25 years ago I was attracted to the Portland punk scene. It wasn’t like I lived at “the house” or jumped off the stage ever… but you can find a few of my pictures from back then here. Anyway, there have been several punk documentaries and while each had their high moments I can’t say any really blew me away. When I finally got around to watching “Northwest Passage: The Birth Of Portland’s DIY Culture” I didn’t expect much. It was actually quite good! I guess it sorta makes Portland seem a bit backwater… but the thing that stuck out watching this film was it didn’t fit the model of many such films where the over-the-hill rockers talk about things and you know they’re exaggerating. Plus, this is perhaps the only Punk documentary that isn’t overshadowed by Henry Rollins.
The DIY aspect really shines through in this film. It’s pretty motivating. I mean, a bunch of these punks organized and produced a live album (10-29-79) which not only sounds good but was actually realized!
Unfortunately, a lot of the old footage is all from one club (the Earth Tavern) and, while I may be old, I wasn’t old enough to get into that club back then. (Though, I do recall getting into see “X” at another >21 club on the grounds that I was taking photographs.) The interviews on this film have this annoying noise bed that I think was intentional… the audio is fine but that noise bugged me.
Although most footage is from the Earth… they do have some awesome pieces from Poison Idea, Dead Kennedys, and others. Plus, the clips from the local news including amNorthwest are classic! Is that woman Margie Boulé? It was great when the punks on that show confront the news media for failing to recognize actual music that was being produced here.
Not enough Wipers in this film, but they’re in there. I’m not saying it was the best documentary of all time, but it far exceeded my expectations and it’s worth the 90 minutes or so to watch it.
At least check out the 2 minute trailer (here)