“Rock” documentaries are always interesting to me. I get a chance to learn about a musician, singer or scene from (ostensibly) the people who were there. If the director and writer(s) do a real good job of putting the story together – via not only narration, but spoken interviews and video footage – the story can be riveting. James June Schneider, Paul Bishow and Sam Lavine’s PUNK THE CAPITAL is one of the better rock docs. (I put rock in quotes above because hardcore punk is about as far from “rock” as Washington, DC is from Washington, Seattle.)
Covering the nascent DC hardcore scene from 1976 to 1983, Punk the Capital uses historic footage as well as recently shot interviews with almost everyone who had a decent-sized role in that hardcore world. And – for me this is BIG! – this time Henry Rollins really has something to do with the story! I’ve seen him in more than a handful of documentaries, apparently because everyone thinks he’s super important to rock ’n’ roll in general, and he usually comes off as peripheral to the subject. (“Hey, what about Rollins?! Your average person probably knows who he is, or at least his name!”) (Same with Elvis Costello, by the way. He doesn’t have to be in every rockumentary!) This time, Rollins was actually a part of the scene, singing lead in the band SOA (State of Alert). Though the band was around for only a brief time, he was important enough to the group that when Rollins left to join L.A.’s Black Flag, SOA ceased being. But no matter because there were bands like Bad Brains, Minor Threat, The Slickee Boys and more to carry the torch for impassioned, intelligent, hardcore music. Played fast and loud (or sometimes slow ’n’ reggaefied, too, if you were Bad Brains), the way punk was meant to be played.
Punk the Capital debuted in 2019 with showings and appearances by people like HR (Bad Brains), Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat, later Fugazi) and more. This Blu-ray or DVD was released in time for Record Store Day but apparently is available beyond RSD’s typically limited runs. (And the physical copies include over 50 minutes of additional footage including live concert material.) In fact, you can order it, along with other merch, via the movie’s website. I suggest you do! – Marsh Gooch