In my quest for experiencing music in as many mediums as possible, as well as learning about the artists and bands I like and appreciate the most, I have watched a countless number of music documentaries; some better than others. Some were about tortured artists, bands thriving in their prime, and some were about concerts and legendary tours. Either way, below is a list of my 10 favorite music documentaries that I come back to again and again for either the music, or the story of my favorite artists.
If you're really counting, there are more than 10 here... but again, these are just my personal favorites that I think any music lover would love to see. Enjoy.
This is probably my favorite story-telling style documentary about an artist. Daniel Johnston's story is incredible, and this documentary is so well done it's easy to watch again and again. If you haven't seen it or don't know his story, you might be surprised just how many of the artists you listen to today can relate back to Daniel Johnston or at least wish they could write songs like he can. It's so good I've seen it drive people to tears in spots. It's definitely worth it to see at least once.
Shot from a concert at Slane Castle in Ireland, this Red Hot Chili Peppers set is my go to concert dvd if I'm ever hosting a party and I just want to hear a steady lineup of great music. As a bonus to the sound quality and the setlist from this concert in 2003, this was shot absolutely brilliantly. Put it on at a party, people love it... keeps the energy up, and people can mingle comfortably or watch when they need a distraction.
LCD Soundsystem was an incredible group led by James Murphy. Their final concert at Madison Square Garden was filmed for the purpose of this documentary telling the story about the band and explaining what it was like to put on their final show in a controlled way when they were seemingly still at the peak of their career.
As a bonus, if you buy the deluxe edition, it comes with the entire three and a half hour concert in full. If you even remotely enjoy LCD Soundsystem, you will watch this documentary and the accompanying concert DVD again and again.
This documentary catches Radiohead after the release of 'OK Computer' and highlights the still early years of what the band has become today. I think Thom Yorke has criticized it some in these more recent years as it paints a picture of Yorke himself as a pretty tortured artist. Regardless of the undertones, it's a great documentary for any Radiohead fan and it has some great concert highlights and rare moments of the band and Thom Yorke performing songs that weren't released for years after this was made.
Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys are huge today. This concert DVD catches them before they blew up completely and, in my opinion, showcases the talent that made them as big as they are today. Just the two of them, playing their asses off in Portland Oregon, as straightforward as they've ever been, before they were household favorites in the music scene. A great concert to watch repeatedly.
A documentary about both the writing of Wilco's landmark album 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot' but also about how they got cut from their label while creating it and the struggles to get the album released to the masses.
If you are looking for Wilco's other tour documentary, Ashes of American Flag's is also really well done.
As if Jeff Tweedy isn't busy enough touring and writing music for his band, the previously mentioned Wilco, he occasionally ventures off for a solo tour of acoustic versions of some of the best music he's written throughout his storied career. This concert dvd catches Jeff Tweedy at various stops on a tour of the Pacific Northwest in 2006 and is great for any fan of acoustic singer-songwriter music at it's best--stripped down and beautiful performed.
A great concert of the Beastie Boys performing in Madison Square Garden. Uniquely shot from multiple handheld camcorders by fans with different perspectives in the audience, this is, unfortunately, the closest many of us will get to seeing the Beastie Boys perform live.
A mix of live concert footage as well as tour footage of one of their final tours throughout North America, this is a documentary that any White Stripes fan will love.
Directed by Martin Scorsese, featuring guest appearances from many of your favorite artists from the '60s and '70s (Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Neil Young, etc), this concert dvd covers all the hits from 'The Band' in a way that I'll never be so fortunate to experience live.