It's a funny thing to see the punk generation grow old. In America, raging against the machine must be done either ironically or moronically, unless you really want to be shot at from helicopters. The myriad movements inspired by punk survived largely by becoming institutions. These days, resistance has been relegated to a mere fashion statement. Punk is now a charming phase for white kids to go through.
So there's something bittersweet and nostalgic about watching Jack Curran's documentary 924 Gilman St.: Let's Talk About Tact and Timing, about the world-famous Berkeley punk venue, which first opened its doors in 1986. The film details the origins of the venue and its early years under the umbrella of MaximumRocknRoll magazine, featuring first-hand accounts interspersed with footage of more recent performances of bands like Ted Leo & the Pharmacists and Pansy Division, filmed by Curran and crew. That the all-ages venue is still open 22 years hence is testament to the tenacity of its volunteers, who book the bands, clean the toilets, and negotiate for its existence with the City of Berkeley. Gilman changed the punk rock world by barring bands deemed homophobic, sexist, racist, or on major labels.
Punk historians and archivists will appreciate being able to put faces to legendary punk names and voices like Op Ivy's Jesse Michaels and Fugazi's Ian MacKaye. The film, distributed by Alternative Tentacles, does a reasonable job of explaining what makes Gilman so special. But it's weighed down by too much live footage, and skips over several important chapters in the venue's existence. (Alternative Tentacles)
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