SHORT FILM REVIEW: More Than a Barbershop

(Image: Chicago Irish Film Festival)

2017 Chicago Irish Film Festival: Shorts Program II


In the world of poker, they say all you need is a chip and a chair to play and be a factor.  For a musician, all you need is a time and a place.  Your voice and instruments can do the rest.  Not every concert needs to be in front of hundreds or thousands of adoring fans powered by a stadium’s worth of light and speakers.  A singer and a microphone can fit just about anywhere.  Well, how about a barbershop, and not the quartet variety?

The documentary short film “More Than a Barbershop” asks the viewer to picture the merger of a classic barbershop with a jazz and blues theme by day transforming into a overflowing BYOB haven for independent music at night.  That’s the scene of Abner Brown’s Barbershop in the Rathmines neighborhood south of the city center of Dublin.  Owned and operated by Dave Judge, this dual front came out of his love for haircuts and music.  

When the grooming hours are over, the sinks get filled with ice cooling down bottles of beer, chairs get pulled out, and different folks flock to Abner Brown’s.  The only thing that costs money at Abner Brown’s is a haircut.  The rest comes through customer donations.  For years, both new and established artists have sought this unique local haunt out and the people keep coming back.

This popular and beloved makeshift venue makes for an interesting short documentary from filmmakers Fernando Otero Perandones and Xandru Fernandez Ramirez.  The overall production value and technical prestige may be rudimentary, but the story is not.  The local flavor coming from the appreciable storytelling makes for a non-fiction film as chummy as the venue itself.  

LESSON #1: EVERY LONG-STANDING ESTABLISHMENT HAS A STORY-- Barbershops are community hangouts already.  Adding music to Abner Brown’s Barbershop only adds to the places mystique and aura.  Every piece of memorabilia on the wall tells a story, as do the artists that step up to the mic.  All of this creates community connection, a solid reputation, and repeat business.

LESSON #2: MUSIC CAN HAPPEN ANYWHERE-- Intimate music settings are the best and you can’t get more up close and personal than a folding chair on the tile floor of a place like Abner Brown’s.  Put a beer in your hand and the experience is sublimely complete.  This both a busker’s dream for gaining an audience and a hot spot for a music-loving audience who wants something different and unique.