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Another State of Mind

Another State of Mind

1984, Dirs. Peter Stuart and Adam Small

Social Distortion, Youth Brigade, and Minor Threat

Another State of Mind is a prime example of no - budget documentary making, following Youth Brigade and an insanely young Social Distortion around the U.S. and Canada on a D.I.Y. tour. While the camera and sound work are extremely (and probably intentionally) primitive, filmmakers Peter Stuart and Adam Small pull off several creative shots. There are also some magic moments as the bands are captured on stage: Social D performing "Mommy's Little Monster", and a P.A. - less Minor Threat leading a massive sing - a - long. Interviews with the touring musicians and roadies provide insights into the punk rock lifestyle and are for the most part entertaining. We learn of the hardships of being black and punk, we hear Ian Mackaye outline the ideology of Straight Edge years before it became fashionable, and hear testimonials from countless punks about why they went punk and why they want to stay that way. The star of the film is unquestionably Social D frontman Mike Ness. This is long before he became the Rock and Roll Outlaw / Johnny Cash for the Millenium that he is now. Here he's just another young punk looking for a show and place to crash. The film is named after the song he wrote during and about the tour, and we get to see the song come together in various in-between show footage.

The tour itself was the brainchild of Shawn Stern, a member of the band Youth Brigade and the founder of Los Angeles' Better Youth Organization. He founded this organization with the goal of showing the world that punk was not simply a violent, mindless excercise in chaos, but that it provided a means of expression and an outlet to kids that couldn't find it anywhere else. So he booked a 35 date / 5 week tour, got 11 guys in a School Bus, and hit the road. The bands perform across the U.S. and even up into Canada. Bad Religion makes a short cameo, and they hook up with Minor Threat in Washington D.C. Things start out well, with the high point of the tour coming in Canada at a Punk Rock commune. Of course, the euphoria soon wears off and things deteriorate, hitting rock bottom in D.C.

Everything is captured in a claustrophobic style by the camera crew. The film and sound quality have a punk rock feel; nothing glossed over, just the raw, unfiltered reality. It feels as if one is on the bus, except without the smell of a dozen unwashed punks. For the most part, Stern succeeds in his quest of showing punks and Punk in a positive light. In their interview bits, the musicians and crew involved in the tour come off very well. It is the interviews with the fans that left me cold. Mostly street people, they try to justify their existence by talking in broad terms about "injustice", "society", or their parents. There are one or two who actually sound intelligent, but most seem to be hurting their own cause. But the focus is on the musicians and their music, and those are the parts of the film that are the strongest. Watching Mike Ness compose the soon to be title track on someone's back steps is a great moment, and most of the live footage reminded me of teenage sunday afternoons spent deep in the bowels of Boston's smelly, filthy, mostly now defunct clubs. Ah, punk rock, before you became big business. Ah punk rock, before Green Day came along and ruined everything. Goddamnit.

IN CLOSING: Punk Rock 101: Required Viewing. If you're a fan of any of the afore-mentioned bands, this is a must see. Fans of Social D especially, for as I said Ness is clearly the star. Fans of rockumentary, you could do worse. Almost as entertaining as the Ted Nugent "Behind the Music", and that's a compliment.