We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen is a lot of things: a manual for upstart bands, a chance to see old punks in their living rooms, and a stern reminder that punk is a way to live and not a haircut. (Damn it!) But mostly the film features bassist Mike Watt setting people straight about his band, which combined quick songs, a proletarian attitude, and the desire to screw with everything it touched.
Econo starts with Watt visiting the very tree 13-year-old D. Boon jumped from onto Watt's head, changing the course of history. Watt then motors us around his sacred San Pedro in a van, pointing out landmarks such as windows and driving really slowly. Storytelling follows, using a mix of current and archival footage: Watt will start a tale in a 1985 interview, pick it up from behind the wheel, hand it off to Flea or Ian MacKaye or Jello Biafra from their respective homes, and then a live music clip will prove everyone right. Conclusions achieved: a) Precious few understood the Minutemen, b) D. Boon jumped around a lot for a big guy, and c) it mightily sucks when you're trying to sing and 30 people spit in your mouth.
There are also revelations: Double Nickels on the Dime was named after Sammy Hagar's inability to drive 55, and D. Boon's mom cajoled Watt into playing bass. But it's really a treat see how the fellows are getting on — MacKaye looks and sounds like Moby; John Doe is as dapper as ever — as well as how they're living. Some, such as Flea, reside in Pottery Barn punk, but plenty retain the shit-everywhere chic of '85. You are expected to believe, and indeed should, that the Minutemen were the little geniuses of the era, confounding fans and peers alike. But the most unexpected take-away? D. Boon had a very cool mom.