By Mark Robison
February 16th, 2015
An example to file under “butterfly flapping wings turns into tsunami half-way around the world”: Reno kids started something called Positive Force wherein punk music would be turned into political action.
The Reno effort, started by the band 7 Seconds in the early 1980s, inspired Positive Force to spring up in other cities. The one in Washington, D.C. is still going to this day — and it is the subject of a new documentary on PM Press called “Positive Force: More Than a Witness: 30 Years of Punk Politics in Action.”
It tells the story of Positive Force DC, a communal house and activist group that uses punk concerts to raise money to help the poor and elderly in the nation’s capitol. Seeing tattooed punk rockers carry in meals to feeble old people and watching the joy on all of their faces shows the potential of music to create positive change.
Kevin Seconds is, of course, interviewed along with a slew of other punk legends who played at Positive Force DC benefit shows or otherwise were part of punk’s activist side. These include Penny Rimbaud (Crass), Dave Grohl (Scream, Nirvana, Foo Fighters), Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys, Guantanamo School of Medicine), Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi, The Evens) and Allison Wolfe (Bratmobile). Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill, Le Tigre, Julie Ruin) explains how the Positive Force DC house was where the Riot Grrrl movement got its start.
The documentary is interspersed with great live performances — some professionally filmed, some bootleg quality — from Positive Force concerts including Bikini Kill, Anti-Flag and many Dischord label bands such as Scream, Rites of Spring, Nation of Ulysses, Soulside (the precursor to Girls Against Boys) and Beefeater. Also excellent are the DVD bonus performances including different full-length live songs not seen in the documentary from Chumbawamba, 7 Seconds, Anti-Flag and a rarely seen “Suggestion” by Fugazi.
The DVD also contains a 1991 documentary on Positive Force, a 2008 documentary on the group’s alliance with inner-city seniors and a bunch of outtake sequences from the new documentary.