Mia Zapata’s band called themselves the Gits. The name was shortened from the original Snivelling Little Rat Faced Gits, a phrase taken from a famous skit by Monty Python. They really were her band since she was the singer, songwriter, and front- woman. Her voice was a distinctive, strong, almost bluesy instrument, and the band was centered around her.
In the growing Seattle music scene of the early 1990s, the Gits thrived after the move from the more provincial Ohio. They quickly established a fan following due to their energetic shows and creative musical abilities. They began recording as much as possible and managed to make 2 full length albums before it all came to a stop with Mia’s death at 27. She was found dead in a vacant lot, having been brutally beaten, raped, and strangled. Her killer was not apprehended until 2003 with the help of DNA analysis.
In a film called The Gits: The Band The Music The Legacy, fans and documentarians Kerri O’Kane and Jessica Bender tell the story of the band’s brief but stellar career and the major role played by Zapata in their few short years as a performing group. The filmmakers began their labor of love by acquiring anything they could find related to the band – recordings, promotional materials, and odds and ends. Most of this was being sold on ebay by the Gits’ drummer, who became curious about the buyers of such a quantity of stuff. They finally got together and O’Kane and Bender were able to convince the former band members that they were truly interested and capable of making their movie, thus obtaining their cooperation and participation in the project. Over a 6 year period, the documentary took shape and was finally released.
The finished product, now available on DVD with many extras, consists of 2 major sections. Part 1 is a detailed look at the history of the Gits. It begins in 1986 with their early days in Antioch Ohio. They developed a signature sound that was actually closer to punk than what became known as grunge, and it was a sound which endeared them to the hearts of Seattle music lovers after they relocated there in 1989. The film features a judicial use of video performance clips and still photos of the band. There are also great interviews with band members, friends and family, and musical colleagues such as Joan Jett.
In the second section, the documentary focuses on the tragedy of Zapata’s death, and on the impact it had on a relatively small community of musicians and fans. With a sensitive eye the filmmakers describe the changes wrought by the crime, the unsolved (for many years) mystery of her death, and how the community dealt with it over time. It is truly a well-done and fascinating look at a talented band that ended before it could reach its full potential.
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