PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Television

Roadies: Season 1, Episode 9 - "The All Night Bus Ride"

Leyla Hamedi

Diving into Phil's past leads to an episode that's nearly perfect, until we're brought back to the present and the actual setting of the show.


Roadies

Airtime: Sundays, 9pm
Cast: Carla Gugino, Luke Wilson, Imogen Poots, Rage Spall, Ron White
Subtitle: Season 1, Episode 8 - "The All Night Bus Ride"
Network: Showtime
Air date: 2016-08-14
Amazon

This may be a dated reference, but for those who can recall, remember when Susan Boyle appeared on Britain's Got Talent and everyone just saw this dumpy little wren of a woman standing there like a brunette Mrs. Claus and judged her harshly, with the cameras setting her up perfectly to be judged? Then she opened her mouth and unleashed the purest sound of untrained vocal magnificence. The look on Simon Cowell's face possibly became the first .gif to illustrate blissed-out happiness.

That's the face this episode of Roadies has managed to conjure, despite the cynical mindset the previous seven have so far set up. It's a tight, well-written, beautifully shot episode that outlines Phil's (Ron White) humble origins as a wide-eyed and bushy-tailed novice roadie for Ronnie Van Zant (Nathan Sutton) and Lynyrd Skynyrd. It's almost flawless, except that moment when we come crashing back down to reality and realize this is just another episode of the show and not a biopic. Then it seems a little out of place in the scheme of things.

Cameron Crowe might possibly have another music movie in him, and it's painfully obvious he wants it out. The excuse of an all-night bus ride, from which the episode takes its name, may seem like a good time for our heroes to ask their unofficial leader how it all happened for him and invite a 40-minute flashback, but what it feels like is that this is the story Crowe wants to tell, and Roadies is just the medium in which he was allowed to do so. So there's some uneven jamming of personal vision happening in the world of a show that's just been middling to average; however, by itself, "The All Night Bus Ride", is a beautiful, heart-soothing rock 'n' roll bedtime story.

The crew is on an all night bus ride (that's the name of the episode again!) and so Wes (Colson Baker) asks Phil to tell them all how he got sucked into this world of glamour and bunk beds. Phil wasn't always the grizzly-voiced, gun-toting, hooligan he is now in his ripe old age. When he was a clean-cut 20-something in 1973, Young Phil (Connor Weil) worked with his dad in their bait shop. Papa Phil sold way more than bait; on one particularly illegal jaunt, made his innocent boy run some Cuban cigars to a promoter. The promoter almost ripped Phil off but Ronnie Van Zant heard earnest, honest, goody-goody Phil and believed in his heart and got him his money.

The rest was rock 'n' roll textbook. Phil became their assistant road manager and pretty much lived for the hard-partying Skynyrd boys. Except that time they planted their drugs on him while trying to get to Canada; Phil sweet-talked the border guards out of arresting the band, but also said his good-byes. Ronnie and he never lost touch, though, and he was the one who listened to his dreams and wishes. Ronnie wanted to take his band beyond their lurid reputations. He wanted to be someone his kids could be proud of, and that conversation is what Phil recalls most clearly. Ronnie wanted to be known for more than a band that's ready to fight anyone, anywhere and beyond the tawdry tales of musical excess, he's the vulnerable voice of reason for the band. It feels, though, as if he needed the support of someone more grounded in reality than he can be, as part of a band; that's what Phil was to him.

Coming at it from the opposite end of the spectrum, however, Ronnie played the very same role for Phil. Lynyrd Skynyrd opened for the Rolling Stones and blew away an audience of thousands. This led to their Japan tour, which Phil also hopped on, but while being good boys is all well and fine in theory, when Germans start groping your girls, well then allow me to break that bottle on a head for you, Ronnie Van Zant. The band got smuggled out of the country while Phil disguised himself as Ronnie and sat in jail for three days. After that, he went back to his family for a while. As mentioned before, Ronnie was his voice of reason, and he told Phil to give reality as much as a fair shake as he did the dreamland of touring life. That's why Phil went home for a while. That was also the last time he saw Ronnie. The band bought the plane that brought down half its members, including Ronnie. Phil admits he couldn't listen to them for 20 years. They were his boys. Now, so is the Staton-House Band.

Phil not being on that plane led to half a lifetime of guilt, and though it feels like misplaced grief, it makes so much sense. He and Ronnie were soulmates in terms beyond romantic love, and it’s so clearly portrayed on-screen. Finally, Crowe has managed to communicate what music can do to a person, a relationship, a family. This is what we've been waiting for, which is why the episode’s eventual return to the present feels so terribly jarring.

The parallel between the present state of matters on the bus and the on-going drama of Dead Sex -- the horror porn program everyone in the show is obsessed with -- does soften the blow a bit. David Spade, the star of Dead Sex, realizes all his sex was for nought; no matter how much he fornicates, he just can't save the people of Earth. Similarly, Reg (Rafe Spall) realizes that no matter how hard he works, he can't get the numbers to align. Much as David Spade was used as a sex pawn, Reg understands he was never supposed to save anyone. Thus, a plot to split up the band so that Tom Staton could go solo is revealed. The crew has no idea, of course. They're just hoping to be along for the European leg of the tour, which Reg already told them they were. Also, Shelli (Carla Gugino) and Bill (Luke Wilson) have to stop groping because Shelli's husband's father is dead, and she has to go be a good wife.

It seems the break-up/going solo plot lines are on the horizon so that we can have even more band drama cliches worked in before the finale. It's really hard to care about that when the best song of the day so far, Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Simple Man", is still echoing in our heads.

9

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.