The documentary about The Gears, Don’t Be Afraid To Pogo!, premiered at The Vista in Los Feliz last Thursday and it was an awesome place to be. I’ve been a big fan of the band’s first-generation surf-influenced punkerbilly sound for a long time, but never really knew the stories behind the practically mythical “Let’s Go To the Beach” 7-inch single or the classic Rockin’ at Ground Zero LP, which is part of any decent L.A. punk record collection. How exactly did Kidd Spike leave the Controllers to join them, how did The Gears end and The D.I.s begin, and how did that killer comeback 10-inch, Four on the Floor, come about? And then there was the single with Freddie “Boom Boom” Cannon (“Palisades Park”!) and the sweet new LP, When Things Get Ugly.
To tell the story, first-time filmmaker but longtime friend of The Gears (and head of Wondercap and Iloki Records, which has released or re-released the band’s entire catalog) Chris Ashford pretty much lined up songs and let the guys talk about the music, what was going on in L.A. punk, and what was going on with them. Holy cow, the vintage footage is incredible and the songs sound amazing loud in a movie theater, accompanied by triumphs, fights, and just enough touring to build the mystique beyond Southern California without actually cementing the group’s reputation in the underground beyond Northeast Los Angeles. Hence, the need for this doc, which features great quotes from Mike Watt and an original, jazzy score by D.J. Bonebrake.
The historic venue was packed with family, friends, and fans for the opening. Because I sat right in front so I could get a good view of the Q&A, I didn’t get to survey the crowd that reportedly included Rodney on the Roq, Freddie Cannon, Chip Kinman, Steve Metz, Gary Leonard, an army of KXLU DJs, and who knows who else. Afterward, I did get to congratulate most of my friends who were involved in the movie: Director Chris Ashford; interviewer for the movie (and post-screening Q&A moderator) David Jones; Cameraman Dave Travis; Gears members Axxel G. Reese, Kidd Spike, Mike Manifold… All of them have been supporters of the Save Music in Chinatown project that my wife and I started to fund the music program at our daughter’s elementary school–The Gears even played our last show–and I was happy to witness this very cool moment for the band.
Congrats on the great work, Chris, David, and Dave, and way to go, Axxel, Spike, Mike, and Sean. As for everyone else, check out the trailer below and then catch the April 25 screening at Alex’s Bar followed by a badass lineup of The Horseheads, The Crowd, and The Gears celebrating the 25th anniversary of Vinyl Solution Records (also in the doc). See you in the pit!