With a rich and deeply rooted history, Richmond’s music scene is full of captivating stories to tell. As Dust Up strives to provide an ongoing platform for documenting where the music scene is now and where it is going in the future, we also seek to elevate and contextualize the sounds of Richmond’s past. This piece is part of an ongoing series showcasing Richmond’s musical past.
Earlier this month saw the release of a surprise tour documentary chronicling tour life with 30 Day Warranty – a local pop-punk trio who performed from 1999 to 2004. The linear-style documentary, shot by PJ Sykes, captures two weeks of East coast road life, offering glimpses of grit and glory from yesteryear’s pop-punk.
Part of his work documenting the local scene includes a meticulous archive of past bands, show flyers, recordings and live footage housed on the Cherub Records website.
When the chance to tour first arose in 2002, Sykes jumped to capture the wonderful, weird and wild alike with a hard-working punk trio he loved.
“When I started Cherub Records, I always helped distro (30 Day Warranty) releases, and I even included them on some compilations,” Sykes said. “When the opportunity came up to join them on tour, I was already exploring the idea of making some sort of live video compilation. I had started to film shows and asked bands I knew from out of town to send me tapes.”
Heavily influenced by Jem Cohen’s work on the FUGAZI documentary ‘Instrument’, Sykes took a linear, “shoot it and see” approach to documenting this era. The result is a curious, fly-on-the-wall look at the pop-punk explosion in early 2000s, when bands like Green Day and Blink-182 dominated the charts. A generation’s interest in music with loud guitars and intense power chords erupted – both in the mainstream and on the fringes of DIY culture.
“I thought if I could just capture a little of each day, plus some of the performances, it would be fun to share it with everyone when we got home,” Sykes recounted.
Originally, he intended to release the footage on VHS, but after moving to Richmond, the tapes remained buried away for years. After rediscovering the footage, Sykes finally debuted the documentary to mark the tour’s 15th anniversary earlier this month. To him, it’s “a weird slice of RVA music history” that’s always been meant to be shared, one way or another. You can watch the entire documentary in a YouTube playlist here.
Included in that treasure trove was a never-before-seen 30 Day Warranty set at 929 (the beloved space currently known as Strange Matter). The space is a main staple in Richmond punk, playing host to numerous incredible bands over the years under it’s many names/incarnations; Twisters, Nanci Raygun and Bagel Czar being some of the most notable.
Whichever incarnation of 929 W. Grace St you prefer, the room is unmistakable.
These days, 30 Day Warranty entertains the possibility of a reunion as they each pursue other projects. After the band’s breakup in 2004, bassist Brad Villemagne moved to Oakland and went on to join Bay-Area pop-punk outfits General Hospital and Teenage Sex. Lead guitarist BJ Nagel and drummer David Boylen remain in the Richmond area and have each recorded several solo albums.
As for Sykes, the documentary and first tour experience proved to be transformative. Not only did touring with 30 Day Warranty prove useful when he would years later later embark on tours of his own, but it also impressed upon him the importance of a dedicated and positive mentality when approaching music.
“I’m not sure I learned all that much as a musician. I did play a couple of sets with David on drums (not filmed). However I did learn a lot about how to persevere, make smart choices on the road and make the best of what you have.”
Stumble upon some hidden River City music gems? Uncover some killer live footage from the 80’s (or ‘90s, or whenever your aunt did that one sick project back in college)? Dust Up wants to showcase your project/media/footage/content about Richmond’s music past. Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us about it.