At a certain age, you find yourself looking in the rearview mirror more and more frequently, trying to crystallize the precious memories of a life that passes before they completely disappear from view. In this kind-hearted documentary, successful TV writer / producer Aronsohn (The Big Bang Theory, Two and a half men, Cybille) sets out in 2015 to recreate a treasured memory by orchestrating a one-night-only reunion of a beloved local band from their college days at CU-Boulder in the early 1970s, the no-irony name “Magic Music” . The airy sound of the ensemble was one of the moments, a mix of tight CSN & Y inspired harmonies and Jethro Tull’s fluty whimsy, softly performed by a handful of long-haired Rocky Mountain hippies. Because the acoustic soft rock band has never broken a record, avid fans like Aronsohn hadn’t heard Magic Music in over four decades, except for the fragmentary read into their fading memories. (Interestingly, the film’s soundtrack includes unreleased recordings from the band’s heyday, presumably discovered during the making of this film.) In the grand scheme of things, the musical reunion of a band of old guys with middle-aged people with bellies and receding hair won’t mean much to most of us, but for the filmmaker and his subjects it’s clearly a big deal.
The first track of the film is a somewhat laborious timeline of the band’s history, recounting the band’s membership in the revolving door and their flirtations with the near-famous. Unsurprisingly, Magic Music was the victim of a litany of predictable woes that ultimately ended up being its downfall: personality conflicts, petty jealousies, artistic differences, growing families, and old habits of drug and alcohol use. Some of the stories about the pitfalls of the band’s career are comically absurd. In a recollection, a Capitol Records executive in Los Angeles refused to meet the boys, who had traveled from Colorado, because one of them was sitting barefoot in the waiting room; in another, an audition gig at a Manhattan club for another record company was self-sabotaged by excessive hash consumption the night before.
After following the musicians’ lives after the inevitable breakup, the film achieves its raison d’être, a sold-out concert in Boulder starring six of the original eight members (absent included a guitarist who died a few years earlier, and another guitarist who politely declined to participate due to persistent bad blood). It’s all hugs and smiles and the past is gone for the musicians reunited, doing their best for an adoring audience who still know the song lyrics after all these years. In many ways, 40 years in the making is a cliquey business that mostly leaves you outdoors, but after witnessing the joy of its participants at the end, there isn’t much to complain about.