TV Party - Documentaries

BRICK AND MORTAR AND LOVE {MVD} Most people who grew up in an age pre-digital downloads would probably have had their very own favourite independent record store, places where the staff actually new about music and the value of a local music community/ scene. Such stores are sadly missed in this world of Amazon and MP3 downloads and this film highlights the plight of one of the best - Ear X-tacy Records in Louisville, Kentucky.
This 70 minute documentary follows the trials and tribulations of ear X-tacy’s owner, John Timmons, as he struggles to keep his business, livelihood and passion alive after 25 years of trading. The first glimpses we see of ear X-tacy are stunningly impressive - a big, space filled with records and CDs of all genres - the sight alone suggests you would need to spend at least half a day among its racks, hunting out special issues and long-lost gems.
Timmons himself comes over as an incredibly likeable fella, passionate about music and what he is doing to try and keep music away from becoming another commodity at super-sized box stores or a fad of online buying. He has live in-store performances of local and national bands (QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE and FOO FIGHTERS are both shown in stills) and sells records of local artists at cost price. He has employed staff that understand music and appreciate interaction with those (customers) who also value music no matter what genre.
In a bid to prevent the store closing, Timmons released a couple of on-line videos asking locals and record buyers in general to consider spending a bit more at his store. Both videos attracted some derision while the second aroused a sense of anger; some suggesting Timmons was putting some kinda guilt trip on his patrons. Personally, I just saw a man doing his best to keep his business alive both for the well being of the locality and of his employees.
The film follows the shop’s change of premise in which staff certainly went the extra-mile to get the new shop open and ready for business in a matter of 48 hours. Unfortunately, the film ends on the emotional closing of the store. Timmons is noticeably moved, as are staff and regular visitors to the store.
Besides Timmons, there are a number of other independent record store owners interviewed and Chuck D outta PUBLIC ENEMY.
There are no extras on the DVD. While it is an interesting story with an unfortunately predictable end, director Scott Shuffitt doesn’t quite harness the importance of the store or the vital dynamic it played in the local community.
The film closes by offering a wider message; that communities should support their local businesses of all forms rather than the multi-national warehouses. It’s a pertinent message we should all heed, but particularly to those who have a good quality, local record store - just as ear X-tacy was. (18.05.14)

CLOCKWORK ORANGE COUNTY: The Rise Of West Coast Punk Rock {MVD} This documentary, which focuses on not just Orange County Punk but, more specifically, the Cuckoo’s Nest Club in Costa Mesa, does everything - at least from a Punk’s perspective - correctly. It’s interviewed the correct people, has footage from the correct era that is not overdubbed with better-sounding studio recordings and doesn’t overlook side stories which, while not playing a direct part in the club, remain essential to the club’s aura.
Jerry Roach opened the Cuckoo’s Nest in Costa Mesa in Southern California’s Orange County in 1977. He is interviewed throughout this movie and seems a very affable character and not the archetypal owner of a Punk club that broke down barriers in the late 70s. He garners a lot of respect from those interviewed in the film, especially for offering some form of parental guidance and not being over judgemental about the actions of the social misfits who frequented his club.
As for those who are interviewed, this gets it spot on. You get Steve Soto, Rik Agnew and Tony Reflex (ADOLESCENTS), Keith Morris (CIRCLE JERKS), Henry Rollins and Chuck Dukowski (BLACK FLAG), Jello Biafra (DEAD KENNEDYS), Jack Grisham, Mike Roche and Greg Kuehn (TSOL), Casey Royer (DI and SOCIAL DISTORTION), Joe Escalante (VANDALS) and Jim Decker (THE CROWD) plus the likes of skaters Duane Peters and Steve Olson. The only notable name not to show is Mike Ness, but those listed make for riveting and first-hand accounts of what occured at the club during its four year tenure.
In terms of footage we get original footage of ADOLESCENTS, TSOL and CIRCLE JERKS from 1979 and BLACK FLAG from 1980. It’s filmed at the club, with original sound and has a vitality and sense of dangerous excitement that only the best footage can seem to muster. Beside that we get stills of the like of IGGY POP and THE RAMONES at the club. There is also some excellent footage of unknown crowd members in interview.
As for the narrative, it basically tells of the story of the club. We hear of the legend of Pat Brown (of the VANDALS song), lots of tales about friction in the parking lot with patrons of the neighbouring hillbilly redneck bar, Zubies and the invention of slam dancing (credited to Jim Decker). Director Jonathan Mills has also left all the contradictions in, which reveals a lot about those saying them. Both Rollins and Reflex claim the Cuckoo’s Nest had a political leaning while Escalante says it was a non-political scene. Grisham, Biafra and particularly Morris say there was no indication of what was going on at The Nest was groundbreaking and the stuff of history, while Rollins claims it was clear a revolution was in the making.
It culminates with the progression of Hardcore and how jocks and white power t-shirts coincided with extreme violence becoming a factor at the club - along with police intervention. There’s great newsreel footage of the closing down of the club before it reopened for a short while. A ‘Dance License’ was then introduced, followed by multi-arrests and finally the club closed for good in 1981.
The only real let-down is the lack of extras. We get a trailer for the film and... that’s it. It would’ve been great to have seen more of that live footage. There is also a segment in the film featuring newer bands which, while not bad, just seemed to be out of place.
This really is essential viewing for anyone remotely interested in Punk as a whole and specifically from these pioneering days. The interviews are insightful and generally lack pretense (bar the odd exception). The music is cracking and authentic and the film is directed respectfully but has not omitted humour or contradiction. Definitely serious TV Party material. (19.07.14) 

