ABOUT THE PROJECT
Before Lollapalooza, Burning Man or Coachella, Desolation Center brought punk and industrial music fans in rented school buses into the Mojave Desert for performances that the LA Weekly described as “like some bizarre ritual at the end of the world.”
SYNOPSIS / DESCRIPTION
Before there was Lollapalooza, Burning Man or Coachella, Desolation Center transported punk and industrial music fans in rented school buses into the far reaches of the Mojave Desert for performances that have been termed as “life-changing” and “earth-shattering” by those who were there. The LA Weekly described one of the events as being “like some bizarre ritual at the end of the world.”
DESOLATION CENTER is a feature documentary about a series of guerilla music and performance events in the early-to-mid-1980s staged in remote and unusual locations that have now attained legendary status.
DESOLATION CENTER is the true story of how the risky, and at times even reckless, actions of a few outsiders can unintentionally lead to seismic cultural shifts. The repercussions of these unlicensed and surreal shows have shaped some of the most significant and celebrated live festivals of our time. Combining his 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, director Stuart Swezey tells the story of the Desolation Center events and the spirit of the turbulent times from which they emerged.
Breaking down the perennial barrier between performer and audience in a completely novel way, the Desolation Center events became “temporary autonomous zones” outside the rigid Reagan-era society that these young people were in rebellion against. On the stark, alien landscapes of the California desert, the anarchic aggression of LA hardcore punk cross-pollinated with the uncompromising sounds of New York's No Wave and Berlin’s industrial musique concrete to form the catalyst for a powerful new culture that would come to command the attention of the entire world.
Some of the characters involved in the Desolation Center events and appearing in the film are among the most compelling and fascinating of their generation including Perry Farrell (Jane’s Addiction, Lollapalooza), Kim Gordon, Blixa Bargeld (Einstürzende Neubauten and Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds), Mike Watt (Minutemen, Firehose), and Mark Pauline (Survival Research Laboratories). DESOLATION CENTER is more than just the story of these unparalleled site-specific shows, it is also a panoramic look at 80s alternative culture while it was still under the radar of the mass media. As a recent Vice.com article explains, “the magic of the shows is that they never had a chance to become diluted by money or time: they were raw, they were real, and, most importantly, they were completely original.”
GENRE Documentary Feature
DIRECTOR Stuart Swezey
PRODUCER Stuart Swezey
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