Sahan Jayasuriya
“Bad Brains

A Band in DC” at the Milwaukee Film Festival

Over five years in the making, this film documenting these heroes of hardcore is definitely worth the wait.

By - Sep 27th, 2012 01:25 pm
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“Bad Brains: A Band IN DC” opens this weekend as part of the Milwaukee Film Festival.

This year’s Milwaukee Film Festival has collected all its music documentaries into one category: “Sound Vision,” sponsored by WMSE, The Pabst Theater and The Hotel Foster.

This isn’t just a collection of Some Kind Of Monster-s, though; “Sound Vision” features a broad variety of films sure to please the music fans and movie-goers alike. Opening this weekend are An Affair of the Heart, which follows Rick Springfield and his rabid fan base on tour and I Want My Name Back, which documents rap music icons the Sugar Hill Gang’s reclamation of the money and credit that is rightfully theirs. The Hotel Foster will be hosting live music after parties, with a performance from Crankshaft kicking off opening night. The schedule for those can be found here.

Also opening this weekend is Bad Brains: A Band in DC, a fantastic portrait of the hardcore punk pioneers. The band’s impact on modern music is right up there with The Ramones, with everyone from the Beastie Boys to Living Colour citing the band’s unique blend of punk rock, reggae and heavy metal as a crucial influence. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that someone decided to document the band’s history, even if it did take two decades to begin and more than five years to complete.

A bit of background: Bad Brains formed in 1977 in Washington, D.C. Over the next decade, the band became a pioneering act in the genre later known as hardcore. Bad Brains’ musical precision, Rastafarian overtones and high-energy live shows made them stand out among their peers, and over the next decade, they would not only influence a countless amount of other musicians, but set the standard for what a punk rock band could be as well.

Using archival live footage, animated reenactments and plenty of interviews, Bad Brains: A Band in DC stretches from the band’s beginnings in the late ’70s as a jazz fusion group, through personnel changes and into brief, successive stints on major labels in the ’90s, finally ending in 2007 following the band’s tour to support then-most recent album Build a Nation.

Normalcy has never been the case for Bad Brains. Eccentric singer H.R. has only grown more intense over the years, causing much turmoil within the band. Regardless, the band’s original members – singer H.R, drummer Earl Hudson, bassist Darryl Jennifer and guitarist Dr. Know – have always found their way back to each other. The drama, the controversy and the conflict are all captured on film, giving insight into the love/hate relationship between the band’s members.

HR in the early 80s. Photo: Bad Brains official Facebook.

While critics and fans alike have never been shy to point out the band’s relevance and impact, directors Ben Logan and Mandy Stein have made some fantastic decisions in their choices of interview subjects, a diverse cast of musicians including members of Black Flag, Minor Threat, The Beastie Boys and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Hell, they even got Dave Grohl gushing about them. Also interviewed are members of the band’s friends and families, who drive home the crucial importance of the band and their music.

Whether you’re a fan of the band or not, Bad Brains: A Band in DC is an fantastic film, and a must-see for any music fan. Honestly, they really are that important.

Bad Brains: A Band In DC debuts Saturday, Sept. 29, at 6:45 p.m. at the Oriental Theatre. Additional screenings will be Sunday, Sept. 30, at 9 p.m. at the Oriental and Monday, Oct. 1, at 5 p.m. at Fox-Bay Cinema. For more information, visit the MFF website.

For a full list of films, check out TCD’s Flick by Flick guides to the Milwaukee Film Festival, covering premieres during the first weekend and the month of October, by Matthew Reddin and Sahan Jayasuriya.

Categories: Arts & Culture, Movies, Rock

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