Last summer before taking a trip to Vietnam I emailed my American ex-pat friend there, Hugh, and asked him what he wanted from home -- something he couldn’t live without. He emailed back:
“I am craving a CD by The Minutemen titled Double-Nickels on a Dime: one of my all-time favorites. I know it was issued, but don’t know if it's still available.”
Of all the choices of treats from home, that’s what Hugh wanted. So, this piqued my interest. When I embarked on my search for this cd, originally a double LP produced in 1984, I didn’t know that much about The Minutemen. But I was surprised to find out that a new full-length documentary about the punk rock group, “We Jam Econo: The Story of The Minutemen” was scheduled for a screening at the Yerba Buena Center right here in San Francisco. I had to miss it because of my trip, but later learned from the film’s director, Tim Irwin, that nine of the fourteen screenings were sold out. Clearly, Hugh isn’t the only passionate fan, and there is pent up yearning for this Indie Punk Rock band’s music and story.
“We Jam Econo: The Story of The Minutemen” chronicles the story of the former garage band from San Pedro, California that exploded on the scene for a brief bout of fame before the co-founder and lead guitarist D. Boon tragically died in a van accident in December 1985.
Director Tim Irwin started with 100 hours of footage of archival interviews, live performances and more than fifty new interviews, and ended up with the 85 minutes that captures the spirit of the band that interviewees call “shockingly original,” and “with no precedent.” Besides interviews with Mike Watt and archival interviews with D. Boon, Irwin interviews The Minutemen drummer George Hurley as well as Thurston Moore, Ian MacKaye, John Doe and Raymond Pettibon. All are passionate about The Minutemen, using terms like “poetry in power” to describe their music. One said The Minutemen gave him “one of the most perfect musical minutes I’d ever seen.” In the performance footage the crowds go wild for the music with its sparse lyrics that spawn the term “econo.”
Irwin relies heavily on band co-founder Mike Watt’s point of view. Watt met D. Boon at a park when they were both 13. D. Boon was playing army and leapt out of a tree and landed on Watt. A story of friendship between two boys and later two men, unfolds. In the beginning of the film Watt says “I was quite smitten” with D. Boon; he still seems to be grieving for his best friend. Director Irwin doesn’t indulge in mawkish sentimentality, although it would have been tempting because he is clearly enamored of D. Boon and The Minutemen.
By the end of the film I realized that I am completely taken with D. Boon, the unassuming, stocky artist, and the music of The Minutemen. I felt the loss of this genius and the chemistry between the band members that came together at a point in time. The reverential treatment by Irwin is contagious.
Screenings of “We Jam Econo: The Story of The Minutemen” are being held nation-wide, and it will be screened at the Red Vic in San Francisco on January 12 for two showings. The website for the film has more information about planned screenings, at: theminutemen.com
And all this from asking my friend Hugh what he wanted from home. When I emailed Hugh to tell him I located the cd, he used the word “overjoyed,” now I get his long-standing devotion and loyalty to this Indie punk rock band.
In San Francisco, this is Joan Widdifield for Movie Magazine.
© 2005 - Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D - Air Date: 12/21/05
We Jam Econo: The Story of The Minutemen
Directed by Tim Irwin