‘Playing Nightly’: New documentary features Toledo musiciansWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
Five prominent Toledo musicians are the subjects of the new documentary, “Playing Nightly.”
Jeff Stewart, Johnny Rodriguez, John Barile, Bobby May and Kyle White are featured in the film, which will premiere March 5 in Maumee. Toledo natives Jason Hamilton and Mike Malone produced the film.
Hamilton, also a director, started making a film about a guitar player years ago, but the project’s financing fell through. However, he still wanted to make a film about professional musicians.
“Sometimes we have a concept or are given a concept of what ‘making it’ is. What we lose sometimes is that people are making a living doing what they love and that’s pretty cool,” he said.
Hamilton and Malone, also a videographer, first worked together on 1998’s “The Toledo Conspiracy,” the first 35-mm feature film shot totally in Toledo.
Malone, a member of the band Locoweed, also brought his own experience as a musician to the film.
“It was a labor of love, I’ll tell you, it really was,” he said.
Toledo itself is also an integral character in the film.
“A lot of people, my wife for one and her sisters, think that this is a great thing for Toledo because it looks like Toledo is a really boppin’ town,” Malone said.
While the crew was filming a segment on May and Barile at Ye Olde Cock n’ Bull, a Toledo Mud Hens game got rained out.
“So it looks like there’s people walking around in the rain; that’s how happening Toledo is,” Malone said with a laugh.
Stewart, a busy singer/songwriter, added, “That’s how it is now. It’s starting to happen now a little bit. It’s happening in waves.”
“We have the ability to make a living here with our trade. People talk about how there’s so many gigs here. We can do that; we can work as much as we want and be comfortable.”
Barile, who has shared the stage with Jethro Tull and Foreigner, said he hopes the film gets big so people can see the quality of musicians Toledo has to offer.
“There’s awesome, awesome musicians in Toledo. I’ll put them up against any musicians in the country,” he said.
“[The musicians in the film] are all fantastic musicians and it takes a more or less special type of person to play music seven or eight times a week.”
Rodriguez, a longtime performer on the Glass City music scene who has performed with The Drifters, said with a chuckle, “I felt kind of humbled by the fact that I was featured [in the film].”
The musicians also said Hamilton and Malone put them at ease during the interviews and filming.
“They’re such easygoing guys. It was easy to get right into the plan,” said May, who is the inspiration for Crystal Bowersox’s “Grey Haired Rock Stars.”
White, who has been playing in Toledo for 15 years, said, “I didn’t feel weird or intimidated by it or anything. Just because these guys are so cool and made me feel really comfortable.”
Stewart said everyone came across authentically in the documentary.
“Once you started talking, Jason’s very good at making it conversational so you really started forgetting about the camera,” he said.
Hamilton said he allowed the musicians to tell the story rather than have a narrator.
“The interesting thing that we do with this is there’s no narration and we try to take the interviewer out of the equation totally … it’s a little different from a standard documentary you might see,” he said.
May chimed in, “And if it’s a huge success, can we do our own voices on the cartoon series?”
The producers plan to use any donations gathered at the Maumee premiere to enter the documentary into film festivals to build acclaim.
“The more we have of that, it will create a certain amount of awareness. With a documentary, you’re not going to see a lot of theatrical releases, but you can have an avenue for Netflix, iTunes, for those kind of structures,” Hamilton said, adding that he plans to continue to explore the Toledo music scene in future works.
Hamilton said his favorite part of the film is “when you hear people talk about their families and that life and kind of [developing] their original voices … that’s wildly interesting.”
Barile said his favorite moment of filming was talking about “his greatest performance” — playing guitar for his then 25-minute-old daughter Aria. She is now three and already a musician.
Hamilton said that while filming, he learned how close-knit Toledo musicians are, something the musicians also echoed.
“I thought it was awesome to be included with a group of such inspiring musicians who have been inspiring me musically over the years,” White said.
Hamilton and Malone also noted that the Toledo community has been supportive of the project. Many bars let them hang posters in their businesses, they said, and about 15 Toledo bars are featured in the film.
Barile credited Toledo with enabling him to perform for a living.
“People have always supported me on both a personal and professional level,” he said, later adding, “I can’t imagine having to wear a tie.”
“Playing Nightly” is 73 minutes long. The film will be shown at 7:15 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. March 5 at the Maumee Indoor Theatre, 601 Conant St., Maumee. A red carpet photographer will be on hand and a donation of $5 is suggested for attending.
May and Barile will play at an after-party at the Village Idiot, 309 Conant St., Maumee.
For more information, visit leatafilms.com.