Various Artists – You Weren’t There: A History of Chicago Punk 1977-1984 LP/DVD (Factory 25)

Upstart DVD imprint Factory 25 debuts its freshman lineup with a series of limited edition DVD/vinyl sets, a fairly ingenious proposition that purposefully marries audio and video product to combine the best of both formats. When was the last time a DVD got the lavish spread of a gatefold LP sleeve, complete with two oversize inserts? Design points aside, You Weren’t There continues in a recent tradition of punk-themed documentaries (see also The Dead Moon Story, the Minutemen tribute We Jam Econo, and Afro-Rock), telling the ungainly tale of punk/hardcore’s dislodging of youth boredom in a sprawling, working-class Midwestern town, and the further displacement of the scene’s roots from clubs to bars to basements to rental halls to college campuses, and finally to the suburbs, where as Naked Raygun’s Jeff Pezzati wisely opines, “it will take a thousand years for them to get out of there.” Given a long-ish runtime of over two hours, Joe Losurdo and Christina Tillman’s 2007 film manages to breeze by in a clip – which, with talking head reminiscences from three dozen of the scene’s participants, and a smattering of live performances by many of its subjects, is no mean feat. By nature of the people and location, there’s a workmanlike quality to all the events of the film that wisely eschews the drug damage of similar NYC/LA memoirs, and focuses on the music, the culture, and the struggle to stay afloat in the midst of a very contentious society. For Chicago, that meant alliances with gay bars, and subsequent alienation of those venues from other gay bars; police and community harassment; shreds of support from local press and radio; the need to establish the parameters of all-ages shows and venues; and how these facets strengthened the resolve of its participants, and the music overall. Chicago is a big town, and bands erupted from all of its corners, from Lincoln Park to Evanston, yet remained fluid even throughout geographical constraints and scene politics that would have otherwise torn things apart. Expect to learn a lot, to laugh, and to give thanks for those who had paved the way for us to come along and fuck it up in the name of youth. The white vinyl, 19-track companion LP features music from the film’s myriad participants, much of which has already been released, but is still welcome – it’s never easy to hear the Mentally Ill’s scuzzbomb “Gacy’s Place,” or anything by bands like the Way-Outs, Strike Under, pre-teen punks Verboten, and stunning all-female dark rock band Da, and good to have both the film and its music in one place. Great job to all involved, and it seems that Factory 25’s diligence has spread to some similar projects, which we’ll be covering here in a bit. Also features a half hour’s worth of complete live performances and deleted scenes. (
(Doug Mosurock)