The past couple of years has seen a spate of great musical documentaries released—New York Doll, The Devil and Daniel Johnston, Dig!, Moog, Some Kind of Monster, The Fearless Freaks and The Nomi Song are all music based docs I've seen since 2005 and liked. Add We Jam Econo to that growing list.
Tim Irwin's We Jam Econo is the story of the San Pedro punk rock band Minutemen. Minutemen weren't really punk rock, yet still, were more punk rock than the vast majority of bands that sprung out of Southern California hardcore scene during the late 1970s/early 1980s.
The doc follows their early beginnings, going back to junior high school when D. Boon and Mike Watt met, all the way until Boon's premature death in 1985 from a car wreck. It's sad to see how commited and passionate Boon was on stage and to know it all ended much too soon.
Because of their style, kind of a punk, funk, jazz fusion beneath furious political shout outs, Minutemen never got the acclaim or due the fans of the band think they deserve. Those fans, a multitude of famous musicians, and extensive interviews with Watt and drummer George Hurley create the framework of the documentary.
The real star of this is all the performances of Minutemen in various small clubs. The songs are short bursts of raw energy that combine all these styles of music in a punk rock setting—sometimes to the dismay to narrow minded, rigid audience members who had already created a set list of what a «punk rock» band could and couldn't sound like. Nitwits.
Boon, who is a large man, dances all over the stage while singing/screaming along with Watt while Hurley pounds away and pulls of complicated drumming moves. It's a vivid look at what it was like to be in such a band during this era and shows the band in their proper element—performing on stage.
We Jam Econo is a great addition to the ever increasing library of rock history documentaries. It sheds light on a band that may have slipped off the radar to rock fans and one of the more interesting front men ever in D. Boon.