Magazine article The Fader

Ancient Fun in the Heartland: You Weren't There Celebrates Chicago's Punk Past

Magazine article The Fader

Ancient Fun in the Heartland: You Weren't There Celebrates Chicago's Punk Past

Article excerpt

You Weren't There is an incredibly ambiguous title for a film about a largely forgotten subject-in this case, Chicago's punk scene from 1977 to 1984. It's aggressive in both nostalgia and ownership, the implied flip side being, of course, that by not being there, you missed out. It could be directed at the press, who largely failed to cover the city's burgeoning music scene, focusing instead on what was happening on either coast. But it could be sentimental, a history lesson about the ideal past. It could also be the passing of personal legend: grandpa sitting you down to tell you about watching the people partying at Le Mere Vipere, doing coke and fucking beneath the bleachers while listening to The Jam before the club burned down. Or finally, it could be seeing Tutu and the Pirates play "I've Got Zits" at Piss Alley the one night it existed.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

What made Chicago's scene different from the parallel scenes of the time that encircle the film's discussions-New York, LA and Washington, DC-is the same thing that makes the whole city different from those three major metropolises: it's in the middle of nowhere and very solidly working-class. There were no aloof rich kids screwing off on the weekends accidentally inventing hardcore in the shadow of Wall Street, Hollywood or the White House. When two members of the band Mentally Ill discuss their song "Gacy's Place" with 30 years' distance, it's clear that they just wanted to piss people off because they were bored. …

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