Before the Ramones or the Sex Pistols, there was Death, a punk rock band comprised of three African American brothers from Detroit.
Charlotte filmmaker Jeff Howlett chronicles the forgotten roots of punk rock music in the new documentary “A Band Called Death,” which will have its North Carolina theatrical premiere at Geeksboro Coffeehouse Cinema, 2134 Lawndale Drive in Greensboro, on July 20. Howlett will host two special Q&A events at the cinema at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on July 20.
The film’s story begins in Detroit during the early 70s. Teenagers David, Bobby and Dennis Hackney side stepped the Motown R&B and funk music that were popular during the time to form a bold new rock trio. Boasting the confrontational band name Death, the band’s sound was a mix of David’s favorite acts like The Who, Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones.
“A Band Called Death” features interviews from such rock and roll stalwarts as Alice Cooper and Henry Rollins, who describe Death’s music as being some of the earliest punk rock recordings ever made. In fact, the band was so cutting edge that they languished in obscurity until their recordings began to surface online three decades later. By 2008, Death’s 1975 self-released album started selling for nearly $1,000 on eBay. This unlikely resurgence culminated in the wide re-release of Death’s album “For the Whole World to See” from Drag City Records.
Howlett, a Waynesboro, Va. native, was studying film production at Burlington College in Vermont when he met the Hackneys. Howlett now lives and works in Charlotte.
Geeksboro Coffeehouse Cinema will present “A Band Called Death” daily from July 20 through July 26 at 12 p.m., 2 p.m., 5 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Admission is $6 for matinee shows before 5 p.m. and $8 for evening shows, with discounts for seniors, students and the military. Advanced tickets are available at Geeksboro’s box-office at 2134 Lawndale Drive in Greensboro, via voicemail at 336-355-7180 or email at GeeksboroTickets@gmail.com.