Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk (2017)

 Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk (2017) movie poster

director Corbett Redford
viewed: 06/10/2017 at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema – New Mission, SF, CA

I went to Gilman Street in spring of 1987, only a couple of months after it had opened. The show I caught was typically eclectic and in retrospect pretty awesome (Frightwig, the Didjits, the Dwarves, & Primus), though none of the bands that would become known as Gilman bands. I was 17.

My scene was in Gainesville, FL and my tangential link to Gilman and the East Bay was inspired by Gilman and its scene and led me to booking Operation Ivy and Crimpshrine when they toured in 1988. Eventually I moved permanently to California and Gilman was a continual pull, one of the only all ages venues of its day, plus its great price and atmosphere. I also eventually moved to San Francisco, and for the first year I lived in the city, I worked for MaximumRocknRoll and could call Tim Yohannon a friend.

So, Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk is populated by a number of people that I’ve known, some I still know, and tells a story from the inside of the Bay Area punk scene with which I have a lot of personal connection and familiarity and is also why I dragged my kids to sit through a 2 1/2 hour documentary on a Saturday afternoon.

Produced by Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, it’s a long-winded love letter to the heart of his punk birthing (and many others). The film is without a doubt overlong, but really tries to tell as full a story as possible, starting with Berkeley in the 1960’s, tracing the first waves of punk in San Francisco and the world, second waves of punk and all the early East Bay bands all before it gets to the founding of Gilman Street and all the bands and stories that emanated from it.

Since Billie Joe produced it, it’s got good production values and features Iggy Pop as narrator (though has Iggy ever been to Gilman?) Aaron Cometbus lurks around the film, silently lettering the chapter titles.

Some notables are notable in their absence. Controversies around the commercialization of punk and what happened to the Gilman scene in the 1990’s are addressed. It’s always seemed to me that Jesse Michaels caught a real sense of what was coming when he and Tim broke up Operation Ivy, the band that almost broke punk into the mainstream (their inherent popularity outgrew their comfort level before that chance ever reared its head.)

I actually took my son to Gilman for his first concert about a year and half ago, the first time I’d been there in 20 years. Physically it’s still the same, and it’s still populated by a lot of teenagers and young people (there were a couple old fogies like myself there). It is a cool place, and it’s truly amazing that it’s survived as long as it has in its being.

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