Kerri O'Kane's rockumentary about The Gits is neither a cautionary tale of sex, drugs and rock and roll -- though the Seattle-based quartet provided plenty of the latter -- nor is it a Behind the Music-style tabloid telling of squabbling band mates, clashing egos, burning out or even fading away. Instead, it's a tremendously sad reminder of how sudden, random violence can end a life, wreck a band and destroy a community.
Taking their name from a classic Monty Python skit, the Gits – who originally called themselves Sniveling Little Rat-Faced Gits -- came together in the liberal arts environment of Ohio's Antioch College in 1986: Andy Kessler, aka "Joe Spleen," on guitar; Matt Dresdner on bass; and Steve Moriarty on drums. Singer and lyricist Mia Zapata, an imposing girl with powerful, punk-rock pipes who was equal parts Exene Cervenka and, when she wanted, Bessie Smith, brought the whole thing together. In 1989, having established a local following, the group left for Seattle, whose nascent music scene was about to break. They moved into a home/rehearsal space dubbed the "Rathouse" in the city's Capitol Hill district and quickly established themselves as powerful live act, attracting a new cadre of devoted fans and fellow musicians; Mia in particular acted as mentor and soul-sister to even younger bands, like the soon-to-be-signed riot-grrrl group 7 Year Bitch. With several singles and glowing reviews from U.S. and European music press looking to Seattle for the next big thing to their credit, the Gits looked set to break into the big time. And then unthinkable happened: In the pre-dawn hours of June 7, 1993, Zapata's body was found dumped on a Seattle side street; she had been badly beaten, raped and strangled. Friends and band mates were devastated, and the ensuing investigation sowed suspicion throughout a once-trusting community and cast a pall over a music scene that had already suffered from a number of drug-related casualties and deaths.
This sensitive, straightforward account of the Gits' promising rise and sudden fall relies primarily on interviews with the surviving band members, still-active musicians who continue to mourn the senseless -- and until recently, unsolved -- death of their friend as well as their band. Members of contemporaneous bands, notably 7 Year Bitch, attest to the Gits' importance and Zapata's influence, but the most touching testimony comes from Zapata's father, whose memories of his daughter are heartbreaking and inspiring. In addition to rare scenes of The Gist onstage in various local venues, O'Kane was lucky enough to have access to footage from Doug Pray's Seattle music documentary HYPE! (1996), which captured this powerhouse band at their peak. Zapata singing "Second Skin" should be enough to remind those who've forgotten and introduce those who never knew to the power and tragedy of the Gits.
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- Released: 2008
- Rating: NR
- Review: Kerri O'Kane's rockumentary about The Gits is neither a cautionary tale of sex, drugs and rock and roll -- though the Seattle-based quartet provided plenty of the latter -- nor is it a Behind the Music-style tabloid telling of squabbling band mates, clashi… (more)