Punks have always had a misunderstood reputation of troubled youth succumbing to their bad ways and rebelling out of angst. In last week’s screening of Los Punks: We Are All We Have at CineFestival, we got an inside look at how for some young Chicanos in East and South Central Los Angeles, punk is all they have to survive.
Punk is more than a genre of music or a derogatory term, it is a way of life developed through DIY (Do it Yourself) culture and a drive against capitalism.
“It started off as a webisode, I did five webisodes for Vans Off the Wall as part of their 2014 documentary campaign about specifically the backyard scene in East L.A that was really successful, so successful they went ahead and commissioned a full length documentary about the scene,” Director Angela Boatwright disclosed to the crowd after the screening of the documentary.
Angela was a New York City transplant in Los Angeles looking to find the local punk scene (after being passionate and exposed to it for so long, she photographed bands at CBGB’s back in the 90s) and after a year she found the backyard scene. Angela went on to explain that it took almost three years for the backyard DIY scene to accept her into their world.
In the documentary, she highlighted the lives of four punks highly affiliated with the DIY scene and their own reasons as to how punk saved their lives and the direction in which they are headed.
The first punk whose life we’re given incite to is Nacho Corrupted who is the front man of LA punk band called Corrupted Youth who spends most of his day promoting and putting on DIY shows at various locations throughout East and South Central. After losing his mother at a young age, Nacho has found a strong family bond through the scene and has even strengthened his relationship with his sister who is always supporting what he does and is always by his side helping him put shows together. At the end of the documentary, a promoter had approached Nacho for help promoting a Casualties show that his band was to open up for. It had been his dream to open up for the Casualties as they related to the lifestyle he grew up in. In fact, it was Jorge Herrera who gave the documentary the title. “We’re all we got” he says to the camera after discussing how he grew up in poverty and how punk saved him.
The documentary transitions perfectly throughout the protagonists highlighted by Boatwright, giving an inside look at their everyday life all while showing how they all interact amongst each other. They aren’t strangers; they recognize each other through the scene and are constantly at each other’s shows.
The second punk highlighted, Gary Alvarez, lead singer of Rhythmic Asylum talks about how Nacho has access to his Facebook account to have more access to more bodies they can get at shows. Gary grew up in poverty but is just enjoying himself and making music before he goes off to law school. Apart from being in a band, Gary also advocates for better education in poor communities across Los Angeles where most of his “angst” comes from. He is very family orientated and has no problem sharing his art and music with his family who seem genuinely interested in what he does.
Unfortunately, that is not the case for most punks, the third punk’s life who we follow is Alex Pedorro front man for Psykward who stated that punk music literally saved his life after many suicide attempts. Alex doesn’t come from poverty, but instead was trapped in an oligarchic household where he and his father did not get along. Apart from punk music, Alex shows signs of being an aspiring chef whose cooking impresses even his father even if his music.
Perhaps the most interesting story, in my opinion is that of April Desmadre who is only 15 years old and perhaps one of the youngest punks in the scene that seems completely desensitized to many aspects of life. April is a show organizer who put shows together in order to support herself and her mother and can be found in the pit holding her own. In the documentary, April takes in her best friend Sylv, Sylv’s boyfriend and daughter in to her home and calls them her family. In one moving scene, April is holding Sylv’s daughter who is crying saying that she doesn’t have anything to worry about. ‘Don’t you want to be a good girl and stay in school and go to high school like me?’ she says to the upset child in her arm. In this scene we see April, still child herself, acting as a mature adult and handling the difficulties she faces with a grain of salt.
“There’s two sides to everything. Like Sylv for example [punk mentioned in the film who takes care of April Desmadre as a second daughter] she’s a complete brawler but also has a beautiful seven year old daughter but she is really an amazing person and an amazing mom. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. So there are two sides to every story. I personally love the punks so much that I think that’s what is part of what allowed them to be real and talk about their feelings and not be so tough and typical. I adore them, I’m with them all the time and I guess that’s one of the things that helped them open up about who they really are,” Boatwright explained.
The number of punks that could be seen at these backyard shows was astonishing; there were times they took up the entire block on a street. All with their own story as to where they came from and why they are so passionate about their punk scene.