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Punk Rock is Thriving in the Backyards of South Central and East Los Angeles

LATINO PERSPECTIVE--Los Punks: We Are All We Have” is a documentary feature film honestly and sincerely portraying this vibrant ‘DIY’ community in Los Angeles. (Angela Boatwright) It features a new wave of loud, fast bands such as Psyk Ward, Rhythmic Asylum, Las Cochinas, Corrupted Youth and more.

The intimate and honest documentary, which made its world premiere at the Slamdance Film Festival in January as one of the 20 feature-length selections, zooms in on the genre's local promoters, musicians and devout fans — predominantly Latino teens and young adults — who find meaning in the thriving punk-rock scene of South Central and East Los Angeles.

It earned critical kudos for its behind-the-rage look at young punk rockers making a homegrown scene. Helmed by first-time director and longtime punk rocker Angela Boatwright, it is now available on iTunes.

Punk rock is thriving in the backyards of South Central and East Los Angeles. A cobbled-together family of Hispanic teens and young adults comprise the scene: bands, fans, production, marketing, and security interwoven into a sub-culture of thrash and noise and pits. The sense of belonging is palpable; emotional bonds fostered among good families and those broken, poverty and wealth, adolescence and maturity, with the music emanating a magnetic chorus for all to sing together. ‘Los Punks: We Are All We Have” is a documentary feature film honestly and sincerely portraying this vibrant ‘DIY’ community.

Inside the backyards and small rooms of this music community is a palpable sense of belonging, as noted in the trailer. "A lot of bands that have heart are poor and come from dirty, scummy, prostitute-filled, bullet-flying, filthy places that people go by as they're driving on the freeway," says one person, as clips show fans finding hope amid poverty and crime. Another adds, "The message is: You're not alone out there."

Randall Roberts from the Los Angeles Times argues that for decades a low-budget, high-energy punk rock scene has been burning through the backyards and empty lots of East Los Angeles, Boyle Heights and South Central Los Angeles.

If the new documentary “Los Punks: We Are All We Have” is any indication, the neighbors aren’t too happy about it. But the kids with mohawks keep coming anyway.

Boatwright, a professional still photographer, has shot musicians for years, and when she relocated to Los Angeles after nearly two decades in New York, she started scoping the city for projects.

“I was looking for like-minded people,” she said over coffee with Roberts in downtown Los Angeles. “I grew up into hardcore, metal and punk, and I knew L.A. had a really rich punk history. I thought, ‘I wonder what’s going on?’”

A resurgent punk scene that has thrived in and around the city since its birth in the late 1970s had blossomed once again in the shadow of the corporate music world. Each weekend, young promoters were organizing gigs away from the clubs and concert venues by booking bands in dirt lots and empty garages.

Directed by Angela Boatwright, the doc is produced for Vans: Off the Wall, Fusion and AOP Productions, and includes Doug Palladini, Eric Douat, Isaac Lee and Juan Rendon as executive producers, and Agi Orsi as producer.

(Fred Mariscal came to Los Angeles from Mexico City in 1992 to study at the University of Southern California and has been in LA ever since. He is a community leader who serves as Vice Chair of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition and sits on the board of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council representing Larchmont Village. He was a candidate for Los Angeles City Council in District 4. Fred writes Latino Perspective for CityWatch and can be reached at: [email protected])

-cw