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I Ride

By Felicia Morgan

The Fryed Brothers Band in motion

Water Buffalo Films presents a film by Daron Ker


Sacramento, June 11—“This is America. This is biker culture. Get on. Hold tight. Shut up.” While this blurb from the DVD cover does not tell the whole story, it does give an intriguing line about what San Francisco documentary filmmaker, Daron Ker, thinks this movie is supposed to be about. It might as well have said, “More crazy times with those fun-loving bikers!” It leaves you wondering is this a docudrama, a rockumentary, or what?

But creeping commercialism in the packaging of any media—movies, music, books—is nothing new. And in this case, ambiguous cover chat is no reason for you to overlook this offering. Because, what the cover notes do not tell you is what the movie is really about. The straight dope is that this 82-minute film depicts a loving family’s saga of life, a death, and the formation of a great biker band, the fabulous Fryed Brothers.

Home movies, newsreels, and actual stage performances of Tommy and Harry Fryed and the boys in the band punctuate it as they trek the country in their big white bus. But more importantly, I Ride also gives one a poignant look behind the scenes and into the real-life events that have inspired the Fryed’s own unique and entertaining brand of real American roots music. In fact the title is taken from both an event out of Tommy Fryed’s grade school years and a poem written by older brother Mark and the song it later inspired as the brothers’ band took wing. I guarantee that once you know the story behind it, the lyrics will stay with you forever.

So, whether you’ve been a Fryed fan for years, never missing one of their performances in places like Sturgis, or just heard of them today, there’s something in I Ride for you. The concert footage itself is more than satisfying, filled with great tunes that manage to depict the biker lifestyle with humor, dignity, and a straight shot of reality in place of histrionics and stereotypes. And it doesn’t hurt that there are several cameo appearances by musical luminaries like Willie Nelson and Pat Simmons of the Doobie Brothers as well as a quote by Billy Idol declaring the Fryeds as “the most dangerous band in the world.”

There are some telling of hair-raising road stories that are, in turn, humorous and outright frightening. Ker’s footage of the Fryed brothers wailing down the road on their own scoots is tantalizing and, frankly, there should have been more of this. Which is not to say this is the perfect flicker; insertion of some dancing girls at the Easyriders Bike Show is eye appealing but has only passing connection to the core of the movie, as does the segment with Miss Easyriders, which Ker defends as an accurate depiction of the woman rider’s perspective today. The overuse of “fade-to-blacks” throughout the movie gives it a herky-jerky pace it shouldn’t have.

But quibbles aside, where I Ride delivers a real shot to the gut is in the telling of what moviemakers call the back story, the underlying events in the extended Fryed family that not only initially inspired Tommy and Harry to pickup their respective guitar and fiddle, but which continue to propel the band and its music into the future. The segment of the film where friend “Beatnik” explains his connection to the Fryeds is the one piece that really describes the spirit of the Fryed and biker family.

The Fryed Brothers Band has been touring the country for going on three decades and is probably the most well known of biker bands. Their mix of original songs and original portrayal of well known songs makes them the top favorite among bikers who spend their hours off the road dancing into the wee hours. But how they got here is the real story of I Ride and deserves to be told. DVDs are available now at www.iridethemovie.com, but to get the big screen, heavy reality version of the flick, check it out in a movie theatre with a cadre of biker friends. Ker is planning a 10-city tour of the movie this fall and winter, so stay tuned for further announcements.

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