Back when I served as a noteworthy Lieutenant Governor of California in the 1990's, I remember a conversation I had with one of my punk-minded staffers. He had heard from my wife about my newfound interest in punk rock music and sought to indulge me about it (perhaps as a bold networking move). (Sharon has always been egging me on about developing actual hobbies, worried that I might become a dull automaton and let work become my life in general.) So I shot the breeze for a few minutes with this wide-eyed, faux-hawked lad and he asked me if I had been to any shows lately, to which I replied, "No, I can't neglect my constitutional duties: of presiding over the California State Senate, of attending some UC Regents meetings, of maintaining the quiet dignity of the Lieutenant Governor's office, etc."
After a few minutes worth of jibba jabba, the subject turned to a VHS video: Pennywise's "Home Movies." He told me about it being one of the most graphic, disturbing, even at times outright violent punk videos he's seen -- yet also the most representative of the experience of seeing a punk band. He didn't personally own a copy; he saw it at a friend's house, and by then it had been long out of print. Nonetheless, this prodigal son of a prominent California State Senator had stroked my fires of curiosity for "Home Movies" long enough such that when Epitaph Records announced that they'd re-release "Home Movies" on DVD, I became emboldened and gleefully exuberant to say the least. I loudly proclaimed: "Finally some old school Pennywise!" (IMHO, Land of the Free and From the Ashes were just embarassing to say the least.)
After a number of repeated viewings, I'd like to share some of my ruminations with you:
Home Movies is less of a music video than it is a documentary video. It's raw and unrefined -- the analog sound fuzziness remains from its VHS days, and some of it comes from hand-held cameras. Still, it's only about forty minutes long and there are only six complete live performances of songs -- obviously not the expansive live concert DVD. Since these songs aren't listed on the DVD case, I'll post them here:
Wouldn't It Be Nice
Every Single Day (video clip of rehearsal)
It's What You Do With It (video clip of rehearsal)
Even though it falls short of a music video, it more than excels as a straight-forward, band-authorized documentary video. The professionally shot live performances reveal all and hide nothing: every camera glance of the hard charging, guitar-riffing band is matched with the full on roughhousing of the crowd moshing and hurting each other, stage diving, and lounging around on stage belching out the songs in unison. One thing's for sure: audience participation is mandatory at a Pennywise show. Obviously, the band thrives on its interaction with its fans to the point where it just wouldn't be right to not document it. Usually you can't get this kind of footage from any ordinary DVD or any other punk DVD in general (save for Minor Threat's) without lots and lots of legal clearances, which doesn't happen a lot in today's litigious world. It's a refreshing view -- sweat, shoving, noxious odors, building steam, mangled bodies, and wrenched clothing in all.
Nonetheless, the DVD really makes a turn for the noteworthy, the graphic and disturbing with the band footage. You get to see Fletcher Dragge's infamous "Treatments," his innocent little pranks on the band and assorted roadies that easily border on outright sadism. You get to see some footage of the crowd getting out of control -- and reflect on how easily an innocent kinda-docile mosh pit can turn into a full-on violent brawl with bodies flailing, fists flying and some intentional bruising. There's a scene where the brawl takes a turn for the band, where some of the bodies knock over pieces of drummer Byron McMackin's drum set-up, but still Byron continues pounding away while others help put back the drum set-up as the fights continue a few feet away. Towards the end of the video, as the credits are rolling, you get to see singer Jim Lindberg violently shove to the floor some white-power skinhead making the Hitler salute while standing on stage with the band. Further augmenting the gross-out factor, you get to see random shots of Fletcher vomiting on other people, intentionally.
Still, there are some non-threatening scenes of band footage: band members in the van on the road, running to their motel suites, chilling with each other after shows, showing off their practice space in a large steel storage container, etc. Those new to the band get to see the original bassist Jason Matthew Thirsk -- memories that should hold new emotional significance for the band. But those scenes are interspersed as few and far between, as Fletcher's manic "Treatments" upon the unsuspecting take the stage.
Hence, this is a great DVD for those that love the old school Pennywise and want to revive memories of the old-school days and those that can't enough of the shock-value of Fletcher's antics. And, yes, there's some male nudity. (Yes, a great classy way to end a punk DVD review.)