FESTED: A Journey To Fest 7 {MVD} In the microcosm that is our Punk Rock World, we all know what The Fest is right? Over the course of one weekend in Gainesville, FL something approaching 300 bands play in a myriad of venues each year. There’s no corporate sponsorship (unlike the ‘Vans’ Warped Tour or whatever), there’s no major-label buying out headline slots, there’s no old bands that have reformed for the cash... There are just lots of the best names in Punk Rock today.
This DVD was filmed at the 2008 Fest and follows the trail that DIRTY MONEY (a band of HOT WATER MUSIC wannabes that changed their name to SPANISH GAMBLE since filming) took to the Fest. Does that sound that exciting? Well, you’re right - it’s not. They spend a lot of their time boozing - especially when they hook up with Brits OK PILOT. Both bands are OK musically and, given the Fest atmosphere, I’m guessing boozing is a prerequisite pastime but a bit less of them and a bit more of the other bands would have been much more interesting.
As for those other bands, there’s some killer NONE MORE BLACK footage from both their actual Fest gig and a post-gig party, some riotous PAINT IT BLACK footage (including some from a party where the floor collapsed) and some hilarious footage of HOUR OF THE WOLF playing some raging HC amid lots of nudity. There are plenty of interviews too with both the bands and those in attendance and a look at some of the organisation of the weekend such as Volunteer Orientation etc.
Extras come in the form of ‘The Best Fest Stagedives’ shown in slow motion while Vangelis plays his ‘Chariots Of Fire’ theme, a drinking game (wow - would never have guessed that - although there is a sense of humour about it) and a furious take on BLACK FLAG’s ‘Fix Me’.
What really struck me about this DVD was just how apathetic and apolitical the whole thing appears. No one really used their performance as a platform for any socio-political informing. Instead there were just a lot of people with beards seemingly auditioning for Beavis and Butthead by saying, "cool", "rad", "dude", "like", "fuck", "man" with the occasional drunken beardie stringing and entirely vacuous sentence together in the shape of, "Cool dude, that was... like... fucking rad man!!" If ever there was proof of a need for a TV Smith or a Dick Lucas or even a Henry Rollins, this is it.
I’m sure those who have attended The Fest will dig this and, for one or two viewings it is pretty ‘rad dude!’. For me though, it could’ve been so much more and certainly emphasises that a seriously ‘cool’ documentary could be made about this ‘like... too fucking rad Fest man! It Rocks!!" (20.07.12)

