Segments in this Video

Los Angeles 1982 (11:32)


Several artists reflect on the city's music scene and relationships between the punk music culture, the media, and the LAPD. Stuart Swezey decides to promote shows as a form of artistic expression and utilizes empty warehouses and remote spaces.

Mojave Exodus: April 24, 1983 (10:35)

Swezey works with musicians to create a concert in the desert; they provide attendee transportation to better control logistics. Bruce Licher creates the tickets and Mariska Leyssius is the bus monitor. Attendees and performers reflect on the experience.

Berlin: 1983 (06:37)

Swezey recalls arriving in Berlin with his notebook of contacts and the Cold War atmosphere; he attends a Collapsing New Buildings concert. Six months later, the band agrees to perform in the Mojave Desert near Mecca and Swezey makes plans.

Mojave Auszug: March 4, 1984 (18:01)

Concertgoers board buses to the desert concert. Performers include Collapsing New Buildings, Mark Pauline and Survival Research Laboratories, Boyd Rice, and Djemaa-El-fna. Attendees and performers reflect on the experience and its impact.

Joy at Sea: June 15, 1984 (11:23)

Swezey decides to hold a concert on a boat in the San Pedro harbor. Performers include Minutemen, Meat Puppets, Points of Friction, and Lawndale. Attendees and performers reflect on the experience and "Double Nickels on the Dime."

Gila Monster Jamboree: January 5, 1985 (18:48)

Swezey recalls hearing Sonic Youth perform in Berlin and the “Death Valley 69” album. Desolation Center allows concert goers to drive themselves to the desert gig. Performers include Sonic Youth, Meat Puppets, Redd Kross, and Psi-Com. Attendees and performers reflect on the experience.

Solstice: December 21, 1985 (05:25)

The Bureau of Land Management fines Swezey for trespassing. Swezey promotes the warehouse concert that features Swans, Sonic Youth, Saccharine Trust, and Debt of Nature. Attendees and performers reflect on the experience and the sudden death of D. Boon.

Music Festivals (06:41)

Swezey and others establish Amok Books. Lollapalooza tours North America from 1991 to 1997 and reemerges in 2005. Gary Tovar co-founds Coachcella and John Law co-founds the Burning Man Festival. Experts reflect on the uniqueness of the Desolation Center shows.

Credits: Desolation Center (04:01)

Credits: Desolation Center

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Desolation Center

DVD (Chaptered) Price: $199.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $299.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $199.95



Desolation Center is the previously untold story of a series of early 80s guerrilla music and art performance happenings in Southern California that are recognized to have inspired Burning Man, Lollapalooza and Coachella, collective experiences that have become key elements of popular culture in the 21st century. The feature documentary splices interviews and rare performance footage of Sonic Youth, Minutemen, Meat Puppets, Swans, Redd Kross, Einstürzende Neubauten, Survival Research Laboratories, Savage Republic and more, documenting a time when pushing the boundaries of music, art, and performance felt almost like an unspoken obligation. Directed by Stuart Swezey, the creator and principal organizer of these unique events, Desolation Center demonstrates how the risky, and at times even reckless, actions of a few outsiders can unintentionally lead to seismic cultural shifts. Combining Swezey’s exclusive access to never-before-seen archival video, live audio recordings, and stills woven together with new cinematically shot interviews, verité footage and animated sequences, Desolation Center captures the spirit of the turbulent times from which these events emerged.

Length: 95 minutes

Item#: FMK281799

ISBN: 979-8-88678-421-3

Copyright date: ©2020

Closed Captioned

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Not available to Home Video and Publisher customers.