They Came From Underground documents the giants of ’80s indie
Back when the mythical beast known as “alternative music” was still in the larval stage, few folks had the foresight—or the means—to videotape the goings-on for posterity. After all, who wanted to lug around a $5,000 camera the size of a Buick just to tape an unknown band at some shitty club? Fortunately, Milwaukee filmmaker Mark G.E. was up to the challenge. Between 1985 and 1987, G.E. and his then-Kansas City-based Joy Farm television show (the show would eventually move to Milwaukee in 1989 and become a local public access staple) videotaped countless influential, up-and-coming alt groups.
The tapes gathered dust in a Kansas City basement for 25 years, until G.E. recently decided to comb through the footage and assemble a feature-length documentary. The resulting film, They Came From Underground, will have a one-time-only screening at 7 p.m. November 18 at the Oriental Theater. The 90-minute documentary features rare, early, and exclusive performances from the likes of They Might Be Giants, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Hüsker Dü, Minutemen, Violent Femmes, BoDeans, Fishbone, Sonic Youth, as well as a few surprises. A limited edition poster from local artist and show poster-extraordinaire, Eric Von Munz, will also be available for purchase at the theater.
When The A.V. Club spoke to G.E. back in May, the filmmaker noted that bands in the early days of alt-nation were more than happy to have their shows videotaped, as the technology was still something of a luxury. They Came From Underground is therefore sure to be essential viewing for those who long for the days when They Might Be Giants were still funny, Sonic Youth were still in their 30s, and Red Hot Chili Peppers were still on heroin.