Featuring Magic City
Thurs April 26
I've lived in a lot of small towns. All of them were shitholes, or at least I thought they were at the time, but all of them had something in common: a desperately thriving, do-it-yourself punk subculture. And something I've come to learn in experiencing these dismal places is that kids in small towns often produce some of the most pure art, mostly for lack of anything better to do.
Similarly, the town of Moberly, Missouri in Magic City (directed by Punk Planet film columnist David Wilson) has a self-sustaining culture of young "freaks" (read: skaters with bleached hair) creating a positive environment in response to their surroundings. See, the kids of Moberly feel dicked over. They get arrested for skateboarding in town, and the only future they can see for themselves involves working in the surrounding factories. And they're living in "the underbelly of the Midwest" (or, as I fondly called it, "the armpit of the Bible Belt"), where there're lots of rednecks and fundamentalist Christians who want to squelch their joie de vivre.
Though it's only about 19 minutes long, Magic City encapsulates the feeling that Gummo director Harmony Korine is too trust-fund outsider to do. In the film, Wilson thinks that he lent some insight into the Moberly scene because of his outsider status--a filmmaker from the neighboring town of Columbia. But he handles this easily exploitable subject with the delicacy of an equal. And if you've ever been to Columbia, MO, you'll know that's exactly what he is--someone trying to create art as a weapon against the ennui that so diligently envelops the inhabitants of small towns. Wilson shows the kids of Moberly trying to save themselves by creating this tiny music scene, but at the same time, you get the feeling he's also trying to save himself by making the film.
In Moberly, there are no bookers, no proper venues, no Bike-In Theaters, no Reading Frenzys for people to collaborate and distribute. They have to generate their own backyard punk shows, lest the town's kids--at least, the ones who opted out of the shitkicker lifestyle--wither and die. I think everyone who appreciates, loves, and participates in Portland DIY should see the glorious 19 minutes of Wilson's film--if not to remind ourselves how good we have it, then to witness that communities similar to our own exist across the world. Even in shitholes like Moberly, Missouri.