At the Matinee provides an account, through Walter
Schreifels and his music, of a world that existed in New York’s Lower East Side during the 80s. It’s a journey back to the sidewalk outside CBGBs, where on Sunday afternoon hardcore kids, skinheads, punks and drifters of all kinds would wait to enter the club for one of its concerts. These characters, decked out in their mohawks or shaved heads, either clad in leather jackets or advocating their vegetarian lifestyles, were a real community: a varied and complex humanity, who â€ thanks to their musical passion, managed to channel their social distress into an explosive and unique form of creativity.
The story started in the 80s and found its highest moment of expression around 1986. It was a spontaneous movement, developed in the shadier parts of Manhattan. This community began to see its demise around 1988. With the excuse of wanting to “clean up” Tompkins Square Park, or better described as “real estate exploitation”, the neighborhood witnessed fierce clashes between the police and the punk
community. From that moment on, this unwelcome reality was forced out, only to disappear completely.
In 1989 I saw a photo in a magazine where hundreds of people were entering the celebrated CBGBs. There were also the members of the bands that were to play that Sunday afternoon. I was in Italy, but I wanted to be with those young people. It was 1989 and that was a matinee. Those afternoon concerts were one of the most pivotal events in the New York hardcore scene. It was a time of unity â€ difficult to crack if you didn’t understand the codes and the vernacular within the community. Walter explains how these aspects were revealed in his songs, attempting to bring together the various elements of this story. The documentary is not just about a musical scene, but about
describing this scene and the people that were a part of it. It eases its way into the Lower East Side of the 80s, avoiding a mere philological recounting of the facts, but nevertheless attempting to reconstruct the mood and the artistic significance of the period.
These matinee concerts were born from a run down,
degraded context, and they were nothing more than Sunday afternoon shows.
Walter goes back to a neighborhood that has since changed completely to meet the people who played them, unveiling the remnants of that vanished world.