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A Band Called Death: A close encounter with punk rock history

A Band Called Death: A close encounter with punk rock history

A band called death
David Hackney of Death. Photo Courtesy of Drafthouse Films/Facebook
A band called death 2
A band called Death. Photo Courtesy of Drafthouse Films/Facebook
A band called death family photo
Archival photograph of Death. Photo Courtesy of Drafthouse Films/Facebook
A band called death
A band called death 2
A band called death family photo

Vinyl record collecting is a vibrant scene in the Live Music Capital of the World, partly because music fans love the thrill of making new discoveries. There’s no telling what you might find while crate digging at Waterloo — or even rummaging around your dad’s attic.

But what if you discovered that your dad wasn’t just in some anonymous garage band with his buddies back in the day, but that he was a pioneer part of rock history?

That’s the story behind the latest upcoming feature via Drafthouse Films, A Band Called Death; after receiving an Audience Award at SXSW 2013, the tale of the three musical brothers from Detroit returns to Austin screens before it hits theaters nationwide on June 28.

The documentary revolves around three brothers from Detroit that formed an R&B band in the early 1970s called Rock Fire Funk Express, but that all changed after the group saw Alice Cooper perform live. The brothers set to work redefining their band's sound, changed its name to Death and set the stage for punk rock.

Death's hardcore sound is considered visionary today, predating the Sex Pistols, the Ramones and Bad Brains, and it wouldn’t be expected at the time for a band of black musicians to leave behind the sound of Motown. But unfortunately Death came short of making a true breakthrough, and after only recording seven songs out of a planned 12, the group fell into obscurity and a demo tape was buried deep within an attic.

Several decades passed by, but those seven tracks found new life in 2009, finding an underground audience and the chance for the band to find accolades from musicians and music critics. Their story now has the screen treatment, and local music fans will get a chance to see the reformed Death as its members tell their story firsthand while also performing live for one night.

The Alamo Drafthouse will host two advanced screenings of the documentary with a band Q&A, although tickets are only available now for Wednesday, June 26. The Monday screening is already sold out, so don’t wait too long to grab tickets while they’re still available.

The film will enter a theatrical release on June 28 and is available to watch on demand and online, but there is currently only one chance, June 24, to see these punk pioneers live in concert at the Parish. 

And perhaps Death's reemergence will inspire you to make a discovery your own family. To help the world learn about your own dad’s attempt at rock n’ roll fame, Drafthouse Films and Dangerous Minds teamed up to create an interactive blog, “My Dad Was In A Band.”

Perhaps it’s about time your dad was given another shot at stardom?