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Once upon a time, San Diego was poised to conquer its supposed inferiority complex (thanks, L.A.) via an explosive music scene that had onlookers proclaiming America’s Finest City as “the next Seattle.”

Nothing ever really came of that, or – if it did – it didn’t look the way the next Seattle was supposed to: spackled on the cover of Rolling Stone, selling out arenas across the country, and going multi-platinum on major labels.

For better or worse, San Diego’s underground never broke through to mainstream audiences in the way that Seattle’s household grunge names did.

Now, local filmmaker Bill Perrine of Billingsgate Media is collaborating with the musicians, promoters, and club owners who were a part of San Diego’s heyday (one of them, anyways) to explore the soul of the San Diego sound and where - if indeed it did - it went wrong.


“I'm pretty suspicious of nostalgia, but cultural history is something I can get behind,” says Perrine, producer of It's Gonna Blow!!! - San Diego's Music Underground 1986-1996.

“The early 90s was a very specific and pivotal time for 'underground' music and for San Diego, a provincial town slowly becoming a city. There were some extraordinarily weird and innovative bands operating in a kind of cultural dead zone but, because of that, all these really diverse musicians and artists really had to band together to create and support each other. There weren't a lot of options. That fostered a really creative scene that was almost completely untainted by commercial considerations. So when the record labels came to town and San Diego was pegged as the next 'capitol of cool' and 'the next Seattle' most musicians were pretty unprepared for it.”

Perrine cites bands such as Drive Like Jehu, Rocket from the Crypt, Tanner, Crash Worship, Heroin, Trumans Water, and Three Mile Pilot as key acts from this era.

“I loved a lot of these bands when they were active - bought their records, saw them live - but if I could go back in time I would go to 10 times the number of shows. It was a pretty astonishing confluence of creative energy. I go to shows quite a bit now but back then I was far lazier and hermetic than I had any right to be. Perhaps making this film is penance for all the stuff I missed the first time around.”

Set to be released next spring, the documentary features archival footage (sourced from musicians, promoters, fans, and collectors) and interviews with members of No Knife, the Locust, Heavy Vegetable, Physics, the aforementioned bands, and many others.

“We're always looking for more [footage] and encourage people to hit up our Facebook page to contribute,” Perrine says.

He notes that, despite his focus on San Diego’s past, “there are great bands now too, and it's easier than ever to see them. Most of the ‘90s musicians are still playing and there are plenty of younger bands doing cool stuff. In North Park alone you can hop from Soda Bar to the Void to Bar Pink on any given night and catch a different cool show at each one of them. That was pretty unthinkable back then.”

So maybe San Diego never became the next Seattle, whatever that means. But it has grown into its own shoes quite comfortably, and I think we can all agree that our much-ballyhooed “inferiority complex” – if it ever did exist – is little more than a distant memory.

“If anything surprised me in making this documentary,” Perrine concludes, “it's how nice and supportive everybody is. There's not a lot of bitterness or regret. They just love their friends and love playing music.”


It’s Gonna Blow!!! is Perrine’s second full-length documentary following Children of the Stars, a look into the Unarius UFO contactee group based in El Cajon.

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