Over the last few weeks I’ve been watching a handful of random punk documentaries. Some old. Some new. All good. The most recent one was 1984 documentary chronicling the adventures Social Distortion and Youth Brigade. The film follows them as they embark on their first, DIY, 31 city, cross country tour in 1982. And the results of the tour are not a positive one.
The ill-fated road trip involves a beaten down old school bus and it tests the mental and physical fortitude of everyone involved. As the bands start out their tour in San Francisco they head north up through Oregon, and Seattle. Two filmmakers, Adam Small and Peter Stuart, seized the opportunity to follow along and capture footage along the way. The documentary is not just your standard concert footage. The live performances that are there showcase the intensity of both bands and audience. All the while, they interview the bands, the roadies (friends who wanted to help out) and fans along the way. You get a real sense of what it was like to be a teen punk in the early 80s. The angst, the camaraderie and the true ethos of what punk was.
The film gives a glimpse into how inter-connected the national scene really was. The bands had made it all the way to Washington D.C. when the bus finally breaks down on them. This is where it all falls apart. the stress causes Social Distortion to split up. There was increasing frustrations between the bands. Money was tight. One promoter during the tour paid the band with rolls of pennies. But during the time in D.C. The bands meat up with (now) punk legends Minor Threat and they crash at Dischord House while they decide what to do.
Ultimately, Mike Ness is stranded when the rest of Social D abandon him to stay with friends. Mike decides its best to hop on a plane and and go back to California and regroup. Youth Brigade rents a truck and drives back to Los Angeles, leaving the bus behind to collect at a later date.
All in all, the film is a fantastic look into the early DIY punk movement of the time. Something that is I know isn’t necessarily easier these days, but with modern technology, it sure feels like it is. Highlights of the film are watching Mike Ness write the namesake song / title of the film, Another State of Mind while on the road, the youth and energy of the live performances and seeing Minor Threat rehearse. A must see for fans of the band / punk music in general.
What are some of your favorite punk documentaries? Let me know and I’ll let you know if I’ve seen them or not.