SELLOUT: A Video Playlist
A collection of rare and not-so-rare footage from the book.
Hello and welcome to REPLY ALT, the greatest email newsletter about music. I just finished mailing out my semi-annual postcard dump to paid subscribers, which is one of the many reasons to sign up for a paid subscription to REPLY ALT if you don’t already have one. It’s only five bucks a month, and here, I will even mark it down by 50% off:
Oh and speaking of low, low prices, I just put almost all of the items in my merch store on sale. I keep hearing that wearing a SELLOUT shirt or tote will draw in strangers who want to strike up conversations with you. So grab one if you like that sort of thing. Not me. I want to be left alone!
When SELLOUT was released back in October, I put together an absurdly long and meticulously arranged playlist to accompany it. I tried to pull at least one song from every band mentioned in the book and organize them chronologically by release date so you could hear the music evolve over time. I ended up cramming two decades of music into 9+ hours.
But recently I’ve been hearing from readers that this playlist was not enough. You demand MORE content. You say that I am your subservient writer and I should not be allowed to unchain my desk shackles until my skull has been scraped clean for every remaining crumb of material and only a hollow shell remains! OK, fine, fine, you win. Let’s crack this head open like a piggybank and see if there’s anything left inside.
I’ve gotten a few requests lately for a video playlist—some key visual moments from the book. So here it is. SELLOUT, in video form. These are some highlights from the long nights I spent digging through the internet.
Green Day - Woodstock ‘94
Let’s start at the obvious place. The iconic Green Day performance at Woodstock ‘94. I remember watching it live as it aired as a kid, and I’ve watched it countless more times over the last 28 years, and it somehow blows my mind every time I see it. I argue (for almost 450 pages!) that this was the set that changed not only Green Day’s trajectory but the course of rock history.
Sometimes I get lost in a head-trip thinking about all the little things that aligned just right to make this set so impactful. First off, Green Day was not even originally scheduled to perform at the festival. It was a late addition to their schedule after a third day of the festival was added. So, there is an alternate history in which there was a Woodstock without them. And then there’s the legendary mud brawl, which made Green Day a household name practically overnight. That might not have happened had the weather been better that weekend. There’s a quote in the book that always gives me chills, in which Mark Kohr, the director who shot the band’s early videos, recalls being with Green Day the morning that news of Kurt Cobain’s death spread. “Talking to Billie, I had this weird notion in my head where I thought, Oh my God, I wonder if the universe is making space for these three guys right in front of me.” Well, maybe the rain was the universe’s way of making sure their Woodstock set would be remembered forever.
Also, there’s an incident I mention in the book where, immediately after this set, the muddy audience started rushing the stage and things turned dangerous. And when Mike Dirnt took off his bass, a security guard, thinking he was just some kid, charged at him, put a shoulder into his gut, and tackled him to the ground, causing him to crack a few teeth. Something I find funny about this particular video of the performance is that the moment this happens—at 34:07—is conveniently missing. This video being hosted on the official Woodstock Youtube channel, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was scrubbed for legal purposes. But you can still find it online if you know where to look:
Jawbreaker - Dayton, OH, 1994
As I detailed in the book, Jawbreaker didn’t exactly do themselves any favors as far as avoiding the “sellout” tag goes. They’d get on stage night after night and frontman Blake Schwarzenbach would give his anti-major label spiel—how Jawbreaker had been approached by majors, how they’d never sign with any of them, how majors were a scam, etc. But then of course, they did sign to Geffen, and ended up suffering from foot-in-mouth disease for the next year. There are lots of videos and live recordings of him delivering these kinds of staunchly indie soapbox speeches. He changed it up each night. Sometimes he was funny, sometimes he was righteous. He’s a little of both in this one from March of ‘94. “You can believe everything you read because it’s a lot more fun, and I tend to believe everything I read. So, do. Whatever. We’re on 50 major labels. We’re not making a penny but it’s great, we’re famous as hell.”
Jimmy Eat World - Public Access TV, 1996
Something I find really remarkable about Jimmy Eat World is that, even though they are a household name nowadays, they were largely undocumented for the first several years of their existence. Save for a few write-ups in their local Phoenix New Times, it was hard to dig up any ink on em.
