Screen Reviews
23rd Century Giants: The Story of Renaldo & The Loaf

23rd Century Giants: The Story of Renaldo & The Loaf

directed by Alex Wroten

starring Brian Poole, David Janssen, and Homer Flynn

Back in the Stone Ages, there was no internet. There was no cable. There was no way to discover anything really weird unless you did it yourself. You discovered music by listening to the radio, or hanging out in a record shop, and anything off the Top 40 mainstream might as well not exist. If you made weird music, you needed tolerant friends to listen because no one else would, and there were no venues open to your weirdness. That’s where Brian Poole and David Janssen found themselves in the 1970s as they collected tape recorders and magnetic tape loops. The sounds of machines, traffic, and birds all entered their wired music machine, looping and building to an unknown end. A friend suggested they press a 45 RPM record. They sold a few copies but kept studying for a day job career. The called themselves “Renaldo & The Loaf” which were their nicknames when they went to the pub.

One day, their records made it all the way to The Residents in San Francisco. The Residents were another enigmatic band famous for weird stage performances. The Residents never allowed or gave interviews, but they cranked out whole LPs worth of weirdness. Renaldo & The Loaf had a distributor. Record sales were slow, but there was a musical concept and a new idea of what music could sound like. Renaldo & The Loaf became slightly bigger in the entertainment world than before.

Twenty years have passed, and Poole and Janssen are still friends. One became a doctor, the other an architect. Music was no longer their focus until someone convinced them to to do a one-night reunion. That’s the focus of this documentary: how they started, how they drifted apart, and how a small cadre of fans came together to celebrate the past. Documentarian Wroten captures their past, their present, and the show itself: small, loud, and more complex than the biggest names in Jazz could muster. There are interviews, short films they created, and promo items. The pair are still friends, but they’ve grown up and left music as an occasional hobby. It’s great to see them as old friends, so many bands fall apart in bitter acrimony.

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