Left: Bad Brains; Right: The Cramps.
Capturing the rawness of punk rock on film or video has never been an easy feat — not when so much of the energy of the live shows relies on spontaneity, atmosphere and, yes, even danger.
Because of this, with rare exceptions like The Decline of Western Civilization and The Filth and the Fury, some of the most impressive footage out there has been lo-fi bootlegs shot and circulated by fans.
Director Paul Rachman’s new music video for legendary Washington, D.C., hardcore band Bad Brains, “I against I,” is actually footage culled from a live show in 1986, It was shot in black-and-white 16mm and Super 8mm, and re-edited to be included as a QuickTime movie on the band’s new career-spanning Banned in D.C.: Bad Brains Greatest Riffs compilation. Rachman, who went on to shoot clips for Alice in Chains and Pantera, lovingly presents his archival material with very little tweaking, letting the true spirit of the show come across. It’s a rare chance to see the band at their peak. “I against I” raises the question of when the entire performance will be available to fans.
U.K. artists Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard chose the ever-popular re-enactment form for File under Sacred Music, their tribute to New York City punk/rockabilly outfit the Cramps. In 1978 the band threw an impromptu gig at the Napa Mental Institute in California, performing for an audience mostly made up of psychiatric patients. Since then, the show has gone on to become legend in punk rock annals, in large part due to the crappy bootleg video that circulates to this day. Forsyth and Pollard had the task of re-creating not only the inspired depravity of the original show but also the decidedly shaky quality of the bootleg. But with the help of indie rock icons such as Holly Golightly and Alfonso Pinto (gamely transforming themselves into the Cramps’s Poison Ivy and Lux Interior) and a whole new audience of the mentally ill, Sacred Music instantly becomes a punk classic of its own, and a wicked comment on the mental health care system to boot. For screening info, check out www.fileundersacredmusic.com.