Punk-rocker dads change their tunes
By Joe Heim
Friday, Dec 02, 2011
Punk rock was never meant to grow old. Much less become a dad. Changing diapers? Walking your kids to the park? Taking your tweener to the father-daughter dance? Sid Vicious would not approve.
But then Sid is dead, and for every punk rocker who exited this earthly realm far too young, hundreds more just got . . . older. Many of the survivors have kept on rocking, but they've also bought houses, paid taxes, found partners and started families.
In her new documentary, "The Other F Word" (the F is for father), filmmaker Andrea Blau-
grund Nevins looks at a swath of dads - some famous, others less so - who either emerged from or were inspired by the punk-rock scene. From Red Hot Chili Peppers's bass player, Flea, to T.S.O.L.'s frontman Jack Grisham to NOFX singer Fat Mike, they all made their mark playing music that was fast and furious and filled with rage and raw emotion.
If all of their onstage snarling and posturing doesn't make them look like model-dad material, well, that's sort of the point. Offstage they are different beasts altogether. Daddyhood has taken hold of this likable, sympathetic, spectacularly tattooed bunch, almost all of whom had bad experiences with their own fathers and want, in some way, to make sure that history doesn't repeat itself with their children.
There are delicious contrasts between the musicians in full-on punk-rock mode and in full-on dad mode. In one scene, we see Pennywise's lead singer, Jim Lindberg, exhorting fans to shout out f-bombs with their song requests. In the next, he's calmly telling one of his daughters to stop calling her sister a "turdface."
"It's tough to be a punk-rock hero and still be a good authority figure to your kids," Lindberg says. "It's almost impossible."
Blink-182's Mark Hoppus faced a conundrum unique to musician dads. "It never dawned on me that at one point I'd be a father and have to buy the clean version of my albums to play in the car," Hoppus says with a wry smile. "Yeah, that's a pickle."
This beautifully shot and requisitely gritty movie could have been simply a sweet tale of people who don't look like average dads encountering all of the terrifying and rewarding territory that comes with parenthood. And it is that movie. But it's also one of the better rock movies to explore - and explode - the myth of being in a rock band, particularly an aging, working band that has managed to hang on and still make a living. The glamour of playing 200 shows a year, riding overstuffed tour buses, staying in Econo Lodges and eating Pringles by the can is fleeting.
Competing demands of band life and family life are felt by all of the musician/dads in this doc, but none more so than Lindberg. As the central figure of this documentary, he seems to manage both roles. But the grind of the road is wearying, and the highs of a good show don't make up for missing out on the ordinary and extraordinary moments of his kids' lives. Eventually something has to give, and over the course of the film we watch this scenario unfold before reaching its seemingly inevitable result.
That tale is interspersed with sad, sweet and hilarious scenes with a rotating cast of punk rockers. After becoming a dad, Rancid's Lars Frederiksen wonders aloud whether he should have gotten that tattoo on his forehead. Everclear's Art Alexakis sings "Wheels on the Bus" with his toddler daughter while driving her home from day care. And in an emotionally wrenching scene, punk veteran Duane Peters recalls the death of his son Chess in a car crash in 2007.
Though eminently watchable, this is not a flawless doc. Most problematic is that the mothers of all the kids in this movie are almost entirely invisible. If you didn't know better, you'd think all of these punk rock dads were single fathers. And you can't help but believe there's a sequel to be made: Punk rocker moms almost certainly have had it harder in every way than their male counterparts.
Contains lots of F words and other obscenities.