The Morning Call: Will Coca-Cola Park Crowd Show Up In Mellencamp Film?

The Morning Call By John J. Moser

Those who attended the Bob Dylan-John Mellencamp-Willie Nelson concert in July 2009 at Allentown's Coca-Cola Park may have a chance to see themselves on the big screen. And we don't mean the stadium's Jumbotron.

The Coca-Cola Park show was filmed — as were all 21 of the minor league baseball park shows that six-week tour played — for possible use in Mellencamp's new documentary "It's About You."

The hourlong movie, which chronicles Mellencamp's recording of his latest disc, "No Better Than This" at stops on the tour, is being used as the "opening act" on the roots rocker's current theater tour, which stops Monday at Philadelphia's Academy of Music.

The film also is headed for commercial release. It will premiere as one of the featured selections chosen for the 2011 South by Southwest Film Conference and Festival in Austin, Texas on March 12.

In a recent telephone interview to promote the Philly concert, Mike Wanchic, Mellencamp's guitarist of 30 years, said he's not sure whether Coca-Cola Park shows up in the film, because there are lots of scenes of concert footage.

"I don't know which ones they are, 'cause it's usually stage shots. So it's a little difficult to say. But you guys got as good a shot as anybody else," Wanchic said with a laugh. Wanchic said filmmaker Kurt Markus "shot every single show."

Chances are that, if the filmmaker wants to show crowds, the July 14, 2009 Coca-Cola Park concert is in the film. With a crowd of 11,000, the show was the first sellout on the tour and the tour's largest audience. It was the ninth date and seventh stadium on the tour.

A trailer of the film shows crowds, stadium interiors and highways, but none are easily identifiable as Coca-Cola Park or the Lehigh Valley.

Mellencamp publicist Bob Merlis said Markus used Super 8 mm film to document the recording of the T-Bone Burnett-produced "No Better Than This" using a single microphone and a monaural tape recorder more than a half-century old.

One recording session was in Room 414 of San Antonio's Gunter Hotel with Mellencamp in the same corner of the room where blues legend Robert Johnson recorded "Come On In My Kitchen" and "Cross Road Blues" among others more than 70 years earlier.

He also recorded at the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Ga., where runaway slaves were hidden, and Sun Studio in Memphis, Tenn., where Mellencamp stood where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Howlin' Wolf had before him.

Markus was assisted in the project by his son, Ian, a film student at the University of Montana. They followed Mellencamp to 26 cities in 18 states to document not only Mellencamp's musical performances, "but also the context of these shows as economic upheaval and diaspora have changed American lives and landscapes."

In Mellencamp's current tour, the concerts start with the film, then he and his band play for two hours, Wanchic said.