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As I sat in the luxurious auditorium of the Alamo Drafthouse/New Mission Theater, I marveled at the comfort of the chairs and the built in table tops. Waitresses roamed the isles, asking customers if they would like to order anything to eat or drink. Wow, you can actually sit and watch a movie and order drinks and food? Wow, this is living! The atmosphere was in stark contrast to the movie we were all there to see. Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk was about to delve into a world I had lived in thirty plus years ago, a world of DIY punk rock ethos, of ripped jeans, eating out of dumpsters and vibrant creative self-expression that gave birth to one of the best-known rock bands in the world.
Splashed up on the huge screen was a giant image of my old friend Walter Glaser’s face which graced the cover of the 7” compilation Turn It Around released by MRR years earlier. I anxiously peered around to see if anyone I knew was there. I didn’t recognize any faces, but that wasn’t surprising given the fact that everyone was thirty years older. After a brief announcement, the lights dimmed and I was transported back to a world I had relived many times through music and memories.
Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk is a love letter to a time in history that was exceptional for it’s community identity and ideals, bound together by a creative explosion of self expression and musical experimentation. Director Corbett Redford grew up as part of the East Bay punk scene, playing in bands and paling around with fellow punks Billy Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt. While the movie is funded and produced by Green Day, it is anything but a Green Day movie.
Beginning with interviews from the original punks from the late 70s, the scene is set with by Penelope Houston, front woman of the legendary Avengers, and Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys as well as interviews from multiple bands and participants from that time. A dead-pan narration by Iggy Pop ties the multi-layered scene of music, photos and memories together, painting the larger picture of boredom, political upheaval and curiosity that led to the birth of bay area punk rock. Fabulous footage consisting of grainy home videos, flyers and animated drawings push the history forward to the mid-eighties in Berkeley where Gilman St. became the home to the next generation of bands.
I sat mesmerized by the footage flashing before my eyes. Rare home videos, flyers, drawing, and faces of people I had spent countless hours hanging out with, watching on stage, writing about and playing on the air flashed across the screen, accompanied by the pounding familiar soundtrack of music that had been created during that time. It was exciting and emotional to watch a scene at once so familiar documented like a Ken Burns PBS special dance across the huge screen.
Towards the middle of the movie, the wildly successful all ages club started by Maximum Rock and Roll (MRR) founder and editor Tim Yohannan takes center stage. As well it should. Being the only club in the area open to all ages, it was the epicenter of music created by the younger generation of punks that rocked the music industry to it’s core. Part community center as well, 924 Gilman St. was a safe haven from drugs, alcohol and violence usually associated with the aggressive music being created. Anyone could go, and all were accepted. As a geeky music obsessed observer, I spent many happy evenings there pogoing to the bands I loved. I was witness to the birth of Green Day (formerly Sweet Children), The Offspring, Operation Ivy and countless other bands that would go on to define a generation of music and what it meant to be “punk rock”.
Distilling almost 600 hours of interviews and footage down into a two and a half hour movie was a monumental task. The fact that Redford was able to find a cohesive thread for the story through all that is actually pretty amazing. As the movie competently explains, there were many diverse little pockets in tiny towns through out the Bay Area filled with kids creating and exploring their own version of punk rock. Because so many important bands emerged over the years, it would be easy to just focus on one part of it, but Redford successfully documents the influence of the mid-70s punk scene on the later 80s and early 90s punk scene.
Weaving more interviews, rare footage, flyers and yet more animation, the second half of the movie shifts to the younger bands and participants that made Gilman St. their home. This is the only part of the movie I felt was unfocused and dragged a bit. So many divergent genres erupted during this time, and Redford tries to include it all by touching on the Riot Grrl movement, the infamous signing to a major label of Jawbreaker, the Outpunk movement and several other side notes.
It was a little distracting and since each of these side-notes only got a few minutes I feel much of that footage could have been used as “extras” when this comes out on DVD, thereby giving a deeper look at each of these areas. While they were all important parts of the scene, including these short little forays into those stories slows the pace of the movie and really distracts from the larger story being told.
For fans of Green Day, Operation Ivy, Rancid and all the other bands that came out of the East Bay, this is NOT A GREEN DAY MOVIE. Yes, there’s fabulous footage of the band playing at backyard BBQs and really great early photos that I’ve never seen. The interviews with Green Day’s Billie Joe are wonderfully down to earth and exuberant. But there’s tons of this sort of footage for all the bands, and it really gives Green Day’s rise to success a context. Billie Joe says probably one of the coolest things in the entire movie: talking about all the bands in the area that inspired him he gushes, “We’ve got Neurosis!”
