Documentary Explores 3 Decades Of East Bay Punk

Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk premiered in San Francisco in May as part of the 16th SF DocFest.

The documentary focuses on Berkeley's 924 Gilman Street music collective, but also covers 30 years of punk music history in the Bay Area, including footage from New Method Warehouse in Oakland, an early punk venue and squat.

Produced by Green Day and narrated by Iggy Pop, the film includes interviews with the members of Green Day, Jello Biafra and East Bay Ray of the Dead Kennedys and Kirk Hammett of Metallica, with several sessions recorded in Green Day’s Jingletown Studios in Fruitvale.

The documentary begins in the 70s, when Bill Graham—one of the country's biggest concert promoters—wanted nothing to do with punk. To meet demand, black Oakland-based jazz promoter Wesley Robinson ended up becoming the East Bay's first punk impresario.

That same decade in San Francisco, Dirk Dirksen, referred to in the film as "the Pope of Punk," began hosting several punk bands at Mabuhay Gardens, a Filipino restaurant in North Beach.

Neurosis at New Method Warehouse in Oakland, 1985. | Photo: Murray Bowles

The film later shifts its focus to the Gilman Street club collective, and includes coverage of other bands such as Neurosis, Beatnigs, Yeastie Girlz, and of course, Green Day.

The film's cinematographer, Greg Schneider, has lived in Oakland for about 15 years, and also works as Green Day's videographer, web designer and photographer.

Michelle "Todd" Gonzalez playing drums for Bitchfight at 924 Gilman in 1988. | Photo: Murray Bowles

"I grew up with the East Bay punk scene and played in bands that all practiced in Oakland," he told Hoodline, noting that the city is still musician-friendly "because it is affordable and easy to put on DIY shows at warehouses or house parties."

Also the cinematographer on Green Day's 2013 Grammy-nominated Cuatro!, Schneider said the film "gives hope to younger people today that they can build a scene and change their worlds."

Billie Joe of Green Day playing at 924 Gilman in 1990. | Photo: Murray Bowles

The film's co-writer and director, Corbett Redford, said he was grateful when Green Day approached him to make the film. While he has a background in screenwriting and producing videos, the documentary is his first feature-length film.

“They wanted to shine the light on their creative peers and the culture that they came from,” he said. 

Born and raised in the Bay Area, Redford plays in Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits.

Director Corbett Redford (left) and the 'Turn It Around' crew packing for an interview. | Photo: Greg Schneider

“As a songwriter, I feel that documentary filmmaking is just another way to tell a story,” he said. “While at first it felt daunting, it’s just another form of storytelling.”

Turn It Around will play on August 4th at the Rialto Elmwood in Berkeley; director Corbett Redford will be on hand for a discussion, along with 924 Gilman co-founder Kamala Parks and musician Michelle Gonzales.

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Documentary explores 3 decades of east bay punk