Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk
directed by Corbett Redford
This movie lasts longer than some of the bands it highlights. The first wave of punk arose in cities that were losing jobs and opportunities and were full of young people seeking an outlet. But eventually it spread to more remote corners of America, including the semi-rural, semi-industrial wasteland known as The East Bay. Cities like Rodeo and Richmond and Pinole went from the butt of local jokes to a hot bed of thrash and metal and punk. True to its SF roots, communes and cooperatives ruled rather than the more mercenary A&R/label warriors looking for the next big hit. Hundreds of bands formed, and it seems like each one gets its 15 seconds of fame here. While most of the acts here play a few bars then tell stories, this is more about the anecdotes and motivations than a concert film. Stories of battles with skin heads and rednecks, people working for free to get into shows, camaraderie and a sense of community make this a classic “scene” documentary. The film makers are obviously in love with the sound and the scene, and if there’s a rule of film making this highlights its “Too much of a good thing…” Clocking in at nearly three hours, watching this film is almost as big a commitment as starting a band.
Interview highlights include Angry Mike from the Angry Samoans, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong explaining how his band broke out and was alternate praised and vilified, and Tim Yohannan who notionally ran the place. Interviews with rarely seen acts like “The Yeastie Girls” tell about the female side of this testosterone-driven style, and the background info on the depressing act of living next to the largest oil refiner in the world set some context. Iggy Pop narrates, but he says relatively little and never appears on camera and my take was: “Iggy has a really nice speaking voice.” This is a story that best tells itself, and the enthusiasm and years of self-abuse clearly dominate as it mixes archival footage with modern interviews. Limit your fluid intake, bring a blanket and some snacks, and prepare to be shocked by how old everyone looks. This is Punk rock nostalgia at its best, explained by the middle-aged hippies who survived this nonstop party.