There’s not much to say when the end credits roll on PUNK BAND, a documentary that follows punk rock band Voices Of Addiction as they implode on tour. If the film is attempting to show the futility of playing live music in today’s economy, then it is an earth-shattering success. The crushing hopelessness of nomadic movement, interspersed with pseudo-rebellious musings, shows a mediocre band playing to handfuls of punks in a rapidly declining American landscape. Grim stuff indeed, and to cap it off, with its abrupt ending it feels like a punch to the gut. It’s also done with a professional level of production and well-managed insert shots from the early 20th century, to superimpose against the modern American landscape. These inserts demonstrate an awareness that times have changed, and the shimmer and glow of early optimism in that century are now grim times indeed, with Trump’s inauguration being the most effective example.
It’s a bleak film, not only due to the content, but from the crushing reality that you are watching a band with so few prospects make their way through the country playing to mostly empty rooms, a reality for most bands that tour today. But, to watch a band that has been doing this for years seems cruel to capture on film, though it’s no wonder as to why they have not gained a following. The band’s musical style is Rise Against worship, with enough ska and ham fisted lyrics to convey a truly high school aesthetic.
This is the PUNK BAND official trailer. Watch it!
While what’s missing from the music is a form of self-awareness, what is missing from the film is a proper analysis of the events that just unfurled, to show us the significance of why it all matters. While the group finishes on the road, very little is shown to demonstrate how the band actually affected the members following its dissolution, apart from Vinnie, who appears genuinely lost at finding his only exit strategy to get out of the small town that he hates disappear. The only truly captivating character is a gay punk in their travels who recently watched their partner die, and even this is presented as a non sequitur before heading into another one of the band’s songs, his mournful experience never to be revisited or drawn out any further.
By the time the band actually breaks up, it’s less physical confrontation than the trailer would have you believe. This is perhaps one of the most irksome aspects of the film: for music that is supposed to be savage and convey struggle, it is terribly milquetoast in its portrayal. The band isn’t particularly intense, the fights are brief shouting matches, and the break up is done off screen. One would expect some more brutality than that; I know I would have traded in the professional cameras for a band that was actually gripping in its dysfunction. But maybe this is the greatest ace that director Bradley Pontecore holds. Perhaps the doc is showing acts like Voices Of Addiction are precisely the kind of bands that permeate the landscape without any sort of actual voice, ironically given the band’s name. Instead, the generic title of the film and the generic nature in which the band lives, tours, and dies all seem like a prognosis on the nature of punk today: it’s fucking dead, man.
Director: Bradley Pontecore
Release Date: July 13, 2018
Run Time: 80 minutes