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Various Artists | The Shield Around the K: The K Records Story (Blank Stare - DVD)
Unless you are already a K Records devotee, there is little reason to own this. However, if you are a fan of American indie rock and would enjoy knowing the story of K Records and how it came to be, this is a must have. Made in 1998 by Heather Rose Dominic, 'The Shield Around the K', is the documentary equivalent of K Records. It is lo-fi and rarely properly white balanced, but it is a project made with love.
If you geek out over seeing celebrities of the indie variety, then this is your ticket to seeing them in a natural setting. Most of them seem to have been interviewed in their homes. Ian MacKaye discusses how he thought Beat Happening records sounded like "weird campfire songs". Michael Azerrad, author of 'Our Band Could Be Your Life', discusses Calvin's promotional skills and says "[he] is a great networker," and it's still true. Calvin is on Page one of and if that's not a great networking tool for today, I don't know what is. Other notable names interviewed include Gerard Cosloy (co-founder of Matador), Lois Maffeo, Dean Wareham (Galaxie 500, Luna), Slim Moon (founder of Kill Rock Stars), Steve Fisk, Patrick Maley (Founder of Yo-Yo Studios & Recordings), and there are a brief few words from Sonic Boom.
Besides interviews, 'The Shield Around the K' provides plenty of live footage taken from the first International Pop Underground festival in 1991. It just made me curse being born too late to have experienced the cassette revolution and all that K started out as. The band videos interspersed were a welcome addition to break up the monotony of all the interviews praising Calvin. While I thoroughly enjoyed the DVD, I felt that too much attention was focused on Beat Happening and Mecca Normal when there were plenty of K bands that barely got a mention. Thus it would come as no surprise if they decide to do another more thorough documentary on K down the line.

Leigh Kelsey
April 2006