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Film Review: A Fat Wreck

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There are few record companies that have as successful or as loyal a following as Fat Wreck Chords. Since its founding in 1991, Fat Wreck has scrambled off the ground, seen wild success, and somehow come down from that high to land on it’s feet as the scrappy upstart label that you continue to love for all it’s rebellious conviction.

Over the course of the past two decades, Fat Wreck has put out such beloved releases as Less Than Jake’s Borders and Boundaries (2000), Against Me!’s Searching for a Former Clarity (2005), Anti-Flag’s The Terror State (2003), the Descdendents’ Cool to Be You (2004), Teenage Bottlerocket’s Freak Out! (2012), as well as dozens of others. It has a presence, whether known or not, in many a record collection and a seminal role in punk history.

The 2016 documentary “A Fat Wreck” traces the life of this legendary record label through the constant chaos and celebration that is the punk branch of the music industry. Focusing on founders Fat Mike (of NOFX) and his then-girlfriend, now-ex-wife Erin Burkett, the film provides a captivating look into the lives of these legends and how their brainchild has impacted the genre.

As much as the documentary is, as the record label is, the idea of these two incredible people, A Fat Wreck is also truly a community effort. With 404% of the necessary funding donated by 625 dedicated fans, it’s a piece of, for, and in a way by the Fat Wreck community. The people who have been invested in the record label’s success since day one.

The documentary also features countless hours of footage contributed by members of bands as big as MXPX, Bad Religion, and the Foo Fighters as well as newer acts like Masked Intruder and The Bombpops. It is a movie about the music, those who make it, and those who listen to it.

It strives to answer the question of after 25 years, 157 studio albums, and 88 bands, what is Fat Wreck? What became of these foul-mouthed musicians who started out as wayward punks who became captains of their industry? What can a label weather when the personal and professional intersect?

The answer to these all is, of course, a lot.  If nothing else, this fan inspired film journey is testament to the profound and lasting influence that a few misfits with a mission to put sweet sounds into the world were able to achieve on their own terms.  Fat Wreck Chords is a reminder that the DIY ethos is alive and well, and that the ability to touch lives through music can be as, if not more, impactful at the grassroots level as in the C-level suites of major label conglomerates.

Most importantly, though, what’s with the puppets?

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