Sound: While there are very few bands out there that give you a glimpse of the rebellion or anarchy you might have witnessed in the early days of punk, Canada's Propagandhi seem to be holding strong. After about 20 years in the business, the band that meshes punk, thrash, and hardcore rock together still manages to churn out releases that are gritty and thought-provoking. Its latest DVD Live From Occupied Territory: An Official Bootleg features footage taken at a benefit concert back in 2003 for the Grassy Narrows Blockade and the Middle East Children's Alliance, and the majority of video isn't actually about a concert at all. Instead, the band dedicated time to educating viewers on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the preservation of the Grassy Narrows First Nation's way of life.
It's a gutsy move to use most of your DVD features for documentary material, but Propagandhi has always been a bit more fearless than the average band. Yes, there is about an hour-long concert show (shot by fans with hand-held cameras), and it does feel as street as DVDs come. Most of us have experienced intimate club experiences where crowds are scrunched together and the sound system is less than perfect. You get that in full with Live From Occupied Territory, and it actually fits the band perfectly. With any other band it might seem cheap and unwatchable, but Propagandhi does manage to make it cool.
The 21-track setlist includes The State Lottery, F--k The Border, and Stick The Flag Up Your Ass -- all of which are performed with consistent energy and received with equal enthusiasm. While not all of the lyrics are audible at times -- particularly when bassist Todd Kowalski sings, but plenty of politically incorrect lines slip through to make it still highly entertaining. // 8
Content: It's interesting that the DVD was released 4 years after the benefit show was filmed, but the format is unusual enough to warrant the wait. During the benefit concert, the band doesn't really talk that much about what issues the concert has been dedicated to, but doesn't hesitate to ponder other topics. Kowalski is the most vocal of the group, and takes moments to talk about everything from giving Barney a raise to discussing how a key figure who helped initiate the Iraqi War killed himself over the guilt he felt. Although his musings are engaging at times, his tirades do tend to get a bit old.
Most of the footage has little to do with Propagandhi's music, but it's still absolutely a worthwhile watch. The documentaries Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land and As Long As The River Flows are extremely well done, with plenty of historical footage that has not likely been exposed that much -- if at all -- through the regular media. The DVD also includes humorous audio commentary supplied by Propagandhi guitarist/vocalist Chris Hannah and Derek Hogue from the band's label, G7 Welcoming Committee, as well as a photo gallery. // 8
Production Quality: The concert was shot in a way that would truly live up to all the other bootleg videos out there, so viewers are given about 5 or 6 different camera angles -- all from the audience's point of view. It's as gritty as they get, and looks like the polar opposite of 99 percent of the live DVDs out there today. Propagandhi is one of the few bands that this seems to work for, particularly if you're already a fan. If you aren't familiar with their music, however, you might find the amateur camera work annoying. It does give a true club feel in the end, and the band was gutsy to leave it all up to the audience.
The documentaries are professional in quality, and it's obvious that a lot of time was spent on them. While the information not be the most current on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it still uses multiple sources and interviews to give a thorough examination of the issue. The Grassy Narrows Blockade is less well-known and actually is quite pertinent to all the talk on global preservation these days. It doesn't quite have the quality of the first documentary, but it actually has more of a human element to it that makes it a bit more interesting. // 7
Overall Impression: If you haven't been a fan of Propagandhi in the past, the band's latest DVD might not immediately draw your attention. It's primarily due to the do-it-yourself camera work that might be too distracting to enjoy the concert. While the band does have an enjoyable set, seeing the same camera angle (looking up at the site of singer Chris Hannah's head) for most of the concert might not be enough for some.
There will also be those who hate the idea of having political ideas shoved down their throats, but the Propagandhi DVD is actually presented in a smart way. There is little said about it being a benefit concert and the music really does take the spotlight. The band leaves the documentaries to do the talking and it gives the DVD a nice balance in the end. // 8