Another State of Mind
Time Bomb, 2004

One of the great things about Blockbuster’s online video service is when something shows up in your mailbox that you weren’t expecting. You put something in your queue, forget about it, and next thing you know it comes long after you remember your initial impulses for wanting to see it. Such was the case with Another State of Mind that came a few weeks ago.

Originally released in 1984 (theatrically unbelievably) and put out on DVD in 2004, Another State of Mind captures an ill-fated 1982 cross-country trek taken by Youth Brigade and Social Distortion, along with a school bus full of their friends recruited as road crew. Youth Brigade frontman Shawn Stern had started the Better Youth Organization, a sort of umbrella operation to put out records and promote shows while at the same time encouraging others to follow the band’s DIY example. The tour was an extension of the BYO ideals, the goal being to create a united front between those on the band’s renovated school bus while at the same time spreading the idea of punk self-sufficiency across North America and inspiring people to follow their lead. Not exactly Ken Kesey, and not the merriest bunch of pranksters.

Directors Peter Stuart and Adam Small (who went to Beverly Hills High School with Stern) and a miniscule crew followed the bus with a couple cameras for 25 dates in six weeks from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. This was at a time predating the touring network that independent bands would utilize later in the decade, so as one might expect, things don’t go as smoothly for the bands as planned. The bus repeatedly breaks down, and screwed out of money at shows, the bands run low on funds and food, with members of the road crew eventually deserting the cause.

The film is revelatory for many reasons. First, of course, is the great live footage of Social Distortion and Youth Brigade. Coupled with some of the best filmed slam dancing from the time, the doc bristles with punk’s energy. But Stuart and Small did more than merely capture some great shows. Interviews with punks in the cities the bands play add a greater context to what the tour was trying to accomplish. The downtime drama, though, soon becomes central. Sterns’ ideals are put to the litmus test, with his main concern of unity disintegrating when the going gets tough. The tour reaches its low point in D.C., where Minor Threat puts them up at the Dischord house when the bus breaks down. The directors couldn’t have asked for a better scenario. Ian MacKaye’s straight edge philosophy and the almost militaristic, yet successful, manner in which its applied contrasts sharply with the crumbling BYO tour. The bus never makes it back to L.A. and the remaining devotees return in the film crew’s truck.

Another State of Mind excels at both capturing the punk environ of the time, and—perhaps most importantly—the human drama that results when a bunch of kids take their ideals on the road. Those ideals may not have survived, but we’re lucky this film did.
Stephen Slaybaugh