Saturday, December 5, 2020

A Great review from FFANZEEN!

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2015
Images from the Internet

The Dicks from Texas
Produced and directed by Cindy Marabito
MVD Visual
70 minutes, 2015

Bands less-subtly named after body parts arose in the late ‘70s. The first I knew of was the Tits (from Rhode Island, I believe), an art rock performance duo that I saw at Max’s Kansas City. This was followed by the Clits (saw them at Irving Plaza), the Cunts, the Kuntz, and arguably, the Dickies. Likewise, Queercore has its forerunners to the Dicks, such as Lance Loud and the Mumps, the Student Teachers, and again arguably, the Speedies (who were definitely more pop, but had a punk edge). But the Dicks were a whole ‘nother ball of leather.

At a time when Texas was possibly even more rigid than it is now (including Austin), the ‘80s spawned a number of scenes around the State that would change and charge up some of the less countrified young’ns, if not the old guard (or most of the rural countryside, as their voting direction indicates). The Dicks were in the front line of that change, fronted by the self-proclaimed out of the closet and overweight Maoist, Gary Floyd. The rest of the band kind of formed around him, from 1980 through 1983, and then again in 2004.

This doc is, on one hand, your basic history of the nascent scene (basically Southern Rock), how the Dicks formed, and then how an almost new scene emerged around the band. Most of the talking head interviews are from the Dicks, the other bands on the scene such as the Torn Panties, Sister Double Happiness and especially the band-members-in-arms, the Big Boys (no mention that I noticed of MDC), and from other regular members of the audience (including the film’s director), many of whom went on to their own fame as writers, photographers and artists. Then, of course, there are the big name cameos that all punk/hardcore docs must have these days, in this case the nearly omni-documentary-presence of Ian MacKaye (of Minor Threat, Fugazi, etc.), Henry Rollins (Black Flag) and Mike Watt (Minutemen, fIREHOSE, etc.). Making a rare appearance is Texas Terri, who is an interesting person in her own right. But I digress…

But then, on the other hand, this comes across more like an Oral History, which improves the narrative a bit. Rather than single set-ups where the person tells his story and then has it sewn into the fabric of the story, the main players are shown in various locations, and also with others, who spurn on stories that would probably not have been inspired if they were by themselves (such as Floyd bringing his mother to… well, you’ll have to see it). Amusingly, for example, three members of the aforementioned Torn Panties are laying (dressed, but under the covers) in a twin-sided bed that is too small for all of them, or others are sitting in bars, at home, etc.

Laced into the history are tons of still photos and videos (b-roll type) of the Little Mexico area (the Bowery of Austin, apparently) both then and now, including of many of the people in the video. The documentary, though, is actually broken into two pieces, which is appropriate because the Dicks had more than one life. After moving to San Fran, the band went on tour, and when they played their home turf at the end of it, the band stayed and Floyd went back to SF.

Following that segment and a brief “In Memorium” not just for Glen Taylor, the guitarist from the Dicks who passed, but also members of the scene, the band reformed on a lark in 2004, and is still playing. It picks up Phase 2 at 55 minutes or so, and continues on. At 70 minutes, the film is the perfect length to keep the audience both informed and interested.

There are some fun outtakes during the credits, and the only extra is actually quite a special one, namely two live shows from 1982 and 1983, when the band was in its prime and with the original line-up. Considering it was obviously VHS tape masters, the first is pretty clear in both sound and visual. The second has a bit more noise and fuzz in the sound, but still helps give a better picture of why the Dicks had its cult following.

One of the differences between this and most of the other band/scene combo documentaries is that this does not discuss the end of the scene, its main focus at the end is the band. This was a nicely done film.

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