Because it’s also a conceptual art piece, Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That!, which documents a concert the Beastie Boys played in Madison Square Garden on October 9, 2004, can be watched by people who have no use for concert videos. Over the phone from New York, Adam Yauch, who directed the film (under his nom de “Final Cut Pro,” Nathanial Hörnblowér), fills me in on the concept.
“We posted something on our Web site and said, ‘If you have tickets for the show and you’re interested in filming, sign up here, let us know your seat number.’ From those who signed up, we picked out people from all different sections, tried to find people who were spread out all over the arena.” Cameras were distributed to 50 selectees, with instructions to start shooting when the show started and not to stop till it was over.
Were the results of the footage what Yauch had in mind? “Very much so. I had seen this clip that somebody had shot on their camera phone and then had uploaded on our Web site, and I thought it looked really cool. That’s where I got the idea to document a concert this way. And definitely the footage we got gets that kind of feel, that kind of energy.
“People know the lyrics so well that a lot of times, the cameras will follow who’s coming in with the next lyric, they’ll pan over to the person that’s coming in, and it’s pretty cool that they know that. Sometimes the people are dancing or jumping around, and the way that they’re moving, the shake of the camera, is really intensifying the feel. Also, a lot of times they’re panning around, filming other people in the audience. I have the feeling that the people being really into it who are filming it somehow gets captured in there.”
In the film’s sexiest scene, Yauch intercuts a girl dancing in the audience with band mate Mike D. dancing on stage. “I love that. She really is imitating what Mike is doing. If you watch it in sequence, it’s almost like, Mike dances that way, and she sees it, and then she dances that way also, and then we’re just editing, chopping that up and playing with it.” The film is rich with notations on the arena-rock-show experience from the audience’s perspective. One videographer puts his fingers in front of the lens to measure the apparent height of the on-stage performers. “That’s something you would probably not see a professional camera guy doing. I think that’s a great example of a certain license to do things in a different way.”
License is, after all, a long-time watchword of the Beastie Boys (at least since their first album, 1986’s License To Ill), and one of their strategies is to reduce the difference between themselves and the audience. In Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That!, for their first encore, they emerge through the gates at the back of the Garden and perform “Intergalactic,” surrounded by fans who are thrilled to get this close to them. “It is a lot more like a club show in that way,” said Yauch. “We came up playing club shows, and being a punk band, and . . . it reminds me of the feel of that time, everybody doing something together.”