JDIFF Review – Los Wild Ones

Dubliner Reb Kennedy runs Wild Records, a rockabilly record label based in LA. Through this documentary Reb tells us about his life as a manager, friend, father figure and producer, and we learn more not only about the rockabilly music scene, but the people behind the label.

Rockabilly is a strange and wonderful subsection of culture, and one that transcends age, race, gender and location. Rocakbilly is a hybrid of American folk and Western styles of music that first began in the 1950s. The scene is still very alive today, with more and more people around the world getting involved. Reb Kennedy has almost singlehandedly run Wild Records since 2001, and is a touchstone for Rockabilly enthusiasts around the world. As well as this, Reb allows the bands he signs to tour the world, and gives them opportunities they could only dream of without his help.

During the course of the documentary we get to know more about Reb and the people who he has taken under his wing. Reb is father figure, mentor, brother, manager, producer and more to most of his musical acts, and the feeling that emerges is one of adopted family. Although Reb is described as infuriating and stubborn, the man we meet in this film is honest, open and giving, and his love for the music and the people in his life almost knows no bounds. That said, there is a stubbornness to Reb, which is evident in the very fact that he has made rockabilly his own personal crusade and struggles with the notion of making Wild Records music available on iTunes.

We also get to know more about the people whose passion is in making and performing music, and their struggles. Gizzelle is a beautifully talented singer who struggles to find the time for music due to her life as a single mother, Luis is another talented performer who has a serious alcohol addiction and Omar is an engineer who has worked with Reb almost since the beginning. Learning more about the people behind the music – the people who Reb is behind – gives the film depth and warmth, and also allows the audience to understand Reb more fully. This is also part of the tragedy of the film, however, as most of these musicians, talented though they are, are under no illusions that they may never be ‘marketable’ or make money from their music. Their sacrifices are inspiring, but tragic.

As well as the emotional side of the film, which is deep and complex, there is also the music side of the film, which is infectious and toe-tapping. One does not have to be a fan of rockabilly to enjoy the film, however, as there is enough background given to draw the audience in, and enough honesty to keep us hooked.

Los Wild Ones is an engaging, heart-warming and often-heartbreaking look at how one man’s passion is driving so many others forward. The music is infectious and Reb Kennedy comes across as a man who is a champion for his adopted family. Loyalty and love are the name of the game here, as well as some seriously great music.

Rating: 5/5

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