(From L: The Effigies, in a photo by Glen E. Friedman)
Total sports related content in the new Chicago punk documentary You Weren’t There: a shot of Steve Dahl’s Disco Demolition at Commiskey Park (as illustration of Chicago’s 1970s rock scene retardation) and a shot of Rights Of The Accused that includes a Cubs sticker on their guitar. Given the central role this film obviously plays in Chicago baseball, it clearly needs a mention on CSTB, despite this blog’s dismal track record of matching up sports and music. I offer you a “go see it” and a “go distribute it” (if that’s what you do for a living). To be sure, much of this film pre-dates my club going days, as it opens in 1977 when I was 10. Actually, no matter where Steve Dahl decided to stage his pro-censorship event (love this clip, where Dahl promotes his upcoming gig as opener for Santana and Journey to massive cheers) the only differentiation made in South Side and North Side reactions to punk was a total ignorance of it on the South Side to a lame-brained North Side reaction of shouting “faggot!” or “Devo!” from passing Trans Ams. There’s enough of Vic Bondi and John Kezdy and Steve Albini to let us know the old hates are still quite fresh. The last band covered is Big Black, and how often do you see something written/filmed about Chi indie/punk where Albini is but one voice in the scene, not portrayed as The Voice ? I point this out not to put him down, but to make clear, the filmmakers really did want to capture the scene, not just film a SPIN article.
You Weren’t There packs in a LOT of information, so much so that I lost track of the Articles of Faith v Effigies feud several times. Still, you get a great sense of how the scene grew, before the music was even any good and it was more about just going to DJ shows of punks playing NYC, London, and LA music. It’s something usually cut short in music histories that can’t wait to get to their scene’s Local Turned National moment. The “national” side of it never happened in Chicago punk of this era. That came later, and the filmmakers avoid my most hated cliche of modern music history “ forcing the historical line from Our Scene to Nirvana. In fact, You Weren’t There cuts it off in 1984, just when that scene expanded, imo, in two ways. First (as shown) the incursion of lots of violent, LA-imitating half-wits that overran the audience. Second is the point where the Chicago indie labels we know today really took off — Touch And Go, Thrill Jockey, Etc “ something totally left out of the film, even the final “punk today” segment, the lamest moment of the movie. In it, a host of assisted living candidates interviewed prefer the tired Legs McNeil You Kids Suck school of history. I mean, when you’re bitching about Kids Today wearing black leather jackets as a retro look, when you yourself wore a black leather jacket as a ’50s retro look because the Ramones and Clash did in ’79 — well, you know, get an gmail account. You’re someone whose life would be vastly improved by Pitchfork. Not all do this, but enough do. Still, that’s only the last ten minutes. There’s a self-defeating element to some of the scene, all that classic Chicago “I’m For Real, You’re From the ‘Burbs” shit as beautifully deconstructed by “Rights of the Accused’s” Mike O’Connell (?). 1st wave Chi punk may have ended with these folks, but they never make the connection between what they created and the way that still has an impact on much in Chicago that’s there now. Anyway, overall, worth your time, very thorough, and in need of a wider audience.
(Pictured, album cover of Rob Warmoski’s first Chicago band, The Defoliants, before he became CSTB’s White Sox beat reporter)
Some folks warned me You Weren’t There goes on too long, and they’re right. Still, the stories are well told and music holds up, esp what I heard from The Effigies, Big Black, Rights of the Accused, and a funny cut of “Anti-Pac Man” played out.