Relive the heydey of Sonic Youth and Nirvana in 1991: The Year Punk Broke


If you’ve been feeling lonesome lately for your grunge rock days, the no-budget indie doc 1991: The Year Punk Broke is coming to the Walter Reade this May.  In his self-produced film, director Dave Markey follows Nirvana and Sonic Youth on their 1991 European tour, offering up a view of Kurt Cobain and company with home-video intimacy, and capturing live performances by said bands including appearances by Babes in Toyland, Gumball, and Dinosaur Jr. This month marks fifteen years since Cobain’s death, and a screening of The Year Punk Broke is the perfect way to commemorate the influence grunge music had on the music of today.

Nirvana and Sonic Youth were the spearheads of the movement that took the world by storm in the 90s, composed of Generation Xers whose disdain for the Regan/Bush establishment filtered into their music.  The sound was a melding of punk, indie rock, and pop that sought to reject the values of the highly-synthesized commercial pop of the 80s and reclaim the graininess of analog for one last victory lap around the mosh pit before the impending arrival of the digital age.  It was a time when it was not only acceptable but encouraged to play a casually off-key set without a shirt on and then smash your instrument when the set was over.

But amongst the guitar smashing, there is a distinct thread of social consciousness throughout the movie.  Mudhoney’s Mark Arm interrogates bewildered European fans on the street throughout the doc about their opinion of the capitalization on youth culture, and Sonic Youth, who was one of the first bands of the scene to maintain artistic control of their music when they signed on with a major record label, reiterate their suspicion of record companies and the capitalistic industry in general.

1991: The Year Punk Broke is raw and playful, with a handmade quality that honors its grunge roots, and is dominated by live performances by all your old favorites, so come feel nostalgic with us and watch this film that is as loud and loosely-structured as the music it celebrates.

-Christianne Hedtke

Christianne Hedtke also writes for BananaWho

Buy tickets to 1991: The Year Punk Broke Mon May 4: 8:15pm

Explore posts in the same categories: Film Comment, on @ the walter reade, what's on

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One Comment on “Relive the heydey of Sonic Youth and Nirvana in 1991: The Year Punk Broke”

  1. Jeremy Says:


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