Thursday, June 29, 2006

Minutemen- as DIY as they wanted to be

Even though critics/reviewers are supposed to keep some kind of objective distance from the subjects they cover, sometimes we just can't help it. I've crossed over to work on some reissues of out-of-print records (something I don't recommend unless you have a lot of heart and patience). I also took the initiative to get a screening for a documentary about L.A. punk band Minutemen for a New York premier last spring at Lincoln Center. To be honest, it wasn't just that I wanted to share my love of that band with the rest of NYC but as a fan, I just wanted to see the film myself too.

It didn't disappoint either (it was screened for two sold-out shows). The fact of the matter is that We Jam Econo is just as DIY as the band itself. It's not totally polished and it wouldn't make sense if it was. But it does convey a good sense of what the band was about, especially in tribute to late singer/guitarist D. Boon. Along with a bunch of indie/underground experts, we hear from bassist Mike Watt about everything from the origins of the band to its untimely end (when Boon died in a van accident in 1985). There's also intriguing live footage (including an acoustic performance) and interviews done with Boon and the band from back then. Also, you get the sense of an idealistic band who not only loved punk but also lefty politics and free jazz. They also didn't have any use for sarcasm or snideness (they had a mile-wide sincere streak) though they definitely had a sense of humor.

As such, the film isn't just a celebration of who and what they were but also something of a tombstone morning a great band. Indeed, when film was given its premier in California, Watt himself didn't attend. It wasn't out of stuffiness but because he still missed Boon so much that he couldn't bear to watch the film in public. He's done his best to carry the torch for the band since then (with fIREHOSE and his solo work) but there's also the sense that without Boon there also, it's not quite the same.

(Call me a sentimental old fool but when I saw Patti Smith recreate her Horses debut at Brooklyn Academy of Music last fall with Flea as a guest, I was moved to see a sticker on his bass. It was a shadow image of Boon singing (the same one you see on Watt's home page) and a sign that his spirit was still around and active)

Luckily for anyone who didn't catch the film's screening tour last year, Plexifilm has just released a DVD of We Jam Econo that includes the three music videos that they did plus extended interviews and a bonus DVD of live shows.


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