The spirited characters of Buffalo Punk 1.0 may now seem like a crowd of washed up show-goers, brawlers and boozers, but these old timers were incredibly important in forming our local independent music scene. Producer Elmer Poeltz wrapped six years of music history and vintage film bits into a two hour tale of influence with his intimate documentary.
From unscripted interviews in dirty studio space to raw audio, the documentary is consistent with the DIY approach of the movement and even the screening last weekend was set in an atmosphere akin to a family reunion. Some of the featured musicians were in crowd, others in memory, but all were caught in unrehearsed, honest commentary about the foundation of Buffalo punk. The featured musicians–Mark Freeland, the Enemies, Lip Service, Vores, the Good, Pauline & the Perils, Davy & the Crocketts, the George, and Paper Faces–were a tough group, confrontational, but carefree and close with each other. The characters often state that they looked up to each other, supported each other. Unlike the New York City scene, Buffalo’s was not one of competition, but unity.
It seemed obvious that leather, leopard and safety pins would emerge in the film, but that style never became apparent. Instead I was immersed in a Buffalo-styled new wave punk scene with skinny ties and sunglasses. This community of kids, most in high school or early college, considered themselves true punks in that they learned, thought and did for themselves – not as the fashion trendy bunch of outsiders we often think of.
Ploetz brackets this storyline with an exploration of two pivotal venues, McVan’s and the Continental. He obtained near-heartbreaking footage of the Continental demolition and women who plucked bricks from the ruins. When he questioned two clerks from Wilson Farms, the formal McVan’s site, they stated they had never heard of such a place. Perhaps the best line of the movie, to quote Pete Secrist and Fred Mann of the Enemies, was “CBGB sucked, we played there once, McVan’s blew it away!” Later in the documentary we are reminded of the bitter end of Home of the Hits and all the (unknown at the time) talent that passed through it’s doors.
But Buffalo Punk 1.0 is not an expose of pure nostalgia, it is a damn funny love story of a subculture draped in awareness for our current musical state. Elmer Ploetz has only peeled back the first layer of Buffalo punk; he plans to revised, re-edit and reissue until the stories stop coming. I am eager for Buffalo Punk 2.0, and we’ll keep you posted regarding any future screenings.
Laura Duquette is a former ballerina who now dances with words
and punctuation. She has a knack for asking questions faster than the
speed of sound, and her interviews are often off the cuff and personal.
She is Co-Owner of 12 Grain
Studio, a Buffalo based creative firm that gives typical web design a
kick in the ass.