Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk: DVD

Dec 13, 2018

Doing any sort of “[hi]story of…” type deal—book, film, panel, whatever—is destined to attract detractors, often based just as much on who/what was not included as on who/what was included. Turn It Around has its share of omissions, some rather glaring (one of Berkeley’s key first-wave hardcore bands and arguably the most influential of U.S. anarcho-punk bands, Crucifix, is diminished to a passing mention), some more understandable (Rabid Lassie, Sewer Trout). It’d be easy as pie, especially so for scene locals, to bicker and nitpick Turn It Around and totally miss the forest for the trees—a reverential film about one of the country’s more influential venues, 924 Gilman Street, the community that built up around it and flourishes within its walls, and the bands that have called it home.

True, the early history of punk in the East Bay is kinda blown through relatively quick-like: The Free Speech Movement and hippies give way to the first smatterings of punk in the shadow of San Francisco’s larger scene housed at the Mabuhay Gardens. That in turn spawns the Maximumrocknroll multimedia juggernaut, serving as the back story leading to the establishment of Gilman. That aside, what’s left is a very well made, good-looking film (thanks to Green Day and its former manager, who serve as executive producers) lovingly crafted with the direct input of many who were/are directly involved in that scene. A two-and-a-half-hour run time sounds daunting, but pacing is such that one hardly feels it. Director Corbett Redford successfully juggles many narrative pins in the air at the same time—varying and sometimes clashing politics/viewpoints that occur between individuals, subgenres and generations; differing ways of dealing with outside pressures; the inevitable sniffing around by the music industry in the wake of “Gilman bands” Rancid and Green Day’s success; and the flawed, very human folks who brought it all into existence. It’s done in a way that accentuates the positive while maintaining a level of honesty, revealing that even the best utopic intentions of, say, a DIY punk venue has its share of challenges and missteps. Exhaustive dumpster-dive into thee history of a scene? Nope, but it is a helluva testament to the lasting effects of what people can do on their own without corporations, Svengalis, money-grubbing parasites, and all the bad, boring shit they drag along in their wake. –Jimmy Alvarado (1-2-3-4-GO!, 1234gorecords.com)