Bottling the coffee-and-cigarette grit of Harvey Milk isn’t easy. Graphic designer Stephen O’Malley proves so on a brown digipak with Khanate artwork. But Chunklet editor/publisher Henry H. Owings prevails after four years of compiling material from Athens, GA’s bluesy trio. He doesn’t hesitate to brag about the process — the liner notes push past 1000 words. The footage dates from ’93 to ’06, including 44 songs in under four hours. If this DVD doesn’t make Harvey Milk rock ‘n’ roll legends, it at least makes them look the part.
Live, Harvey Milk seduce with warmth. On video, part of that fluidity is lost. The camera favors the players’ game faces. At times, their sweat nearly drips onto the lens. Stephen Tanner nonchalantly smokes a cigarette while hammering his bass. Drummer Kyle Spence swings his arms like a trapeze artist. Creston Spiers flaunts buttery guitar licks and tone-deaf singing that’s more than suitable.
With apparent modesty, Harvey Milk floor performances past comfort zones. Though easily mistaken for blues veterans, they often grind out uncomfortable tension. At Atlanta’s The Point (’94), they stomp through “All The Live Long Day,” a modern-day railroad chant. Creston literally sledgehammers metal between breathless screams while guitars and drums thud in sporadic unison. But at other times they flow more, like on “Bubble Buster” at Grooveyard (’93), where even Spiers sounds smooth. This music requires endurance to play and hear. Digest Anthem in small doses, or break a hot sweat.