Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk
Pinole resident Corbett Redford’s new documentary explores the East Bay’s punk legacy.
Green Day performs at the 924 Gilman Street club in Berkeley in the late 1980s.
by Murray Bowles
Locals who grew up voraciously reading fanzines about the regional music scene should seek out the new documentary Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk. Directed by Pinole resident Corbett Redford and produced by Oakland rock legends Green Day, Turn It Around compiles 150 songs, 500 hours of interviews, and 25,000 photos to chronicle the music community that came together at Berkeley’s 924 Gilman Street club in the 1980s. This month, Redford’s fascinating film opens in theaters across the United States, including a weeklong engagement in Berkeley beginning on August 4. The director talks to Diablo about coming of age during the Gilman Street era and the lasting influence of his producing partners, Green Day.
Q: As someone who grew up in the East Bay in the 1980s, this film made me feel nostalgic for that time before smart phones and social media. Turn It Around shows the amazing creativity that was cultivated in the punk community.
A: It’s true. All these kids were putting on shows in their backyards and basements. And then Gilman came together and it was about building something instead of destroying things. Green Day did all those free backyard shows and benefits; they played anywhere and everywhere. Part of their idea in producing this film was to recognize their creative peers and look at what was created from that DIY ethic. I have been involved in Gilman since 1994, and I can say that it gave me a lot of tools to be a better citizen of the world.
Q: There are some big laughs in the film. One musician proudly states that his band had reached “the bottom of the bottom of show business,” while another proclaims that “El Sobrante is Kansas in the middle of the Bay Area.”
A: (Laughs) East Bay punk has some intellectualism to it. The mixture of different voices here made something really magical. In addition to the positive feeling that comes from the scene, there has always been a sense of humor.
Q: Green Day is playing at the Oakland Coliseum on August 5. What is it about the band that allowed them to grow from performing for 300 people at Gilman to playing at a football stadium?
A: I think they have always allowed change in themselves and their music. They remain very community-minded and humanist, but they are this huge entity in the rock-and-roll world. I don’t know of too many bands on their level that bring this sense of community and take it to stadiums all over the world. It’s a good thing that they have a voice on the world stage. We’re all better for it.
Q: Green Day’s bassist, Mike Dirnt, helped you after you were bullied on your first day at Pinole Valley High School. Looking back at your ninth-grade self, could you have envisioned turning 40 while working on the definitive documentary about the East Bay punk movement?
A: (Laughs) I never could have imagined it, even though anyone who knows [me] will tell you that I’ve been the world’s biggest Green Day fan since I was a young teenager. They changed my life—and they showed any teenager that you can get out of the place that does not understand you.
Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk will play at Berkeley’s Elmwood Cinema August 4–10. For information, go to eastbaypunk.com.