SXSW's world premiere screening of Thunder Soul was a beautiful illustration of the benefits and the hazards of taking chances on no-profile, intriguing-sounding entries at film festivals. A glossy documentary on a fun subject, Thunder Soul nonetheless plays a bit like it was made to be a memento for its subjects rather than something of general interest. But when most of the subjects are in the audience and clearly having the time of their lives, the experience of seeing the film is, to put it mildly, somewhat transformed.
The Kashmere High School stage band became a minor worldwide sensation in the mid-1970s. A group of black kids from inner-city Houston under the tutelage of brilliant musician and redoubtable teacher Conrad O. Johnson, the band combined jazz and funk to morph the staid high school band tradition into a dynamic, dancing, toe-tapping great time. Now, more than thirty years later, the original band members are coming together -- despite the fact that many of them have not picked up their instruments since graduating -- for a reunion concert to pay tribute to the ailing Johnson.