Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism
Trainwreck to Narnia
- Author(s): Bergeson, Dylan
- et al.
“I’m not a religious person. I’m not even really a spiritual person. But when I talk aboutThe Road, I refer to it in capitals.” – Dan Abbott
Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits, may be the hardest working band you’ve never heard of. They play an average of once every three days, have written over 100 songs, produced over 20 music videos, and started up a music festival – all without record label support. Their brand of satirical comedy about sometimes horrible, but always-true things, places them in league with acts like Frank Zappa, Ween and They Might be Giants. They have gained widespread respect and a cult following. But never financial viability.
During their almost 18-year run, founding members Dan and Corbett have been close to fame – they have famous fans, famous friends, and have influenced famous musicians – but they haven’t yet caught their break. As they get closer to hitting 40, the question looms: is it possible for them to survive on their art? And what will happen if they can’t?
Today, life on The Road represents both the dream of success, and the looming fear of failure. At first, it simply meant freedom. To the teens they grew up with, their hometown of Pinole was the premiere American suburban dystopia of the 90’s. The Bay Area town of 18,000 boasted some of highest fast food sales in the country, and while the dotcom industry boomed just miles away, Pinole collapsed its economy by overinvesting in security camera infrastructure.
It was the perfect breeding ground for rock and roll.
In the mid-90’s, the cultural landscape of the East Bay suddenly changed forever. Similar to what was happening in Seattle around grunge, the alternative music scene dubbed East Bay Punk was exploding into the mainstream. There was a signing frenzy, and punk rock became a marketable commodity. As underclassmen, Dan and Corbett watched some cooler older kids in their high school – Green Day – go on to become one of the world’s biggest bands. They started their own group in the shrinking shadow of rapid success and national attention.
Trainwreck to Narnia (named after their most recent album of the same name) follows Dan and Corbett as they tour along the I-5 corridor, finishing at their debut show at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, a legendary venue where they used to dream of playing. The film blends in archival tour footage from their early years, when playing music was their ticket out of pinole. Today, they are cautiously optimistic, but also battle-worn. They are playing bigger shows, attracting more new fans, and gaining a wider reputation than ever before. And The stakes have never been higher.
Corbett Redford. Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits, founding member.
Dan Abbott. Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits, founding member.
City of Pinole website. www.ci.pinole.ca.us.
Alan Kasameyer. 1992 Green Day concert footage.
William Burg. 1998 Geekfest tour footage.
Producers Library Service, Inc. 1970 16mm Troubadour film reel.