The untold story of a series of Reagan-era guerrilla punk and industrial desert happenings in Southern California that are now recognized as the inspiration for Burning Man, Lollapalooza, and Coachella. Interviews and rare performance footage of Sonic Youth, Minutemen, Meat Puppets, Redd Kross, Einstürzende Neubauten, Survival Research Laboratories, Savage Republic, Swans and more.Written by
Shuttle busing a murder of LA kids out to the Mojave Desert and attempting a musical happening, Desolation Centre was the first punk version of Woodstock. The bare bones year one operation featured Savage Republic and the Minutemen, proveing successful enough to entice New York scenesters Sonic Youth, german industrial experimenters Einsturzende Neubauten, and mad scientist Mark Pauline blowing up, to join in on the action.
This was the early eighties, and though the rest of the world was chiefly unawares, the Desolation Center projects proved very influential, and pointed directly to such gargantuan beasts as Lollapalooza, Coachella and Burning Man. Luckily photos were taken, footage was shot, and many people survived to retell the tale. The resulting documentary, if a bit scrambled and rough, does a nice job of capturing the yahoo artistic explosion of a new generation looking to create their own identity, their own scene, their own happening.
Stuart Sweezey, who organized the festivals, also directs this doc, and thus offers crucial insider information, but very little distance from the source. It all sounds pretty cool and fabulous and often outta control, and maybe it was, but the film really works best when some of the outsiders like Thurston Moore (who came cross country because he was such a geeky fan) and Blixa Bargeld (who remembers almost nothing) have their say.
Desolation Center works as an historic document, a surprising bit of entertainment, and a look into a time and place few people knew or cared about, but should have.
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