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Moshe 01.23.2020 02:42 AM

Desolation Center
Desolation Center documentary adds more dates: FREE

DESOLATION CENTER is the previously untold story of a series of early 80s guerrilla music and art performance happenings in Southern California that are recognized to have inspired Burning Man, Lollapalooza and Coachella, collective experiences that have become key elements of popular culture in the 21st century. The feature documentary splices interviews and rare performance footage of Sonic Youth, Minutemen, Meat Puppets, Swans, Redd Kross, Einstürzende Neubauten, Survival Research Laboratories, Savage Republic and more, documenting a time when pushing the boundaries of music, art, and performance felt almost like an unspoken obligation.

Directed by Stuart Swezey, the creator and principal organizer of these unique events, DESOLATION CENTER demonstrates how the risky, and at times even reckless, actions of a few outsiders can unintentionally lead to seismic cultural shifts. Combining Swezey’s exclusive access to never-before-seen archival video, live audio recordings, and stills woven together with new cinematically shot interviews, verité footage and animated sequences, DESOLATION CENTER captures the spirit of the turbulent times from which these events emerged.

Moshe 01.24.2020 04:22 AM

IFC added a Q + A to their February 26 screening of Desolation Center.

The Q&A at 7:30pm on Wed Feb 26 with director Stuart Swezey, co-producer Mariska Leyssius, Lee Ranaldo (Guitarist/Sonic Youth), and Steve Shelley (Drummer/Sonic Youth, Thurston Moore Group) will be moderated by Paul Rachman (director American Hardcore; co-founder Slamdance Festival).

The Soup Nazi 01.25.2020 05:26 PM

Many thanks, Moshe. Hopefully it will be available somehow to those of us who aren't even remotely close to the screenings locations... By the way, where are we on Lance Bangs' Daydream Nation documentary? DVD? Vimeo? Nugs? Wot?

hirsute_biped 03.26.2020 09:57 PM

YouTube channel for the film with trailers and some Q&A sessions from some screenings, NYC with Lee and Steve. Looks like I missed some screenings, been sooooo busy. Adulting is hard.

hirsute_biped 03.29.2020 11:52 AM

Minutemen & Meat Puppets at Joy At Sea event in San Pedro Harbor

The Soup Nazi 06.17.2020 02:02 AM

Review from Under The Radar:



Desolation Center
Studio: Passion River
Directed by Stuart Swezey

Jun 16, 2020

By Austin Trunick

In the early ‘80s, a guerilla team from the downtown LA punk scene assembled a series of loosely-structured happenings in atypical venues. Self-dubbed the Desolation Center, the most famous of their events were a trio of shows held in remote, unpermitted sections of the Mojave Desert. Schoolbus loads of young punks were driven out to the secret locations, where they gathered among the sand and boulders around a generator and hastily-erected soundsystem to watch seminal bands like the Minutemen, Sonic Youth, Red Kross, and Einstürzende Neubauten perform in the natural environment.

Directed by the events’ primary organizer, Desolation Center chronicles these experiences with the intimacy of a home video. In spite of their being such DIY affairs, the Desolation Center shows were incredibly well-documented in photography and video footage—it’s impossible to imagine they’d have had more material to work with had the events been covered explicitly for this by a full documentary crew. That might be the most wonderful thing about this movie: the wealth of video and audio captured of iconic independent bands at turning points in their career. Seeing Minutemen perform songs that would soon appear on Double Nickels on the Dime aboard a whaling ship circling the San Pedro Harbor—for one of Desolation Center’s rare non-desert shows—or even a pre-SST Sonic Youth give a rip-roaring show for a bunch of LSD-dosed youths while lit by only a few flood lights and the full moon; for any fans of the music and the era, these performances are a godsend. Just as exciting are the footage of Einstürzende Neubauten sending a shower of sparks across the sand as they saw through sheet metal, or the rapid-fire clips of near-forgotten LA bands that set the literal scene over the film’s opening minutes.

