Between 1985 and 1988, a teenager by the name of Sohrab Habibion was attending punk and post-punk shows around the Washington, DC area. What set him apart was the bulky video camera he’d bring to the show and let roll, documenting entire gigs in all their low-rez, lo-fi glory. Just a kid trying to document a great night out. Habibion might not have known at the time what an important time capsule he was creating, but these 60 or so tapes have now been digitized and uploaded to YouTube, thanks to Roswell Films and the DC Public Library’s Punk Archive.
“Please keep in mind that I was a teenager when I shot these shows,” Habibion writes, “and had zero proficiency with the equipment. And, as you might imagine, nobody was doing anything with the lights or the sound to make things any better. What you get here is what was recorded on my Betamax and probably best appreciated with a bit of generosity as a viewer.”
Highlights include the above full concert by Fugazi on December 28, 1987, a year before their first e.p. and playing songs that would turn up on their 1990’s classic debut Repeater; Descendents in 1987 at the height of their career; The Lemonheads when they were a punk band and not a power pop group; the insane and hilarious GWAR from 1988, the year of their debut; and another hometown punk band, Dain Bramage, which featured Dave Grohl on drums, long before he played with Nirvana and the Foo Fighters (see below).
Habibion went on to his own musical career: first as the frontman for post-hardcore band Edsel, and currently as part of the band SAVAK.
Habibion’s tape archive makes one wonder: who else is out there sitting on a trove of historic recordings? And where is that person’s equivalent of the DC Library? Who would help fund such a project? And who would see the worth of such recordings? Not only are Habibion’s tapes about the bands themselves, but they tell a separate history of music venues come and gone, of a time and place that will never come again. Watch the shows here.
Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the Notes from the Shed podcast and is the producer of KCRW’s Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.