4

TUESDAY

Did the Earth’s axis shift when Ian Svenonius was named Sassy magazine’s “sassiest boy in America”? That’s what Calvin Johnson, Olympian punk philosopher prince, claims in Songs for Cassavetes, Justin Mitchell’s black-and-white documentary about his favorite precincts of mid-’90s indieland. The film’s preliminary thesis is that basement-level punk infiltrated the mainstream in the ’90s in a way it didn’t in the ’80s, but none of the interviewed musicians utter the name Nirvana, or even Fugazi. The performances (all from 1996 through 1998) and the bands (all but the Make*Up from the West Coast) suggest not a new paradigm but the stubborn appeal of such venerable models as Half Japanese, the Raincoats, and Sonic Youth. Still, the film is engaging and suitably grass-roots, and includes one great band (Sleater-Kinney), some likable ones (Peechees, Unwound), and not so much Dub Narcotic Sound System as to be calamitous. It screens at 9 p.m. at the Black Cat’s Backstage, 1811 14th St. NW. $5. (202) 667-7960. (Mark Jenkins)

More from WCP