitter notoriety among DMB fans with her parody of "Sweet," performed a tune she'd written in tribute to Boyd's film entitled "Faces in the Mirror."  From the right side of the room, a choked-up Boyd, wearing his trademark sunglasses, thanked her for the song, and then turned his attention to the crowd: "I'm so fuckin' late. Thank you guys for waiting for me."

Boyd proceeded to tell of the epiphany he had whilst eating warm Krispy Kremes and vanilla ice cream, playing
 Call of Duty ("That shit's fun."), and listening to Pearl Jam, where he realized that love was the most important thing to give and receive in this world.  By making Faces in the Mirror and touring behind it, he'd be able to foster these celebrations of love.  And if anyone's ever made a positive case for Twitter, it's Tinsley, who only joined the social-networking site eight months ago, but was immediately flooded with "more love than I ever had."  "We know how to give it!" yelled a superfan.  "It's changed my life," he admitted genuinely.  "I thank you for accepting me amongst you for the crazy motherfucker that I am."

Faces in the Mirror is an experimental film scripted by Nicholas Kimbrell and directed by Aaron Farrington.  In the late nights following the sessions for Big Whiskey & the Groogrux King, Tinsley enlisted the help of some Seattle musicians including Maktub and Shawn Smith to compose the film's score, even prior to the script being written.  Instructed to play what they felt, the music shifts directions frequently, and the film reflects this loose morphology.  Ryan Orr, an actor friend of Tinsley's, stars as Ben Fischer, a young man who returns home to Virginia for his father's funeral.  Having already witnessed his mother's death firsthand as a boy, Fischer is troubled by his grief, feeling guilty and alone.  Things are compounded when he receives an envelope from a mysterious stranger that contains old film reels of his father, forcing Ben to confront his memories and make sense of his current situation through a journey involving fire, drugs, religion, nature, a lost dog, and love.  "Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you," the man tells him.

Visually, the film is captivating, partly indebted to the fact that places like Charlottesville are rarely seen in feature films and television shows.  The colors are striking, and though the mood of the movie changes often, thematically it fits together as a whole.  Boyd likens the film to an album, where you could play each scene like its own song, but when put together, it's a cohesive body.  Boyd even has a cameo, sans shades, as the eccentric preacher of the Rising Sun Baptist Church, featuring his first recorded vocal performance since 2003's True Reflections.

Admittedly, I am not the biggest fan of experimental film.  I'm also quite fond of dialogue, of which Faces in the Mirror has very little.  The combination of the warm temperature in the theatre, the darkness, the dreamlike imagery on the screen, and my perpetual lack of sleep proved potent, and I succumbed to dozing during the middle of the film.  Thankfully, I awoke with a jolt at the same time as the lead character does after having a drug experience in a teepee.  Two women covered only in body paint lay across from him.  Did I seriously miss the only part with boobs?  I'm going to have to watch this movie again.

After the movie ended, Boyd and Aaron Farrington came to the front of the room to conduct a Q&A.  Distracted by the buzz of a guitar amp, Tinsley fumbled to turn it off before Farrington arrived to hit the power switch on its rear.  "Yeah, that's why he directed the film.  I don't know buttons and shit," laughed Boyd.  He revealed that the untimely death of LeRoi Moore, combined with other personal things that he left secret, left him in a "fuckin' shitty place," and he had to do anything he could to get out of it, the result of which was 
Faces in the Mirror.  "Roi would've loved this movie," he added.  Between drags off an e-cigarette ("That's illegal!" shouted an audience member.), he explained how he and Aaron came together on the project following Obama's first election, and how their working relationship was the best he's ever had: "In all the years we've been working on this film, including two years of editing, we never once had a fight.  That's fuckin' phenomenal."  "That's not true though," replied Aaron, and Boyd admitted they had one small disagreement that Aaron won.  "
Fun is the key part of it.  If it's not fun, why are we doing it?" said Tinsley.

Farrington and Tinsley made a movie that's open to interpretation.  Throughout the film, railroad tracks and trains make several appearances.  I saw the tracks as the normal paths one would take during the grieving process, and it wasn't until Ben renounced those paths that he actually discovered what he needed to do for his personal catharsis.  When questioned about the trains, however, Boyd responded, "We like trains.  Our next movie is probably going to involve trains.  We like trains a lot."

My favorite answer of the night wasn't directly about the film though.  When someone asked why Boyd chose to play violin, he informed us that in 6th grade, his school offered a Strings class.  Wanting to learn guitar, which has strings, he signed up.  "Not having read the fine print, I found out it was a string orchestra class," he laughed.  He chose the violin and it was a fortuitous match from the start.  "My life often changes in a moment," he said, a statement that can be applied to the genesis of this film and the exploration of the lead character in it.  At the end of the Q&A, some fans began to trickle out of the theatre, and Boyd called out, "Don't leave! The music is gonna start!"

The Charlottesville duo of Travis Elliott and Tucker Rogers, who have small parts in the film as themselves, kicked things off with three acoustic originals.  Elliott's clever lyrics and Rogers' dexterous guitar-playing were a nice treat for us New Yorkers, who would've never known about them had it not been for Boyd.  Jack Sonni joined them on electric guitar for the next number, "I Waited Up," and Boyd added his violin into the mix with "Leavin' L.A."  A local band called the Truthseekers united with them for a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers" before Travis and Tucker departed.  While Boyd's bright violin-playing was definitely the standout, the Truthseekers' tunes provided a nice base, with songs that I was sure were covers from the late sixties, but turned out to be originals.  "Alright, Alright" saw solos from Boyd and each member of the band, extending its runtime to about fifteen minutes.  Even though we were in a movie theatre, it felt like we had been transported to Charlottesville and were watching our favorite bar band play at our usual spot.

Following the concert, Boyd made it his goal to meet every single fan who had stuck around.  Along with photos and autographs (I should've brought my 
Big Whiskey vinyl.), each audience member received a hug from Boyd that lasted anywhere from 20 seconds to over a minute.  As you'd imagine, this process took a long time.  As Jack Sonni waved goodbye, Boyd yelled excitedly, "He used to play in fuckin' Dire Straits!"

The hugfest went on so long that we had to exit the theatre out the back door.  A circle of fans surrounded Boyd as flurries fell from the sky.  One presented him with a bag of Twizzlers, which he immediately busted open to grab one for himself, and then passed it around.  Even though I'd watched dozens of people do it before me, when it came time for my hug, I was unprepared for the intimacy.  I could feel his stomach press against mine as he breathed.  I could also feel the immense love he has for his fans, sticking it out in the cold to embrace every one.  As the snow fell down upon our group behind the theatre on 24th St, the moment was almost as surreal as the film we'd seen earlier.

Previous Dave Matthews Band reviews:


Faces in the Mirror

BOYD TINSLEY - 03.02.13 - SCHOOL OF VISUAL ARTS THEATRE (1 hour, 20 minutes)

Wasted Roses / Heaven Will Haunt You / Hearts of Paper / I Waited Up / Leavin' L.A. / Dead Flowers / Sugar* / Alright, Alright / Miles to Go


  1. it means a lot for me! I like this man and the story of his life is impressive!

  2. I like this post! It tells us a lot of significant aspects we need to consider in our life. Thanks for sharing!