In an effort to rock for and/or against sustainable capitalism, Org favorites Propagandhi have finally put out a DVD, the aptly titled Live from Occupied Territory: An Official Bootleg. The DVD comes in a nice “Green-e certified” package, and its main feature is a live concert recorded at The Zoo in Winnipeg in July of 2003. Yes, that’s almost four years prior to the disc’s release, which means that only two songs from Potemkin City Limits are present (“Name and Address Withheld” and “Superbowl Patriot XXXVI”). The set list consists mostly of tracks from Today’s Empires, Tomorrow's Ashes, but also has a handful from Less Talk, More Rock and Where Quantity is Job #1, and just a single track from How to Clean Everything. They round out the set with a trio of covers: Day-Glo Abortions’ “Wake Up America,” Cro-Mags’ “Hard Times,” and Concrete Blonde’s “True” (also on Quantity).
In true DIY fashion, the concert is filmed by audience members using handheld cameras with the sound recorded and mixed by the band. This works in the disc’s favour but also slightly against it. It’s great to see such raw footage of a band like Propagandhi, but at times it is a bit much. The same few camera angles are used over again and again, and there is a bizarre, cheap visual effect that imitates slow motion which just gets a bit irritating by the end. It’s used sparingly, but still a bit too much. Also, in the latter half of the DVD, there are times where the screen goes black for a second, even though the sound keeps on playing. Minor gripes, but gripes nonetheless. The audio here is surprisingly good, though -- particularly on Chris’ songs -- but at times Todd’s words are a bit hard to make out. I can’t tell if this is due to the recording or because of his performance, but it’s still a slight fault.
But really, these are minor details, and what truly matters is the performance, and the band certainly manages to put on one hell of a show. The show feels like a genuine concert intended for the audience rather than some highly produced mess that was planned for DVD sales, which is its true highlight. The band leaves everything in, from the poor introduction by a local comedian to the drunks who climb on stage to put a Winnipeg Blue Bombers hat on Todd while yelling “Roughriders fuckin’ suck!” The band looks like they are enjoying themselves as they play, and Todd is always entertaining to watch as he headbangs around the stage in his shorts. Musically, they perform admirably, Jord pounding away on the skins as Chris rips into his solos with ease. There’s a surprisingly small amount of political banter between songs, but I guess they left that to the songs themselves and to the bonus features.
Leave it to Propagandhi to throw two full-length documentaries on the disc to truly make it worth your money. As someone who admittedly does a very poor job of keeping up with current events, these two films managed to shed a bit of light on the subjects (although they are a bit dated). The first is Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land, a 2004 film about the U.S. Media and its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This eye-opener shows the many filters that American news goes through in covering Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land, offering insight into the many different reasons why and illustrates a shocking comparison to news coverage from other areas, particularly Britain. The second documentary is 2003's As Long as the Rivers Flow, which details the story of the Grassy Narrows Blockade, an attempt by a group of Canadian First Nations to prevent logging companies from destroying their way of life. It’s a much more amateur production and not nearly as good as the first, but hey -- it’s free. Between the two of them, you are given 134 minutes of bonus features that I’d choose over a few measly band interviews any day of the week. There are also two photo galleries (one for each of the aforementioned world events) with some great shots and informative narration.
Proceeds from the disc will even go to benefit the Grassy Narrows Blockade and the Middle East Children’s Alliance, so not only can you learn about their circumstances, but in purchasing the DVD you are helping their fight (in a small way). There’s also an audio commentary of the concert done by Derek of G7 Welcoming Committee and Chris of Propagandhi, which has some pretty amusing moments if you’re one of the thirty or so people who actually listens to audio commentaries.
Despite the fact that it is overdue and slightly outdated, Live from Occupied Territory manages to capture the politics and live show of the elusive Propagandhi quite well. Though the set list of a live show is always debatable (I would’ve loved to have seen “Resisting Tyrannical Government,” personally), it’s still a great concert with plenty of enlightening bonus features that should please any fan of the band.