Watching the footage now—and hearing their attendees reminisce over what they did, in more than mild disbelief—there’s a sense that what Desolation Center pulled off was immensely irresponsible, but undeniably punk rock. Dragging a bunch of kids out into the desert, near no medical or even bathroom facilities, letting the drugs and alcohol flow, and then setting off explosives as multimedia performance art—there’s a horrifying story about how a bomb-thrown piece of sheet metal came very close to slicing a crowd of concertgoers in half—is something that just couldn’t happen today without major legal ramifications. However, it lends the events an almost mythical quality.

The documentary ends rather abruptly, as the shows stopped when it sounds like the organizers simply got tired of doing them. (The film links Minutemen singer D. Boon’s death to the ending of an era, which is a nice, poignant note to wrap with, but could have done with some extrapolation on what happened with the rest of the scene.) Desolation Center finally details the way in which these anarchic get-togethers begat pop culture powerhouses like Burning Man, Coachella, and Lollapalooza—seeing those DIY ethos bloat into these money-making juggernauts seems to point to a bigger message about punk being dead that’s hardly explored. Either way, Desolation Center captures and scene in a way that’s a real treasure, and is essential viewing for fans of any of the bands it covers.


Author rating: 7.5/10

Moshe 06.23.2020 02:32 AM

streaming today: ampaign=dc

greenlight 06.25.2020 04:13 PM


anyone seen it yet?

Toxa 06.25.2020 07:39 PM

yes, enjoyed it a lot!

greenlight 06.28.2020 01:33 AM


Originally Posted by Toxa
yes, enjoyed it a lot!

have to watch it

The Soup Nazi 06.28.2020 01:58 AM

I will buy it from Vimeo once the pandemic is over. Although by then we will all be cyborgs. Or apes. But hopefully Jacinda Ardern and Barack Obama will be Queen & King of Earth, Billy Bragg UK Prime Minister, and Merritt Wever U.S. President.

g. 07.08.2020 11:30 AM

Piece in The Guardian today...

matmosphere 07.09.2020 10:19 AM


Originally Posted by The Soup Nazi
I will buy it from Vimeo once the pandemic is over. Although by then we will all be cyborgs. Or apes. But hopefully Jacinda Ardern and Barack Obama will be Queen & King of Earth, Billy Bragg UK Prime Minister, and Merritt Wever U.S. President.

Have you learned nothing from our sonic forefathers?! J Mascis will clearly rise to his foretold status as president of the world!!


Okay, sorry, moving along..

Anyway, this looks like it could be a great documentary, hopefully we all get to see it at some point. I feel bad for the filmmakers and everyone involved to have this all happening at such a crazy time.

I have a copy of Gila Monster Jamboree on VHS somewhere and it’s just an amazing performance. I wish there was a better version of it out there.

Moshe 07.11.2020 12:28 PM

Live this Friday at 4pm PT/7pm ET!
Bob Bert! Steve Shelley!
with Stuart Swezey and Mariska Leyssius of Desolation Center. Moderated by Scott Crawford (Filmmaker of Salad Days and Creem!) Plus clips from film!

greenlight 07.12.2020 02:25 PM


Originally Posted by Moshe
Live this Friday at 4pm PT/7pm ET!
Bob Bert! Steve Shelley!
with Stuart Swezey and Mariska Leyssius of Desolation Center. Moderated by Scott Crawford (Filmmaker of Salad Days and Creem!) Plus clips from film!


The Soup Nazi 09.14.2020 10:27 PM

Uncut's take on Desolation Center:

The writer gave the film four stars, but the text doesn't offer a critical evaluation; it's a description, basically.

Moshe 01.20.2021 10:08 AM

This Saturday! dublab and Desolation Center multi-media collab in celebration of the DVD release!
1pm ET/10am PT--special two-hour DJ mix of Desolation Center-inspired tracks from Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley.
3pm ET/noon PT--virtual panel discussion hosted by legendary Dublab DJ/co-founder Frosty along with Steve Shelley, director Stuart Swezey and co-producer Mariska Leyssius.
Stream the film and support Dublab!
Promotion is valid between January 22-24, 2020
Use promo code DUBLAB for $2.99 off purchase (not rental)
Use promo code DUBLAB1 to get $1 off rental
More info:

Moshe 01.23.2021 12:23 PM

The Soup Nazi 01.23.2021 09:50 PM

Thank you, Moshe!

Moshe 01.24.2021 08:06 AM

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