IN HEAVEN THERE IS NO BEER: The Kiss Or Kill Music Scene {MVD} There have been several such films that document a local scene or club of late. While many have been fascinating insights, few have matched the quality of this film. Kiss Or Kill was a club in, of all cities, Los Angeles, that ran from early 2002 through to the end of 2007. It was intimate, gregarious and, most of all, celebratory hosting bands that were united in making something happen on their own terms and fusing Punk, Garage and Power Pop and somehow, this 90 minute documentary does an incredible job of telling the club’s history.
It starts with a Kurt Cobain quote before launching into a blitz of soundbites and snappy editing, eventually landing at Mr T’s Bowling - the first home of what became Kiss Or Kill. It was a bar frequented by aging alcoholics and was apparently in one of the less welcoming LA neighbourhoods. Somehow though, the club’s creators made such a success of it that the Fire Service closed the venue during one rammed gig. It then moved to a venue called The Garage and then - most impressively - a place called Zen Sushi. The stage had padded white walls and, judging by the footage in the film, the atmosphere must have been electric and devoid of the macho attitude or self-aggrandisement that is the downfall of many gigs.
The film progresses to highlight the key bands - BANG SUGAR BANG, DOLLYROTS, OAOTS, MIDWAY, ZEITGEIST AUTO PARTS and more. The club grew to such an extent that the likes of THE MUFFS (who have a section devoted to them), NEW YORK DOLLS and BLONDIE were drawn to the club, and as media attraction increased major labels started to sniff around. This part of the film highlights the inevitable paradox of such a close-knit club: one band gets signed (DOLLY ROTS to Lookout - not exactly EMI) and, through a series of apparent miscommunication, gets ostracised by the community that put them where they were. It’s a matter of progression or stagnation and both sides of the story here are presented perfectly.
It’s also interesting that after all the friction caused by DOLLY ROTS signing to Lookout, the club organisers went and moved it to The Key Club on the Sunset Strip - the exact location of the pay-to-play clubs that Kiss Or Kill was set-up to avoid.
It’s without a doubt something special was going on here; the fact that this features crowd regulars, the MC and each venue rather than ‘just’ the bands and the organisers suggests an openness many clubs would not allow. Even more impressively, everyone interviewed emphasises the ‘family’ feel of the club - the bands supported each other, there was no sense of bitterness or jealousy (up until the friction between DOLLY ROTS and BANG SUGAR BANG at least), no tough-guy attitudes but lots of smiles, laughter, alcohol and chaotically good times.
We’ve all heard about similar ‘clubs’ like The Roxy or CBGB or Gilman Street, and many of us have attended a local ‘club’ that hosted smart bands and was patronised by people who became good friends. The difference with those is that they were at the dawning of something new, they were the hub of that sound - or were in small localised scenes. Kiss Or Kill was born in after the vacuous 90s in a self-centred metropolis like LA and created something very special.
The DVD is filled out with extras including live performances, a short documentary on the club’s trip to Las Vegas, trailers and the tearful split up of ZEITGEIST AUTO PARTS. The live footage is incredibly well filmed and edited, often with multiple camera angles and generally quality sound, but distinctly live.
This is really hard to fault; the music is excellent, the attitude positive and welcoming, the emotions raw and honest, the direction electric, reflective and sincere. It’s a film that should be mandatory viewing for anyone thinking of starting a club if they want that club have environs that are enjoyable, exciting, caring and subversive. It is possible - Kiss Or Kill proved it in the most unfathomable way. (24.02.14)

PUNK IN AFRICA {MVD} Of all the inhabited continents, it is Africa that is often looked on as lacking anything resembling a Punk heritage. This 82-minute film however, set primarily in South Africa along with Mozambique and Zimbabwe and subtitled ‘Three Chords, Three Countries, One Revolution’, exposes the viewer to some stunning late 70s bands and carries on through to the bands of the post-1994 elections and on to today.
It opens with some history - 1960s cricket, apartheid, affluent white colonialism, racial segregation, civil war and the ROLLING STONES banned from the radio. In 1976 there was an uprising in Soweto which coincided with the arrival of Punk and a new form of civil and political dissension arrived.
The film is in two parts. The first looks at those pioneering bands of the 70s including SUCK from the early 70s that managed to get banned everywhere, followed my more recognisably Punk bands like Durban’s WILD YOUTH and GAY MARINES, Cape Town’s SAFARI SUITS, and what appeared to be the first multi-racial band of them all, the excellent NATIONAL WAKE outta Johannesburg. The members of these bands take us to former clubs and venues and that’s coupled with some incredible vintage footage (much of which unfortunately lacks sound) and stills of various flyers, zines and gigs. These bands were political, abrasive and played with a grit and determination that resonates with the same sound and attitude that bands had in the more revered Punk scenes around the world.
The second part of the film looks at the bands post-1994, post the release of Nelson Mandela and on to the present. These bands have a very different perspective - less political, a more mainstream Punk/ Ska sound and include the likes of HOG HOGGIDY HOG and FUZIGISH. This second chapter also takes us to Zimbabwe and Mozambique to see what’s going on and onto more Ska-based bands like 340ml and RUDIMENTALS, which is probably the pick of the modern bands.
It’s an interesting and expertly compiled documentary by director Keith Jones Deon Maas. He has caught the genuine sense of danger and anti-establishment ideals of the bands of the original wave. These were bands that faced imprisonment and even death for going against such a regime as existed then. In contrast, the bands of the second chapter, while still political, lack the intensity or the subversion of the first chapter, replacing those with a sense of accessibility and comfort.
There are several extras too, taking the form of 10 short films including a trailer for the film, full songs from the (mainly latter day) bands and some extended interviews.
The ideals behind the original bands and fans in this film echo those of original Punks in UK or USA, Australia or Germany; it was a movement that connected people, made them question authority and experience the joys of tape trading. To those involved it was a cultural revolution. Given the political climate of South Africa at the time, it makes the fact that such a scene existed even more affirming of the positive power of politically-infused Punk Rock.
For anyone who thought this Punk thing of ours never reached Africa, this is an essential history lesson. (06.09.14)

Hit HERE for material reviewed prior to 2012 including:
I Need That Record! The Death (Or Possible Survival) Of The Independent Record Store, If It Ain't Cheap It Ain't Punk, Punk In England, Punk In London, We Fun: Atlanta GA Inside/Out