The music documentary screening at Will's Pub this week doesn't have to pretend importance to discuss a certain San Diego punk/hardcore scene. It's Gonna Blow: San Diego's Music Underground 1986-1996 is a sincerely warped time-warp to the house parties, backyard blowouts and nasty small-club shows that big memories are made of for devotees of any scene. These were the kind of shows, as a commentator in the film says poignantly, that you wait all week for and remember your whole life.
The video footage of bands like Pitchfork, Drive Like Jehu and Crash Worship is the kind of stuff serious YouTube fans comb the site specifically seeking (often to disappointing ends). Featuring terrifying violence, psychotic stage antics and bad-trip nightmares that, when safely on the screen, induce grins and raised brows, these shows look like the most heartfelt hardcore seen at Uncle Lou's if it were on the kinda meth they boast about on Breaking Bad. It's crazy impressive how much footage they dug up, and the film is paced to keep you involved as tight-knit high school friends dodge skinheads to save their scene by hosting secret shows. The viewer drops into wild house shows and trippy backyard parties, as well as sanctified venues like the Casbah, as legends like Ian MacKaye (Fugazi), John Reis (Rocket From the Crypt), Milo Aukerman (Descendents) and many more rehash nearly every show booked by San Diego key player Tim Mays – the Casbah's owner, who booked every band crucial to a scene that was once revered as "the next Seattle" at a time when Seattle itself was still very much Seattle.
On top of that, they managed to dig up a ridiculously rad archive of old show flyers (Sonic Youth, the Cramps, Circle Jerks, Melvins and so many more) that are flung across the screen just as they were likely tossed on telephone poles back in the day. If you're a true scene nerd, you'll be hitting pause repeatedly to try to complete your understanding of the scene by jotting down supporting acts and tracking down their discogs (if you can unearth them).
Beneath the buzzing nostalgia and shock-me footage, though, there's this lovely message for anyone embedded in any scene that (in no way overbearingly) reminds each player – whether you're performing shows, booking shows, attending shows or any mix of the three – that the only way for a scene to mean anything is for its participants to be genuinely interested in what everyone is doing. You can't just pussyfoot a legacy. As you see talented musicians pivot to form new bands – drawing on creative strength and legitimate inside-the-scene influences to progress their scene – some of punk's greatest masters are still so smitten with former bandmates that they schoolgirl-blush while shrugging off credit for the scene's certain magic. It's this kind of cohesion that directs attention instead toward the San Diego underground as a whole, and excitingly, finally, brings it to light.