The above video is the earliest live footage I could find of the band, on public access television in 1996. They would have been together for about two years at that point, and just barely entering their 20s. It includes a clip of an early show, back when Jim Adkins stood stage right and was still finding his stage presence. He’s got that awkward teenage emo band posture—head wobbling way low off his shoulders on his rubberband neck. (Side note: I absolutely love the attitude of the woman interviewing them, calling them out for sucking at bowling. More of this in music journalism please.)
In this video, shot a year later at Michigan’s Mind Over Matter Fest, you can see how much enthusiasm and confidence Jim has added to his stage persona. A rockstar in the making:
Blink-182 - Good Times Tour, 1996
Here’s a funny thing that happens when you write a book: It has to go through a legal read. What that entails is a lawyer reading the whole thing and flagging sentences that might get you sued. Then you have a call with said lawyer and they tell you all the things you should change. For me, it’s usually stuff like, “OK, here on page 141, you say that this guy sold her cocaine. That’s actually a felony. How about just say, ahhh I don’t know, she got the cocaine somehow.” And then you fix it and no one sues you for implicating them in a crime. Hooray.
In SELLOUT, I described blink-182’s first Australian tour with Pennywise as being full of “drunken, naked debauchery.” This phrase got flagged by the lawyer. I said hey why’d you flag this? And the lawyer said well can you prove it? And I said prove what? And he said that they were naked. Apparently, since public nudity could potentially be a crime, I had to prove that blink-182 was, in fact, naked. So I did what so many other bestselling authors have assuredly done—I started googling “blink-182 naked.” I sent the lawyer email after email with semi-nude blink photos attached. “Is this naked enough for you???” I’d ask. “How about this? Is this what you wanted to see?? You like this???” Finally, I sent him this video I’d found of the tour. They’re not technically naked in it, but it is essentially nine minutes of shirtless, sweaty men wilding out in hotel rooms. I think it helped the lawyer finally “get” blink’s whole “thing.” He wrote back the next day and said: “The line can stay.” A victory for hanging dong.
And while I’m pointing out side characters whose attitudes I love, the Australian woman at 3:33 who tells a room of rowdy man-boys to move back and stop squishing people is also my hero.
At the Drive-In - Big Day Out, 2001
Any live footage of At the Drive-In could safely make the highlight reel. I am particularly fond of this performance in a classroom in 1998. I watch what Cedric is doing at the 3:20 mark and my knees weep. Here’s another great performance that same year, in Arizona, in which Cedric spends most of the set on the floor.
But if we’re going to talk about all-time classic ATDI performances, we’ve got to look at their fabled Big Day Out gig, which is a turning point in their SELLOUT chapter. Yes, this performance effectively made the band realize their style of chaotic post-hardcore could not fit into the mainstream mold and ultimately kicked off their rapid unraveling, and yes, they abandoned the set after only a few songs. But my god, they crammed into ten minutes what most bands wish they could do over an entire career. I spent many words of SELLOUT trying to explain precisely what made At the Drive-In such a unique powerhouse, but the first 30 seconds of this performance accomplishes more than I ever could on the page.
Every single second of that first song is explosive. Cedric is just superhuman here. The stage could’ve been the size of a football field and he still would’ve left sneaker prints over the entire area. I especially love the moment at 3:50 when he jumps off the drum riser and is doing a little jig before even touching the ground. Then he tap dances past the side-stage onlookers (who are noted in the book as likely including members of other acts like Coldplay, Queens of the Stone Age, and PJ Harvey) and looks as if he’s blowing them a kiss or something. I didn’t find him to be particularly arrogant about his ungodly abilities—enough people sung the band’s praises in the book for him—but this brief moment feels to me like Cedric reminding everyone that they were setting the bar that year, and no one else need even bother trying.
The Donnas (as the Electrocutes), 1995
As detailed in SELLOUT, the Donnas started out as a bit of a gimmicky alter-ego for four teenagers’ “real” band, the Electrocutes. The Electrocutes recorded an album in 1996, Steal Your Lunch Money, but had a hard time finding the money and interest needed to release it, and it didn’t see the light of day until two years later. Fortunately, someone has uploaded this early footage of the Electrocutes from 1995. This, to me, is what a high school band should sound like. Way too fast, a little too sloppy, still figuring out how to work their bodies, let alone their instruments. And if we want to go back even farther than the Electrocutes, the Donnas were originally called Ragady Anne, and recorded this very rough but very tough EP.