My only other criticism of this movie is the lack of focus on the music that plays throughout the movie. Maybe I’m only one of a handful of nerds who sits through all the credits in the movie, waiting to read the list of bands and songs that play through out the film. It may just be an oversight on Redford’s part, or the thought that everyone knows the music playing, but it is an essential part of this documentary, so why not include it for those who may not know the music?
I sat in that dark theater with mixed emotions swirling through my body: pride, excitement, passion, inspiration, surprise (Tim from Rancid looks REALLY different from how I remember him!) and a little bit of sadness. I laughed and cheered along with the rest of the audience but I wanted to cry when former Mordam owner Ruth Schwartz talked about making amends with MRR founder Tim Yohannan as he lay dying. It was really touching.
While Gilman St. and MRR still carry on, the unity, support and excitement didn’t. There’s a lot of judgment out there now about what it means to be punk. That’s how these things are. They are fleeting bursts of energy and creativity and if you were lucky enough to have been there, those memories will always be part of who you are. If you weren’t there, you are lucky enough to have this movie to show you everything you missed.
The overall message of this movie is one of hope that this movie will inspire the current crop of youngsters to go create their own scene, and not wait for someone else to do it. DIY baby! Maybe one day you’ll be sitting in a luxurious theater watching a documentary about your scene, but until then, enjoy this amazing movie that is a deep passionate French kiss to our scene.
Barrio Tiger Ave Maria
(Ghost Highway Recordings)
Guest Post by The Heathen
It literally took the length of the Obama presidency for Los Angeles garage punk stalwarts Barrio Tiger to complete and finalize their debut album Ave Maria for all of us to hear. Some of you may think, “What are these guys? The Kinks!?” But who the hell are we to think anything of it? Sometimes a record just needs time to complete.Also, life gets in the way; it was nine years after all. No explaining it and doesn’t matter now because it’s out and it’s damn good, sonically speaking! Ghost Highway Recordings is the culprit responsible for taking a chance on these four and and it’s a good fit.
10 tracks and 21 minutes of high octane, garage punk fury, this is the type of sound that fueled labels like Estrus, SFTRI and the name of this here website you’re reading currently. These guys have been active in the Los Angeles underground rock scene for an extensive period before banning together with individual members doing time in local veteran acts such as The Hangmen, Junkyard & Wooly Bandits. Barrio Tiger’s sound is a little more full throttle than their other projects with Ave Maria’s opening gut punch statement “Pete’s Dragon” kicking the experience off until the conclusion of “Bullet.”
Their influences are pretty cut and dry in such tracks as “Let’s Play Dumb” with its derivative hooks stemming from the Ramones catalog and the come down track “Fading” which has a sound similar to the feel of Supersucker’s Must’ve Been High record. It’s rock and roll for people who dig rock and roll; something we’re not hearing too often or the media isn’t paying much attention to, but. The visual packaging coincides well with a bit of lowbrow humor via an illustration depicting Our Lady Of Guadalupe in tiger form. Ave Maria indeed!
Ghost Highway Records has the album on order right now from their shop in Spain, and here’s to hoping some mainland US shipping rates will apply in the near future. – The Heathen
Barrio Tiger Facebook
Ghost Highway Recordings Facebook
Barrio Tiger Twitter
Ghost Highway Recordings Twitter
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Happy Earth Day!
One again, GEARHEAD rolls into Vegas to sell official GEARHEAD merch at the legendary Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend. Stop by the booth to say hi, enter our free raffle, take some pics and maybe pick up a shirt or two. For more information, visit the Viva Las Vegas website.
The New Year arrived in a torrent of rain and wind here in Northern California, washing away optimistic thoughts of sunny outings in the hot rod with my sweetheart happening any time soon. It sits parked in the garage, waiting for an oil change that will signal driving season again.
Until then, I hunker down at Gearhead HQ, planning the game of attack for this fresh New Year filled with possibilities and new opportunities
Everyone needs new duds for the New Year, so some new shirts and hats are the first up. Snag one of the cool new Wrench shirts, a foam Sparkplug trucker hat, or a snazzy baseball jersey featuring the ubiquitous GEARHEAD logo from our newly designed web store.
Issue #20 of GEARHEAD MAGAZINE is due out in April. Ad space is still available if you have product or business you want the GEARHEAD community to know about. Email for a rate sheet!
Car show season kicks off this year with Gearhead’s first appearance at the Sacramento Autorama in over ten years! If you’re in the area, stop by Booth B28 Feb. 17-19, 2017 and enter the free raffle to win a goody bag. This massive three-day event features all types of rides from mouth-watering high-end gems restored in bright candy colors to rusty rods lovingly restored with the DIY spirit in home garages.
