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With: Bill Rich, Jeff Fortier, Dave Budin, Tad Kepley, Ian MacKaye, Henry Rollins, Ice T, Keith Morris, Dave Brockie, Mike Dern, H.R., Neil Fallon, Kevin Seconds, Buzz Osborne, Dale Crover, Lee Ving, Angelo Moore, John "Norwood" Fisher, Todd Congelliere, Spike Cassidy, Kurt Brecht, Tesco Vee, Joey Keithley, David "Tufty" Clough, J.J. Pearson, Bruce Stuckey, Danny Roadkill, Blag Dahlia, Rikk Agnew, Roger Miret, Vinnie Stigmata, Tim Jamison, Jeff Pezzati, Bill Stephens, Steven McDonald, Jeff Clayton, Joe Queer, Donnie Mellenbruch, John Pendleton, Karen Pendleton, Loren Anderson, Richard Gwin
Written by: Brad Norman
Directed by: Brad Norman
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 135
Date: 03/29/2018
IMDB

The Outhouse: The Film - 1985-1997 (2018)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Kids of the Black Hole

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Opening at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco, Brad Norman's The Outhouse: The Film - 1985-1997 is very similar to last year's Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk in that it tells an epic story of a single punk club, using talking head interviews of many of the performers, owners, promoters, and fans who were there, as well as a few punk tunes, some video, and lots of photos. It's much longer than a punk rock movie ought to be, it tends to repeat itself, and it doesn't tell some of the stories that you think it might or should have (what was Nirvana's performance like?) but for punk rock fans, it's lots of fun.

Essentially, The Outhouse was an unremarkable cinder block building in the middle of a cornfield near Lawrence, Kansas. A few intrepid souls had the idea of turning it into a punk club, and, without the benefit of having any kind of backstage or green room for bands to relax, or even bathrooms for customers, it somehow ended up hosting memorable shows by some of punk's most legendary bands.

The list includes the Adolescents, Agnostic Front, Scratch Acid, D.R.I., M.D.C., fIREHOSE, Dag Nasty, Das Damen, Steel Pole Bath Tub, Flipper, Redd Kross, Pantera, Helmet, Dwarves, the Jesus Lizard, Bikini Kill, Fear, White Zombie, Rancid, Fugazi, the Melvins, Rollins Band, Gwar, the Circle Jerks, Body Count, Social Distortion, Bad Brains, Descendents, Sonic Youth, Green Day, Fishbone, the Meat Puppets, Nirvana, and a band I had never heard of with a great name: Gang Green. Some of the surviving members of some of these bands appear in interviews. Apparently, the late William S. Burroughs, while likely never attending a performance, hung around the club to shoot his guns. The notorious G.G. Allin's name appears on a poster with a "postponed" marked on it, but no one ever mentions whether he ever showed up.

Ultimately, while Turn It Around tried to define a particular scene, The Outhouse is only focused on a place, and its main theme is: "how cool was this?" Interviewees talk continuously about the drive through nowhere to get to the place, the first negative impressions of it ("no one is going to show up here!"), the complaints of no backstage and no bathrooms, and ultimately, what a great show they had. Some neighbors talk about how noisy and obtrusive it was, though they seem to be able to look back now and laugh. (Ice T understands where they're coming from.)

There are a few specific stories, notably a feud between Ian MacKaye of Fugazi and Dave Brockie of Gwar that seems to have come to nothing, some kind of trouble with Bad Brains (and a very weird interview with lead singer H.R.), and the one day when the graffiti was painted over (horrors!). The club changes hands over the years, the skinheads become involved, and it closes for a while, but there's no real arc or shape to the overall story. Even a great punk record ought to offer more than just chaos.

Yet I enjoyed The Outhouse. Punk rock is such a specific movement, so do-it-yourself, and so fragile (even the slightest tilt toward the mainstream means that you're not "punk" anymore), that even non-stories about its history are fun and worth listening to. In other words, hearing some of these guys talk about nothing is pretty fun. If you actually got to see a show or two at the Outhouse, that's great, but this documentary is the next best thing.

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