Went to watch a documentary about The Minutemen, We Jam Econo, with Roger tonight. Archived gig footage interleaved with interviews — Watt driving his old white van around San Pedro plus dozens of conversations with musicians from in and around the early 80s SoCal punk scene.
The movie reminds you how awkward it is to use the word “punk” to describe The Minutemen — they get lumped in due to their energy and their label and their place in time, but really shared very little with typical punk bands — no mohawks, no punk uniform (check D. Boon’s ridiculous shoes for proof), little in the way of punk attitude. The Minutemen were never crass. They were more complex than that – political without being blunt, musically complex without making “music for musicians” (not that I think art music is bad, just saying The Minutemen weren’t about that). Artful without being arty. Humble, totally honest, real people making music that sounded like nothing that’s come before or since.
The interviews are great – a virtual who’s who of the SST scene, “including John Doe, Thurston Moore, Colin Newman, Ian MacKaye, Jello Biafra, Richards Hell and Meltzer, and a big chunk of Black Flag’s large revolving cast: Greg Ginn, Henry Rollins, Keith Morris, Kira Roessler, and Dez Cadena” (from Pathetic Caverns).
Not enough time spent on Double Nickels, easily the greatest album ever made in the history of humanity (don’t challenge me on that, even though I mean it). But compensated for it with some jaw-dropping acoustic footage (who knew?) — including Hurley on bongos.
Run, don’t walk.
– Interview with filmmaker at the Seattlest
– New Yorker review
2 Replies to “We Jam Econo”
Having been born in 1965, punk played a significant role in my musical awakening in my formative years. I was less a fan of hardcore, but went to many shows, both large and small, throughout the 80s.
In 1994, while getting by BA (late) at Catholic University, I took a course in Byzantine history. The professor was Father George Dennis, a very laid-back and understated septuginarian Jesuit. As he was elderly, a lot of students looked at him as you might expect them to see an elderly man of the cloth. But if you paid attention you realized he was anything but stodgy.
“In creating heavier types of seigecraft, these commanders of the early Middle Ages unwittingly also were among the first to use biological warfare. A trebuchet capable of hurling an ox carcass has great effect against an enemy in two ways. First, there is the biological aspect of having rotting flesh hurled into your city. Second, nothing demoralizes an army faster than their commander getting squished by a putrescent ox.”
While in DC I had occasion to see a few shows by Fugazi. At one outdoor show I was tapped on the shoulder and turned around to find myself face-to-face with Father Dennis. He was surprised seeing a guy in his 30s at the show, I was just dumbstruck seeing a priest in his 70s at the show.
“Oh, Kurt. I’ve known these guys since they were kids,” he told me.
After the show he asked me to come with him to meet Ian MacKaye and the rest of the band. Of course, tons of teenagers were swarming around them, all clamoring to have the members of Fugazi validate them. As father Denis and I approached, Ian MacKaye’s face lit up.
“Hey Ian. I’d like you to mee Kurt, a student of mine at CUA.”
“Hey man! Any friend of the Father’s is a friend of mine!”
One of the coolest experiences of my life. Not because I put Ian MacKaye on some sorta pedestal, but because it taught me definitively that you can be hip, cool, and tuned in for as long as you choose to be, regardless of age or profession.
Rock on, Father Dennis. Rock on.
I graduated in 1990 with a BA from CUA and actually just googled Father Dennis to see if he was still around. Talk about an interesting cat – he was one the most published people ever that taught at CUA. I also found out he was very involved in the disadvantaged youth of DC (he did this with no fanfare). The old Dean of the History Department told all this one time as he and I were getting drunk with during a summer class the Dean taught (he encourage having a few cocktails during those 3 day a week, 3 hour accelerated summer sessions). Father Dennis was my thesis instructor, I can honestly say, I was probably not his favorite student, I think he thought I was a moron – and he’s probably right. Glad to see he’s doing alright, the guy has had a couple of by-pass surguries and this was back in the late 80’s. I’ll tell you what, I bet you could write a book on that guy’s life, he is definetly one of the more curious characters I have met in my life. Cause you know anyone who can read Latin, Greek, probably Turkish and Hebrew along with the fact he almost secretly helps all those kids, goes to a Fugazi show, is a college professor and a Jesuit to boot – that there is something totally unique about that person. Take care dude – maybe I’ll have a beer with you are CB’s unknowingly of course.