That DIY spirit permeates everything here at GEARHEAD. This includes sharing articles and stories written by our customers. This month, the featured story is Five Car Shows You Should Attend written by Guest Writer Jason Muelle. If you have something cool you think Gearhead readers would dig,hit me up: maybe you will be our next guest writer!
While the world crashes and storms around us my hope is for Gearhead to continue focusing even more on our unique community. After all, that’s what brings us together right? Our mutual love of hot rods and rock and roll; this is a unifying bond like nothing else.
Speaking of community, my heart is saddened by the death of Hellacopters guitarist Robert “Strings” Dahlqvist Feb. 3, 2017. The loss to his band mates, family, loved ones and our rock and roll community is deep and painful. Sharing how he touched my life is my way of honoring his memory. If you have memories to share, please feel free to add positive comments to this space.
Thank you for your ongoing support and enthusiasm as I continue to change and grow Gearhead. I love reading the email responses to the newsletter as well as your comments onFacebook, Twitter and Instagram. Connecting directly with you all through social media reminds me every day why I’m doing this: our community! So here’s to a rockin’ 2017 everyone.
Live Fast, Be Weird! Xoxo Rev. Michelle
It was a cold wet winter day and I was feeling a little down. Not depressed, just not real motivated. Then I got the call from my boyfriend. He had just heard from a Facebook friend that Hellacopters guitarist Robert "Strings" Dahlqvist had died.
I couldn’t believe it. How could such a talented young man with so much ahead of him be dead? He was only 40, with plans for a new record and touring shaping this New Year. After confirming the truth of this rumor, I sat back and put on one of the two records I worked on with the band, High Visibility, and let my mind wander back to fifteen years ago first meeting Robert.
It’s pretty crazy when you’re working on a record. There are a lot of parts to manage, from the masters to the artwork. Usually there are one or two band members who one works with closely to get all the details sorted out and the record finished. Since I was working out most of these details while the band was in Sweden, I mostly communicated with their manager Patrick and drummer Robert via phone and email.
When the band arrived in town April 2002 to start their US tour promoting High Visibility, I was a little tongue-tied. I’d seen the band play once before, I think it was 1998, but had never officially met them or spent time with them prior to putting out the record. I was always one of those shy types, never feeling comfortable enough to talk to the bands I admired from a distance. They were cool for goodness sake, and I was just a geek who dug their music. I had to get over that for this tour though because I was handling all the distribution, sales and merch for the band and the tour, not to mention the production of their record. Talking to them and getting to know because I was the head of their record label was a must.
Much as myself, Strings was also shy, reserved and quiet. He hung in the background mostly talking in Swedish with his band mates. We chatted a little but I was never able to overcome my own shyness to really open up with him, and consequently, never really got to know him like I did Kenny, Robert or Nicke.
But that reserve disappeared when Strings got on stage. If I had super x ray vision, I would swear there were lightning bolts sparking off his fingertips when he played. He was focused and technically superior, but rocked with a passion and love that could color the notes flying out of his guitar with a fury and aggression that pushed the band to play harder and faster.
It strikes me as somewhat prescient that the band all have wings barely visible sprouting from their backs on the cover of High Visibility. I don’t know whose idea this was.
When they played they were in synch with a higher power, channeling passion and love and companionship through their music. Strings added a touch of American muscle to the band and on that recording, taking their sound into a more 70s classic rock approach, channeling the bands he loved like Kiss, The Kinks and The Rolling Stones into his playing and making their world his own.
I don’t know what happened to him. After the Hellacopters moved on to a new label, I had no further reason to be in touch constantly.
He was such a beautiful passionate young man in his prime, giving the world his love through his music.
My heart hangs heavy, my soul weeps for the loss of this brilliant child of the universe. I know his former band mates and the people who loved him are struggling to put their pain into context. For me, I celebrate the brief time we connected by listening to the records, sifting through the posters and sharing the few pictures I still have. I wish him Godspeed on this journey to the afterlife. Those airbrushed wings from the record cover are now real. I’m certain he is connecting with the rock and roll greats who left this earth before him, rocking the heavens with his glorious sounds.
Robert "Strings" Dahlqvist 4/16/76 – 2/3/17
Stories about cars, pop culture, music, art, and other related topics written by GEARHEAD owner Rev. Michelle Haunold. Guest writers are also encouraged to get in touch to share content that might be of interest to GEARHEAD customers.