As far back as I can remember, Green Day has been sort of the whipping boy poster child for those crying foul about underground bands gaining mainstream attention, even as far back as the 1994 release of their major label debut “Dookie”. Believe it or not, MTV News used to be pretty on the ball back in the day, and my 11 year old mind was fascinated by their reports on Green Day’s origins and the scorned Berkeley, CA punk scene that birthed the band and then resented their success. Turn It Around, the new documentary from Anthony Marchitiello and Corbett Redford, brings the story of Lookout Records and the legendary 924 Gilman St DIY venue into incredibly detailed focus, centering on not just Green Day but also Lookout impresario Larry Livermore and Operation Ivy/Rancid icon Tim Armstrong.
Serving as producer of the film, Green Day in general, and frontman Billie Joe Armstrong in particular, is a frequent onscreen presence, extremely likable, knowledgable and gracious (the above quote about Oakland, CA proto thrash/grind pioneers turned prog/doom institution Neurosis comes from him) about their early contemporaries. Far from the typical mud slinging and dirt present in music docs, the fondness and warmth in the recollections of those who experienced Gilman for themselves, even megastars like Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, AFI’s Davey Havok and the aforementioned Armstrong (a surprisingly charming and hilarious presence, even when opening up about his history of substance abuse), really sells how special this moment in time must have been.
If I had to criticize one thing about Turn It Around, it would be it’s nearly 3 hour length. There’s at least three movies worth of material here, and separate docs about Green Day, Op Ivy/Rancid and Lookout/Gilman may have presented their stories more clearly and concisely when freed from the sensory overload of the existing film’s epic run time. It’s hard to complain about too much of a good thing though, and Turn It Around is very good, it’s deft mixture of interviews, archival footage and animation giving viewers a “fly on the wall” experience almost as powerful and poignant as actually being part of one of the most interesting and vital “scenes” in US underground music history. As Iggy Pop’s somewhat sleepy narration states: “It could’ve happened anywhere, and it should be happening everywhere”.