Thursday - Wayne Firehouse, NJ, 2000
I consider Geoff Rickly to be a really pioneering frontman in the hardcore genre. He sang aggressive songs but ditched the macho posturing that emanated from a good majority of the Victory Records roster. He helped popularize a style of stage presence that proved you didn’t have to be a tough guy to front a heavy band. But, as early supporters recall in the book, it took a minute for him to get there. He was, as Eyeball Records founder Alex Saavedra put it, “a cross between Ian Curtis from Joy Division and a B-boy.” (I think audiences eventually learning the words to Thursday songs and participating in singing along aided Geoff’s stage repertoire a great deal.)
This video was filmed in 2000, before the release of their landmark Full Collapse, at the Wayne Firehouse in New Jersey. Just typing that sentence brought back every scene memory I have from my senior year of high school. I suddenly remembered that I have AP English homework I never turned in. Anyway, this was from a time when Geoff was really starting to find his footing on stage. Thursday had built some confidence on short tours, and returned to New Jersey sharper each time. A great snapshot of the band between where they’d come from and what they’d eventually become.
Fun fact: At the Drive-In also played this venue the same month. I could be wrong but for some reason I have it in my head that Thursday guitarist Steve Pedulla shot this video. You can’t really say ATDI was also finding their stage presence at this time. From the looks of it, they had it DOWN:
The Distillers - Sourpuss, festival performance, 1995
Before moving to America and forming the Distillers, Brody Dalle cut her teeth in Australia in an all-female music collective where she fronted a band called Sourpuss. Here’s a video of Sourpuss playing there to room full of the most passive onlookers you’ve ever seen, including the members of Bikini Kill. (Brody has gotten a lot of Courtney Love comparisons over her career, which I think is really unfair and misses the mark, but I will grant that Sourpuss definitely did borrow from Hole’s mid-90s drawling grunge sound a bit.) But the video above sees Sourpuss getting a bit of a warmer reception at the Summersault festival on the last day of 1995. You can spot the members of Sonic Youth and the Beastie Boys watching from side-stage. Adam Yauch and Thurston Moore watching a teenage Brody Dalle perform, what a funny 90s music capsule:
My Chemical Romance - Maxwell’s, NJ, 2002
It’s damn near impossible to unearth anything new in the history of My Chemical Romance. Every minute detail of their story has been picked through pretty cleanly by their very devoted fans. So, with a quarter-million views on this video, I’m not exactly pulling out a rare gem here, but this early show at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, New Jersey, is a great snapshot of a band that had built the kindling of a local following and was ready to set a larger blaze. Most of the audience seems to be friends and family, as Gerard gives shout outs to all the relatives he had in attendance—his mom, grandma, and uncle. I can’t confirm this, but many MCR fans in the comments have noted that this was the only time his grandmother saw the band perform, and she would be immortalized after her death shortly after, in “Helena.”
Rise Against - Calgary, 2001
One of Rise Against’s earliest tours documented in SELLOUT took place in the beginning of 2001, opening for NOFX, on which Fat Mike tried bribing straight-edge bassist Joe Principe to try alcohol. They’d just released their debut album, The Unraveling, and were still tinkering with elements of their sound. Rise Against is, of course, an extremely professional touring operation nowadays, but I love this glimpse into their youthful days of bad haircuts and ill-fitting clothes. My god, those fucking shorts, man. One guy in shorts on stage is too many. Two guys in shorts on stage is an arrestable offense. Rise Against has THREE be-shorted men on stage here, and I’m gonna go ahead and assume that their drummer is wearing them as well. A crime! Whenever I describe a young band as “scrappy,” this is the image that comes to mind.
Against Me! - Lawrence, KS, 2000
There aren’t too many videos of Against Me!’s early days floating around on the internet. I guess when you spend your first few years exclusively playing punk houses that barely have proper drywall, the presence of a video camera might be too extravagant a luxury. But this gem of a pre-bass Against Me! was a recent upload. This show, from 2000, was added to Youtube just a few weeks ago, so I didn’t watch it until after SELLOUT had already been published. But this set perfectly highlights something I was trying to stress in the book—how immediately Against Me! caught on with punks. As they are starting this set, with Laura noting that they are “very tired and very hungry,” the crowd seems… skeptical. I mean, people are literally meowing at them, to her confusion. But by the end of the first song they’ve got the dreadlocked crusties bouncing around. I’d argue that the shift that happens at the two-minute mark captures what made punks everywhere fall in love with them.
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