Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk

Punk music is a part of my childhood that’s very near and dear to my heart. I first heard Green Day as a six-year-old kid, and for whatever reason it resonated with me more than any other kind of music I’d at the time been exposed to. Green Day was my launching pad into a stratosphere of other punk bands and the all the philosophies and messages they preached. As a teenager, I lived in a small-town in the Sierra Nevada Mountains down the hills from Lake Tahoe. There were more cows than people there, and absolutely nothing to do within a 49 mile radius for the under 21 crowd. In this rural hell, I bonded with the misfits, the freaks, and the runts over our mutual love of punk music. It was our language, our shorthand, our oaths and mottos. Thank god for the heyday of Napster, none of us had cars or money, but we were hungry to expose ourselves to as much power chords and Oi! Oi! Oi! goodness that we could. Despite our geographical location, we somehow knew about Berkeley and the East Bay Scene. Bands like Green Day, Rancid, and AFI got their starts there, so we knew it was a mecca of sorts, and if we had access to a car, or we lived closer I’m sure we would have fit right into that scene. Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk is a documentary I feel a strong connection to. These were kids just like me, but they had a place to go and community to grow within. All we had were about 10 other punk rock kids (two which we didn’t even like), a bunch of jocks and cowboys. I felt a strong kinship to the film’s story, and it took me back to some damned great times before life moved most of us past our tumbleweed riddled town.

“Any fan of punk will be overjoyed to see so many of their heroes and favorites pop up to reminisce about their experiences.”

For those not aware, in the early 1980’s there was a movement in the bay areas surrounding San Francisco. Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk chronicles the beginnings of this movement and introduces us to many of the pioneers of Western Punk Rock. Through still images, ancient footage, and talking head interviews we go through the history of the renowned Berkeley scene. From Aaron Cometbus and his band compilations and zines, to the the feminist DMR Gang, the origins of Green Day, and the rise and fall and rise again of The Gilman Project, right up to the beginnings of Lookout Records, the triumphant battle against the evil Skinheads, all leading up to to the ascension of Punk Rock into the mainstream consciousness. It’s awesome to hear real life accounts from members of legendary punk bands like Operation Ivy, Dead Kennedys, 7 Seconds, Jawbreaker, NOFX, Bad Religion, Rancid, Samiam, Fugazi, The Offspring, and so many more. Any fan of punk will be overjoyed to see so many of their heroes and favorites pop up to reminisce about their experiences.

“Punk Rock fans will not be disappointed with this must-see documentary…”

There are some issues with this film though, and despite it triggering my nostalgia in a major way, I have to remain somewhat objective. First, and most minor I have some issues with an annoying editing choice; a majority of the interviews feature a warped VHS tracking look for just a few seconds before switching to to HiDef. This aesthetic choice bugged me, as I found the juxtaposition was a bit too jarring and distracting. Also, at an almost two hour and forty minute runtime, a lot of parts seem either completely superfluous or incredibly glossed over. There are things that I feel would have been better if they were elaborated upon, and a lot of things that I felt could have been cut altogether. 2/3rds into the film, the story begins to heavily focus on Green Day, which is fine, I’m a fan as previously stated, but a lot of this story has been chronicled already. We hear a very similar case against the band selling out that we got back in VH1’s Green Day: Behind the Music documentary. We get it, guys, you don’t have to defend yourself against selling out anymore, and anyone who thinks that you’re sellouts is stupid and dense. There’s nothing wrong with hearing the story of Green Day’s meteoric rise to being one of the biggest bands on earth, it just feels like the focus gets shifted a little too much and a little too swiftly onto things fans of the band probably know already. Aside from these criticisms and long runtime, the film is solid, if a bit impossible to get through in one sitting. Maybe it would have been better to split the film into two parts? I personally think so, but it’s still an incredibly solid film that balances the concept of being informative while also being entertaining rather flawlessly. It’s really great seeing all of the different spectrums of punk music being represented here, from the political bands, the chaotic and anarchistic musicians, feminist empowerment female punk rockers, and of course all those beloved silly and immature bands. I also loved that the one and only Iggy Pop served as the narrator for this film, and he wonderfully sums up what being punk rock used to mean to me; we were all just kids, bored and unsatisfied with what was around us. We came together under the notion that we wanted more. This film resonated with me in so many ways, and I feel like it could resonate with just about anyone who knows what it feels like to be different against the norm. Punk Rock fans will not be disappointed with this Must-see documentary, and I absolutely believe that Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk is stimulating enough to appeal to non-punk rock fans as well. Definitely give it a watch.

Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk (2017) Directed by: Corbett Redford. Written by: Anthony Marchitiello, Corbett Redford. Starring: Billie Joe Armstrong, Iggy Pop, Davey Havok, Mike Dirnt, Fat Mike, Kirk Hammett, Noodles, Tre Cool, Matt Freeman, Jello Biafra, Duff McKagan, Robert Eggplant,Lars Frederiksen, Kathleen Hanna, Brett Gurewitz, Aaron Cometbus, Jesse Michaels.

8 out of 10

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