photo & text by nacrowe
film and released in part as a celebration of their 25th anniversary as a PUNK ROCK record label, A FAT WRECK: A PUNK-U-MENTARY (OPEN ENDED FILMS, 2016) is a documentary about the bands, employees and greater community that make up FAT WRECK CHORDS. prominent interviews include members of bands ranging from NOFX, LAGWAGON, GOOD RIDDANCE, BAD RELIGION, STRUNG OUT, GET DEAD, THE BOMBPOPS, NO USE FOR A NAME, PROPAGANDHI, RISE AGAINST, WIZO, ANTI-FLAG, THE LOVED ONES, BAD COP/BAD COP and AGAINST ME! among others, as well as the label heads of ASIAN MAN RECORDS and SIDEONEDUMMY RECORDS and, of course, FAT WRECK CHORDS founder/president (and NOFX frontman) FAT MIKE and his ex-wife, vice president ERIN BURKETT.
i think given the fact that this documentary was concerned primarily with the celebration of a community, it made the film a bit meandering and long-winded at times. but in a good way, because although FAT MIKE and BURKETT act as a narrative through-line for the film, what transpires is a seemingly kaleidoscopic perspective on what the record label means to a lot of people. and i thought that that sense of purpose was powerful and vastly made up for the films structural weaknesses.
so a few things that i thought were interesting:
i thought it was awesome that they totally got into the whole PROPAGANDHI making fun of FAT MIKE's PUNKVOTER campaign on one of their records. just goes to show the commitment of the label, and FAT MIKE specifically, to fight for his bands' creative freedom, even when such is at his own expense.
there is a line FAT MIKE makes about how for him business is personal. the whole "it's no personal, it's business" mantra of modern corporate culture is anathema to him. for him, the fairness and reliability of his record label is an extension of himself and his love for his chosen PUNK ROCK community. i thought that was quite touching and powerful. and it made business sense.
whats crazy is how much the world changed in 2016 with election of DONALD TRUMP. i would kill to know what FAT MIKE's take on that debacle was but this film came out right before the shit hit the fan. i guess since im on the topic, itd also be interesting to see how PROPAGANDHI may try to conflate TRUMP with CLINTON just like they did in this film with KERRY and BUSH. i get it that they are a legendary stridently progressive political PUNK ROCK band and all, but seems to me BUSH was way way worse than KERRY. seemed kind of a no-brainer even back then so im a little confused on where they were coming from with that. their take seemed pretty naive. then again, im not CANADIAN.
regardless, i really enjoyed this documentary and suggest anyone watch it that is interested in the history of modern PUNK ROCK, HARDCORE, POP PUNK or POST HARDCORE. that or anyone interested in the power of music to bridge together communities. sounds trite but this whole film is a full-throated testament to that.