A stringy-haired Steve Evetts looks into a handheld camera held by Kid Dynamite guitarist Dan Yemin. In his hands he grips a small piece of paper with a 2-letter word on it and a punctuation mark at the end. It's no larger than 4" x 4", but the font is bold-faced, so you can read it clearly as Evetts presses it against the mixing board. "Dan: This is for your benefit. Note the well-placed 'GO.'" There is Kid Dynamite's existence summed up in one small, intentionally metaphorical action: Abbreviated but aggressive. Short but impacting. Brief but powerful. A duration that lasted no more than 4 years, but one that turned heads, and continues to do so today.
Four Years in One Gulp, the melodic hardcore legends' first full-length feature DVD, captures the band's history in a chronological fashion with candid looks inside the story of their history. Jade Tree presents an absolutely wonderful collaboration of talking heads' stories, crisp photos, direct narration from lead singer Jason Shevchuk, a bit of tour footage and a diverse array of interspersed live clips from over the years. The entire sequence leads from the ex-Lifetime members starting to collaborate on the band all the way to the heartbreaking end of the band, and with a look at the band's reunion shows in 2003.
The major players in terms of the talking heads are the collective band themselves, hanging out in a living room and reminscing of practices and tour occurrences. Jade Tree co-owner and former roadie Darren Walters spills the juice on "inside the van" tidbits, as does former roadies Dave Hause (now singing and playing guitar for the Loved Ones) and Colin McGinnus (now in None More Black), who get plenty of face time themselves with their plethora of stories ("and Spider ate some rancid Doritos...," "they were wrestling in the nude..."). A number of other area band members get their say in, as well.
The sound for the videos are not at their respective maximums, but they suffice well and match the sometimes mildly grainy footage perfectly. The very first shown, "Pacifier," is appropriately from the band's first ever show, which is hilarious in aspects. Shevchuk looks like he walked out of a chemistry final, while the entirety of the band seemingly refuses to shy away from facing the crowd, including a barefoot, gym clothes-covered Dan Yemin. Temporary bassist Ernie Parada (Grey Area), only played a few shows with the band, but footage is included, which is a great clip of "Shiner," shot from a profile view, but one in which the crowd is right up front and whose faces are clearly visible; everyone from the frumpy-looking but pleased as punch fangirl to the spiky haired fellow who doesn't seem to know any words but is enjoying himself regardless get their cameos in. Even included is a latter-era clip of the band's cover of Black Flag's "Rise Above," taken from the last show of KD's last tour.
While it tends to solely involve the band killing time, including Yemin deeply concentrated on a round of Mortal Kombat, studio footage from the "recording" of the band's self-titled debut is here and engaging nonetheless, if not just for Dave Wagenshutz's 'STRAIGHT EDGE ISN'T COOL ANYMORE' shirt.
The DVD briefly looks at the 2003 reunion shows as well, with some rather candid footage of the band in the rehearsal space, practicing for the forthcoming shows. This section of the DVD even manages to include a clip of "Fuckuturn," taken from a secret show played as a warmup a number of days before the official shows at Philadelphia's First Unitarian Church. The "Heart a Tact" clip here is one of the best on the disc.
Slight mention is even made of the CBGBs benefit from this past August 2005, photos of which are lovely to see.
The extras are worth at least glances, as well. From a quick glimpse, the band commentary appears to be both informative and humorous, which is all you can ask for when it comes to that usually ignored area of DVDs, while Hause and McGinnus team up for more stories.
I have a feeling Kid Dynamite will long be remembered in the minds of all who regard punk rock as an important branch of rock. In the scope of the musical stratosphere, they may be but a blip on the radar, but in hardcore punk, they were kings. The East Coast stalwarts were a band who took an old hat and wore it on their heads like it was the greatest thrift store find of all time. Visual proof is in Four Years in One Gulp, which is a perfect assurance that both Kid Dynamite's songs and passion for recreating an atmosphere of pure, unbridled punk rock created legacy that will long go unmatched.
ADDENDUM: Some friends and readers have alterted me that the bonus section also includes a number of songs from the CBGBs reunion performance, with solid video and spectacular audio quality. I believe my score is fully justified.