Youth Brigade, Social Distortion and Minor Threat. That’s what this little tour documentary has to offer. Shot entirely on video, following a 1982 DIY tour by Youth Brigade and Social Distortion, the film documents the early days of the more established American punk scene as it reaches out toward the rest of the country. Far from Earth-shattering, and certainly shabby in its production, the film is not without its merits.
Youth Brigade didn’t really ever do anything for me. Social Distortion are surprisingly catchy and effective. And Minor Threat, who I was really into when I was 15, don’t manage to come off as particularly intellectual. It’s not an image of a vibrant scene, nor perhaps even the most significant bands, but Adam Stern, singer and organizer of Youth Brigade and the Better Youth Organization who put it all together, the heart was in the right place. And ultimately it’s a snapshot of the American punk scene in the 1980’s, pimples, mohawks, flannels, and bad haircuts and all.
Unlike some other films about the period like We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen (2005) or the slightly more recent American Hardcore (2006), this film was made in its day, capturing the scene and completing its production as a document of the time. There are better documents, namely the quite good The Decline of Western Civilization (1981) which actually more aesthetically and richly captured the LA punk scene and some of its best bands. This one rides on the surprising pieces of its merits.
Another State of Mind roams the country as many bands would and have since, though perhaps the DIY thing was truly in its infancy. Adam Stern was quite pioneering, no doubt, pulling this stuff together as he did. The filmmakers smartly follow the story and the characters, showing some music, but also highlighting some of the characters that they met along the way: a physically disabled punk, a young French Canadian girl who scammed her way along. You certainly wonder where these people are, if they are still anywhere.
Like many a tour on this level, the bus breaks down, the roadies abandon ship, the bands abandon ship, the whole thing falls apart and they come home a couple thousand dollars in the hole. It’s not epic, it’s not profound, but it is not lacking in a story.
The camera stays on a young, pimply, already alcoholic Mike Ness, surprisingly talented in his songwriting, notably on a different level from many of the others. But again, nothing major happens. And he’s a pretty minor figure in the music world. But you take it for what it is. It’s kinda cool.