We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen

We Jam Econo (2005) movie poster

(2005) dir. Tim Irwin
viewed: 07/17/06

I remember when I read that D. Boon had died in 1985…actually I am pretty sure I didn’t hear about it until 1986, though because I think I read it in Maximum Rock’n’Roll, and I mention this because this is one of the things that strikes me about the film and its subject matter is how much culture has changed in the 20 years since D. Boon died.

The Minutemen were part of an original and real L.A. punk scene and the film is largely a huge point of reverence for the D. Boon and somewhat of an overall story of his friendship with Mike Watt and George Hurley.  The film is populated with quite a plethora of figures from 1980’s American punk and hardcore: Ian MacKaye, Henry Rollins, John Doe, etc. etc. and they all have great admiration for the uniqueness, creativity, and musicianship of the band.  They were unlike anything and really still are.  This is not your 1970’s early punk or nor is it typical of anyone I can think now or then.  This weird funk/punk/jazz hybrid, heavy on the poetics and politics was something else.

But the thing is that media has changed so much since then.  The world of making music has changed so much.  And it continues to rapidly evolve.  When The Minutemen started and put their records out on SST, it was a pretty new thing for punk and indie labels.  The whole D.I.Y. thing was just getting off the ground and all the infrastructure that makes it so easy to do now had yet to be built.

When D. Boon died there wasn’t a huge media interested in that level of music.  It certainly didn’t make the local newspaper in Gainesville, Florida.  Today, someone like D. Boon would be broadly disseminated about on the internet and music would have been available to the entire world so completely.

But that is in many ways what is different and interesting about the band.  Because they came from a time and perspective that was different and germinated in their own ways, learning their instruments from scratch, they developed into the strange and enegetic band that they were.  And really exemplify the quality of punk that is so often forgotten: that it wasn’t about emulating existing things, it was about being unique.  And it was more punk in some ways for D. Boon to wear his cheap weird clothes than a leather jacket.

Really, this film isn’t utterly remarkable.  It’s fun to watch the footage of the band and see the man in action, the whole band.  But the film really doesn’t go into a lot of stories and even when it comes to D. Boon’s death, it’s not detailed as how it unfolded.  And they don’t talk about what the band did in the aftermath.  It’s one of those “oral histories” that has a lot of people saying how brilliant they thought the music was, but not telling enough details to make a story.

It’s interesting to reflect on that period, though, because it was 20 years ago now and it’s a period that hasn’t gotten the reflection that the original punk movement of New York and England have.  It’s not as sexy, true.  But there were some good things that came out of it.

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