Scenes From Friday's Decline of Western Civilization Screening And Show At Texas Theatre.
Prior to directing Wayne's World, Penelope Spheeris had already released the first two installments of her The Decline of Western Civilization trilogy, a three-part visual report on punk in its various forms from 1979 to 1997.
Until this summer, though, distribution of the films had been spotty at best, and none of the three had been released on DVD until a four-disc box set came out in June. To celebrate the release, all three films were screened at the Texas Theatre, some for the first time ever. Friday's showing of the opening installment — detailing Los Angeles' underground punk scene circa 1980 — also featured a live Q&A with Spheeris and a post-screening punk show.
The film itself attracted audiences young and old, all diverse in background. But it was this screening's paired musical performance that made the whole night work. Quoting the famous “We fear change” line delivered by Dana Carvey's Garth character in Wayne's World, Spheeris admitted that it was her own acceptance of change and drive to continuously move forward that drove the Decline footage deeper and deeper into her vault.
Now available for all to see, though, her films prove to be both insightful and gratifying. So too did Friday's event on the whole, as some local punks showed there are still ways to find joy and anguish through visceral music all these years later.
Denton no-wave punk anti-heroes Bukkake Moms came rushing in two by two, like animals boarding Noah's Arc with its dual guitar, dual bass and dual drum spasm it induced between the theatre's haunting screen. For almost a half an hour, the evening's closing festivities continued to challenge the thoughts and ideals previously destroyed by the acts featured in Decline. It was, by all means, defying.
Also inciting the minimal audience was Mansion, a grinding Oakland based league of noise-oriented wizards. It was the band's insinuating in-your-face, but so distant, take on punk that made one douse themselves in the genre in the first place.
All the while, Shiny Around The Edges, the cosmic and minimal duo comprised of Michael and Jenny Seman, found itself deep in an ocean of warbly feedback, enough to stir a late-summer tsunami within the well-conditioned space. Jenny's minimal drum setup and Michael's doubling single guitar left one impressed at the complexity of just two human beings working together.
Elsewhere, Deflowered Electric Fleshbride, the warped vocal orchestra produced by Aaron Gonzales, collectively enchanted the evening's punk vibe. Dressed in his signature black, laced covering, Gonzales spooked the few whose attention was still tightly gripped. It was a near-perfect entry to another chapter of the raw escape.
In total, both the niche film and the performances that followed, were appropriately hard to stomach given the subject matter at hand. For that rare breed of human that truly appreciates the history of the scene in question, though, it was an immersive and enlightening experience.