Although Austin claims to be the "Live Music Capital of The World,” Dallas has certainly carved out its spot in music history. Deep Ellum today may be an adult Disneyland full of dance clubs, retail shops and eateries with few live original music venues left, but once upon a time in the late 1980s, it was a sparse industrial wasteland ripe for cheap warehouse rentals, perfect for underground clubs.
Lowest Greenville Avenue was not a bougie, walkable shopping and foodie experience but more of a college hang out — with the exception of venues DJ's and The Hot Klub. Even as far as Interstate 35 at Motor Street, punk lived at Slipped Disk/Common Ground.
Fringe Media's new film, Everything Is A OK; A Dallas, Texas Punk Rock Documentary, expands the boundaries and delves deep into the punk music history of Dallas.
From the granddaddies of the punk scene, The Nervebreakers — and their infamous opening slot for The Sex Pistols at The Longhorn Ballroom in 1978 — all the way up to the last gasps of original punk culture in Deep Ellum, Everything Is A OK offers a plethora of bands and luminaries reminiscing about those crazy, hazy days.
Director/editor/producer Justin Powers (who brought us Pot Zombies as well as other independent films of the underground ilk) had a massive task when he began the project about a decade ago.
“I grew up in Arkansas and always loved Texas punk rock," he says.
Powers moved to Dallas in the late '90s and was part of the music scene for 20 years, booking shows and putting out a few records.
"I had always wanted to make a music documentary because it seemed like it would be fun to do — as long as the topic is something you love — so I had kicked around the idea of doing a documentary about Texas punk rock," he says. "I realized I didn't have the funds to travel around to get footage and shoot interviews, so I got the idea to localize the project and focus only on the Dallas punk scene, which made sense because I was already personally friends with a good majority of the people I would need to talk to, to start getting it done."
Powers points out that while there are numerous films about East Coast and West Coast punk, there's
"hardly anything about Texas punk."
"There's a lot of Texas music that has had a big influence on artists around the world," he adds. "People need to learn about it."
The film begins in the late '70s at DJ's on Lower Greenville, and from then on, it's a journey through time, music and mayhem.
"Dallas has had some great bands that really didn't get very well known outside of Texas, so I tried to make this a very entertaining, fun film," Powers says. " Hopefully, music lovers outside of Texas will also watch it and get turned on to some awesome punk rock from Dallas.”
To tell a full gritty picture, the director interviewed over 60 subjects.
“We have a very eclectic group of musicians, artists, club owners, music lovers and concert promoters from each generation sharing memories and thoughts with us,” Powers says.
Besides the bands, venue (both legal and “illegal”) staff recall tales of The Hot Klub, Studio D, The Theatre Gallery, The Twilite Room, Bar of Soap, The Orbit Room, MoonTunes, Spider Babies, Red Blood Club, as well as house punk parties.
The list of musicians, bands and aficionados is an almost encyclopedic who's-who of Dallas punk and underground royalty, including T Tex Edwards, Mike Haskins, scene instigator Jeffrey Liles, punk archivist Mikey Hawkins and Rigor Mortis/Blowhole/GWAR bassist Casey Orr.
Some of the subjects Powers interviewed are no longer alive, such as artist and drummer Mosquito, Bar of Soap investor Richard Bean, and The Hickoids' co-founder, guitarist and vocalist Davy Jones.
“I kept the film right under two hours, so there are a lot of stories and segments that were not able to make the final cut, so I am going to be sharing them on the Fringe Media YouTube page with some video extras with unused footage from the documentary,” Powers says.
Interspersed with interviews is the meat at the heart of the platter of punk culture: the music. Footage acquired by Powers includes influential bands such as The Loco Gringos, Damage Case, Riot Squad, The Assassins, Bomb Squad, The Scandals TX and The Agitators.
Whether viewed as a trip down the memory lane you once drunkenly stumbled upon or a comprehensive educational lesson on what you missed, Everything Is A OK may be the closest thing we have at the moment to truly experiencing live music.
The Dallas screening of the documentary will take place at the Texas Theatre Drive-in on Friday, Nov. 27, in Austin at The Lost Well on Saturday, Nov. 28, and a cast/crew-only screening in Haltom City that Sunday. The DVD will be available for personal consumption on Dec. 9 at the Fringemedia Facebook page, just in time for holiday giving.
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