Videos chronicle '90s punk era

'There isn't a whole heck of a lot of documentation out there,' Nick Canterruci says of Memphis music history.

"There isn't a whole heck of a lot of documentation out there," Nick Canterruci says of Memphis music history.

A golden if grimy age of independent Memphis rock and roll will be resurrected in all its low-definition, high-decibel glory Tuesday night, when a veteran videographer and former TV news cameraman hosts "Memphis Punk Videos: An Evening with Nick Canterucci" at The Blue Monkey pub in Midtown.

The latest in the bar's informal slate of rock movie events, curated by longtime if currently inactive local music writer John Floyd, the "Punk Videos" screening will be divided into two chapters, both showcasing rarely seen vintage performances shot by Canterucci in the 1990s.

The first program is an hourlong video anthology featuring such acts as the Simpletones, Tav Falco's Panther Burns, The Reatards and Jeff Evans (backed by his own bands as well as by the Oblivians), in such significant establishments, past and present, as Barrister's, the Map Room and the Hi-Tone Café.

The second program is a 47-minute 1994 concert starring the Oblivians, shot live at Memphis' most famous and influential rock club of the post-Elvis era, The Antenna.

"Everything I did, I did right that night," Canterucci, 59, says of his Oblivians concert footage. "The crowd was absolutely wild. It was total chaos, anarchy, but in a fun way. The band was on, the crowd was eating it up, it was a love fest. Of all the shows I shot, I think it's my all-time favorite."

The garage/punk aesthetic and Memphis work ethic captured in Canterruci's footage have lost none of their appeal in the almost two decades since. The reunited Oblivians have been recording a new album at The Black Keys' studio in Nashville, and producer Floyd, director Chris McCoy, producer Ross Johnson and others currently are preparing a feature-length Antenna documentary that should debut later this year.

Revisiting old video for the Antenna project, Canterucci began transferring some of his material to the digital format, and burning it onto disc. He says he was surprised at the quality -- the footage looked almost as good as new after the transfer.

"If you look at the whole history of Memphis music, there isn't a whole heck of a lot of documentation out there," he said. "Look at Big Star; there's hardly any footage. I thought this is a special moment, a special era, this punk stuff, so I began to record it."

Mostly using only one camera (although he occasionally set up a second camera on a tripod), Canterucci shot with a "very sophisticated" JVC commercial/consumer video camera he bought in Japan. He built his own microphone with components purchased at Radio Shack, and created his own lens filters "so I could play with the lighting. So basically I used the same techniques I used when I shot with film; I was taking it a couple of steps further than just regular videotape."

"I got up onstage and was doing guerrilla filmmaking," he says, recalling that bands were almost always cooperative. "Angles on hands, close-ups, I moved around. I wanted to give music fans and historians something to bite into."

Of course, this was before YouTube and the Internet, so if you wanted to see the footage when it was new, Canterucci had to screen it for you, or dub you a copy of a tape.

"Looking back, 15, 20 years later, you see really great performances by bands that never got the recognition or the breaks they should've got," Canterucci said. "That's a familiar tale of woe here in Memphis."

A Detroit native, Canterucci continues to edit a "trash American culture" Detroit-Memphis fanzine called Loafing the Donkey. He also is an artist: "Polaris," his latest show of folk art-style creations, opens May 4 and continues through the end of the month at the Cooper-Young Community Association, 2298 Young. But his 1990s documentation of the underground Memphis rock scene likely will be one of his more significant legacies.

The end of the century, more or less, marked the end of Canterucci's passion for his hobby. "I gave it up because the bands were getting too snooty and the crowds were getting too weird," he said.

The final show he shot was a Panther Burns "comeback" performance at the Hi-Tone. "I got hit in the head with a beer bottle, and somebody put firecrackers down my back. I called it a day and never looked back."


'Memphis Punk Videos: An Evening with Nick Canterucci'

8 p.m. Tuesday at the Blue Monkey, 2012 Madison. Part 1: "Aperture" -- a program of 1990s Memphis club and concert footage. Part 2: "Oblivian" -- a complete Oblivians concert, shot Dec. 17, 1994, at The Antenna. Admission: free. Call (901) 272-BLUE.


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