Mentally Ill Headline Chicago Punk Film Premiere Party

Naked Raygun early 1980s photo by Gail Butensky
Naked Raygun early 1980s photo by Gail Butensky
posted Wednesday Nov 21st, 2007

This Saturday night at the Beat Kitchen in Chicago, notorious lunatics, the Mentally Ill will play their first real live performance as the kickoff to the Chicago Punk History weekend right after the film 'You Weren't There' premieres earlier in the evening at the Portage Theatre. While most folks who were around during the original 70s punk wave have little recollection as to the Mentally Ill's existence, anyone familiar with the modern Killed By Death series of compilations holds them dear to their sick hearts, as a true milestone in homemade punk nihilism. As one of the most repulsive and dissonant punk bands of any era, Mentally Ill crossed all the lines and lived on their own agenda, keeping their dementia contained to their Deerfield basements, yet their infamous Gacy's Place 7" released on Autistic Records in 1979 wouldn't really start to make waves (and record collectors drool) until about ten years later.

Saturday's show marks an epic Midwest punk historical event, especially since the Mentally Ill's debut record came out in over twenty five years ago, and they've still never set foot on stage. It's safe to say that it's anyone's guess as to what can happen. Along with the Mentally Ill, Chicago teen punk sensations Negative Element will take the stage for the first time since 1983, and should electrify the Beat Kitchen with their erratic exuberance as portrayed on their debut EP 'Yes, We Have No Bananas,' released that same year. Featuring the prolific Steppe brothers who would later grace hardcore staples such as Naked Hippy (Barry on guitar) and Regress (Chopper on guitar), this band featured some of the youngest members of the early Chicago punk scene, and pushed the envelope for inclusion of the under 21 crowd into the nascent punk movement.

Openers, End Result were an influential primitive art/wave band that formed in the early days, yet kept their recorded material under wraps until the mid 80s, with their first release as the final record on the Ruthless label in 1985. They had an abrasive structure to their songs that held a close similarity to what was going on in New York's No Wave movement at the time, and helped pave the way for exposing the nastier side of experimental punk to the quickly multiplying all-ages crowd. Along with the early Silver Abuse and Toothpaste, End Result's influences continue to appreciate as their unorthodox style carved out a niche of individualism among outsiders everywhere. Check out this video clip of End Result from 1984 at 666 Club (666 Milwaukee Ave.) right here:

All three bands should make an interesting bill on Saturday, and what better way to start off the night than attending the world premiere of the Chicago Punk documentary 'You Weren't There' at the Portage Theatre at 7:30pm. The anxiously awaited film covers one of the most often overlooked scenes of the original punk wave (1977-84), and sheds light to the incredible cadre of bands and people that made it happen, all while most everyone else was aping the New York and English trends of the day. The film takes a discerning look into the climate surrounding the creation of underground music in a bygone era of seedy leather bars and mob-owned venues that usually operated outside the law, and how the pioneering folks in Chicago created something out of nothing, with everything up against them in a working-class city with little tolerance for anything running against the grain. Chock full of exclusive interviews, jaw-dropping unseen video footage and unpublished images from the vault, 'You Weren't There' is poised to put the region's musical notoriety on the map. With no further scheduled screenings announced, this may be your only chance to see the film in it's first run, so your attendance on Saturday is nothing less than mandatory.

If you're familiar with the 11th issue of Horizontal Action (released in Spring 2003), you may recall the extensive 'Trunk City Punk History: 1976-81' feature article which was one of the first catalysts to the culmination of a wider interest in this time period in Chicago music, and sheds an abbreviated yet revealing light into what was going on in the underground of America's then second largest city. The film costs $10 and starts at 7:30 and you can get directions to the Portage Theatre right HERE.

and check out a trailer for the film right here...