This Thursday we’re showing San Francisco-based Jim Granato’s feature-length documentary debut, D Tour. The film follows musician Pat Spurgeon, drummer for the Oakland band Rogue Wave, as the group embarks on a tour. Spurgeon struggles with a failing kidney, mobile dialysis, and his friends’ responses to the competing claims of art and life. D-Tour won the 2009 SF Film Society Award for best Bay Area documentary feature. A little backstory here from Jim.
Pat Spurgeon and I have been good friends for more than a decade and we both come from Indiana. Pat is from Michigan City, up near Chicago, and I grew up much further south in the college town of Bloomington; we didn’t meet and become friends until landing in San Francisco in the mid-late 90’s, just a few months apart. But I’d known of Pat years before: he was a popular drummer playing in various bands around Bloomington. Like many kids from the midwest, Pat came down to attend Indiana University or to hang out and take part in the vibrant music scene happening there. For a small town that nearly doubled in population when school was in session, we were living in an oasis. IU has one of the biggest music schools in the world and on nearly every weekend lots of talented musicians would fill the clubs and basements, doing shows and turning us on to different sounds. I used to see Pat play, beating the skins with the likes of Steve Kowalski’s Army and Antenna. The energy was always a buzz all by itself (especially SK Army, who were like a hopped up Jam, only twice as fast) and the shows were always intimate. Nobody stood around with their arms folded either. Everybody was cool, always dancing, and the bands were good most of the time.
I left my hometown, spent some time in Colorado and in NYC, ending up in SF years later. One night down at the Kilowatt bar in the Mission (back when the Kilowatt had live music) a friend of mine, also from Indiana, recognized Pat in the crowd. We met, acknowledged our mutual friends back in Bloomington and became fast friends ourselves. I was starting to make films more seriously and Pat became my collaborator, scoring soundtracks for some of my films. He was also coming into more of his own as a musician, writing his own songs, recording himself singing, playing guitar, bass, and getting into all sorts of cheap keyboards, toys, junk– anything that made an interesting sound. This started a regular pawnshop/thriftstore hound routine: we went out 2-3 time a week for a couple of years, obsessed with finding musical gear for him, and movie gear for me at bargain prices. During one of these visits I was testing a Bolex 16mm camera I was hoping to buy, and shot a couple of rolls of film right there in the store. I wanted to see if the camera was working properly and asked Pat to act natural and wander the store as usual. I didn’t buy the camera, but the film looked great, and I was happy to have a document of our weekly habit. Little did I know back then that I would eventually dig these rolls out and incorporate this little scene into D tour, exemplifying Pat’s perseverance pursuing music.
Before I started the film, I knew a little about Pat’s history. I knew he had a kidney transplant in 1994 and that it was a huge undertaking, especially for a 25-year-old college student and aspiring musician. Transplanted kidneys don’t last forever. The body is constantly trying to reject the organ and it’s inevitable that recipients will go through another transplant at some point down the road. But, Pat, like many other organ recipients, never really talked about it. He carried on with his life, pursuing his goals like the rest of us. I never considered that Pat would have to go through that again or that even after the next transplant, he’ll have to go through it again… and again… for the rest of his life.
Pat found out in early 2006 that it was time to go down that road again. His 1994 kidney still had some function left but it was inevitable he’d need a new one. This time he more than just talked about it; he felt the urge to share his story with others. Pat called me just before starting dialysis and asked if I wanted to make “a video” about his experience. The “hook” was that he was to going stay with Rogue Wave, by now the most serious and promising band he had been in, and continue touring and performing, while on dialysis! Pat wanted to show others in the same predicament that you can go through this, and still live your life the way you want to. Our original idea was to do a ten-minute piece showing Pat going through dialysis, finding a donor, and finally, getting the transplant. What started out with some simple interviews or demos on peritoneal dialysis ballooned into scenes from a risky and restless tour, an epic quest for a potential living donor and a memorable benefit concert for Pat. Almost three years later, I’ve ended up with about 80 hours of footage.
With the driving force of music behind him, Pat strives to share his exclusive outlook and experiences with an audience that may not have had the opportunity to think about the importance of organ donation, or about what one person goes through in dealing with a rigid health care system. I certainly learned a lot along the way.
Director & Producer, D tour