The aggressive guitar chords heard in the opening of Pennywise’s “F— Authority” are some of the most recognizable in punk rock. They’re also used in the beginning of a movie about fatherhood.
It may seem somewhat contradictory, but it makes sense. “The Other F Word,” a documentary about famous punk rocker musicians becoming fathers, opens this week in independent movie theaters across America. Running about 99 minutes, the movie asks this question to viewers: What happens when a generation’s ultimate anti-authoritarians, punk rockers, become society’s ultimate authorities – dads?
Former Pennywise singer Jim Lindberg has his life chronicled for over a year with his wife and three young daughters. He tries to balance being the singer of a well-respected band with fans and being there for his children. But missing first days of school, dances, and birthdays are normal when Lindberg spends over 200 days out of the year on tour. We follow him to his hotel rooms where he dyes his hair to “keep the dream alive” for the kids. Because the music industry and artists are seeing significant revenue loss, going on tour, no matter how old they individually are or the band is, is one of the few ways to put food on the table.
These are both Lindberg’s jobs. When producer Cristan Reilly tried to explain this oxymoron of being a punk rock dad she said, “I was both repelled and intrigued.” Director Andrea Blaugrund Nevins says, “When I was a kid growing up in New York City, punk rockers were the people you crossed the street to avoid.”
The heavily-tattooed Rancid guitarist Lars Frederiksen (he does say “Maybe I shouldn’t have tattooed my forehead.”) says he’s teaching his son that being a moral person is more important than how you look. As he says this, the playground clears slowly at the sight of him coming. Comparing appearances to where Frederiksen lives he says, “What’s working for me is that I live in San Francisco. So to be noticed you have to be naked or on fire.”
The California punk scene is featured more heavily than New York. The foundation of punk on the West Coast had more to do with realizing families were not the Cleavers in the 1970s. Divorces were common in the age of Watergate and Vietnam, so why not let out your aggression in a pit? And this is what happened then at Black Flag shows, where often the police were called and some fans were left covered in blood.
Throughout the course of the movie, musicians reveal that many of them didn’t have very good relationships with their fathers. Michael Balzary, better known as Flea, the bassist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, says about his parents, “I don’t think they focused on the job they really had.” Now Flea is probably the last guy on earth (think Abbey Road EP cover) you’d think might bring you to tears, but as he sits playing piano with his daughter, you know he has never seen being a parent as being more crucial. He almost cries when he says about her, “I’m going to be there for you even if I’m on the other side of the world. When you talk to me on the phone, I’m going to be present.”
This fact of wanting to be there for their children becomes too much for Lindberg. After 19 years in Pennywise, he quit the band to watch his daughters grow up.
As the film ends with Against Me!’s “I Was a Teenage Anarchist,” the poster of the movie seems to say it all: “Sometimes a little anarchy can be a life changing experience.”