Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Local filmmakers chronicle the Chicago punk circuit in its heydey -- and bring bands back together

by Sara Abadi

“Punk and hardcore are the most misrepresented genres,” says Joe Losurdo. “If it’s not the Ramones, the Clash or the Sex Pistols, it didn’t exist. If it’s not New York, L.A. or London, it didn’t exist.”

Starting Nov. 24, this will no longer be the case when Losurdo’s documentary, You Weren’t There: A History of Chicago Punk 1977-1984, premieres. You Weren’t There chronicles Chicago’s punk movement with archival concert footage and interviews with bands, DJs, promoters and fans within the Chicago punk scene.

Losurdo was inspired to make this film after years of Chicago not getting due credit in terms of punk history. “Chicago was always getting the short end of the stick in the music world, especially punk,” says Losurdo. “There’s more out there about Cleveland than Chicago, which is ridiculous.”

For seven years Losurdo and his wife, Christina Tillman, collected old footage from friends, bands and other members of Chicago’s punk scene, a collection that revealed an interesting history. “It was a strange scene with the cross pollination of the gay scene, the punk scene and the mob,” explains Losurdo. “It’s very Chicago.” Though Losurdo admits the footage is “nothing pro, nothing fancy,” he feels the larger significance is having a movie showing a Chicago scene existed at all.

After the movie’s premiere at the Portage Theater, punk lovers should head to the aftershow at the Beat Kitchen. The show’s lineup -- all bands featured in You Weren’t There -- alone promises an exciting evening. Mentally Ill’s original 1979 lineup will play along with Negative Element (their first show since 1983) and End Result performing for the first time in 20 years.

Losurdo is looking forward to a punk-filled night and welcomes all Chicagoans interested in their role in punk history, but warns “if you don’t like punk music I don’t know how this film will appeal to you.”

You Weren’t There: A History of Chicago Punk 1977-1984 premieres Saturday, Nov. 24, at the Portage Theater (4050 N. Milwaukee, 773/736-4050) at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $10. Punk rockers 18 and over should head over to the Beat Kitchen (2110 W. Belmont, 773/281-4444) at 10:30 p.m. for the after show. Admission to the concert is $8.