University of Akron documentary maker Phil
Hoffman is rocking Akron again. His new production for Western
Reserve PBS If You're Not Dead, Play!! is a sequel to It's
Everything and Then It's Gone, Hoffman's documentary that
chronicled the rise of Akron rock legends like Devo and The
If You're Not Dead, Play!! documents
the second wave of Akron "garage bands" that continued
in the tradition of "the Akron sound" that began with
bands like Devo, Tin Huey and The Waitresses. In the wake of this
first wave of rock bands, whose story Hoffman told in It's Everything
and Then It's Gone, a second group of bands formed and took over
an old dilapidated bank in downtown Akron, which they dubbed The
Bank. Soon, bands such as Unit 5, Chi Pig and Hammer Damage were
drawing larger crowds than the first bands ever did, and it looked
like the road to rock stardom would run right down Akron's Main
The story is told through interviews with musicians
involved in the movement, including former band members from Unit
5, Chi Pig and The Diffi-Cult.. Also featured is inisght from Chuck
Klosterman, a senior writer for Spin Magazine and former
Akron Beacon Journal rock critic. Klosterman is also the
author of the recently released Killing Yourself to Live: 85%
of a True Story, chronicling his road trip to the death sites
of some famous rock stars. Beacon Journal columnist David
Giffels, author of Are We Not Men?, also provides background
on the era.
Hoffman uses a variety of media to tell his story,
including archival video footage from The Bank, JB's in Kent and
club showcases in New York City; never-released audio recordings
by the bands that have not been heard in over 20 years; and photographys,
newspaper articles and other memorabilia.
"What most surprised me as I created the
documentary is that I've become an advocate for 'rock-as-art,'"
mused Hoffman. "The average person who considers rock 'n' roll
only looks at the musical part. These bands were dedicated to it
as performance art – as theater – and I have come to appreciate
the full artistry of their work."
A resident of Wadsworth, Hoffman is the manager of
media facilities and general manager of Z-TV in the UA School of
A Western Reserve PBS production, 2005.