DC, dubbed the “Murder Capital” in the 1980s, was a frenetic environment defined by violent crime, social upheaval, Reaganomics, and societal decay. The punk counter-culture that took root grew out of fissures in the stereotypical white suburban lifestyle that dominated the city. Written and directed by Scott Crawford, Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980–1990) explores the evolution of DC punk from Bad Brains, Straight Edge, and Dischord Records to Revolution Summer, Positive Force, and post-hardcore.
“When I first heard the Ramones, I couldn’t understand why anyone would make a record that sounded so sonically back,” says Henry Rollins of Black Flag. The absolute antithesis of hippie “kumbaya,” punk rock provided a gritty underground environment and emotional outlet for nerds, rebels, outcasts, divergents, anyone who felt broken or that they didn’t quite fit in. 80s hardcore was “utilitarian but easy to understand and very difficult to corrupt,” adds Rollins. The power of DC punk stemmed from its energy, ingenuity, and ephemerality; it was a movement as fleeting as youth itself but had an irrevocable impact on the entire music industry.
The DIY aesthetic was intrinsic to the punk atmosphere. “What happened here in DC,” says Dave Grohl “was that everybody […] felt that it was entirely possible and they were entirely capable of starting a record company, putting out a single, making a fanzine, starting a band, booking a show, going on tour, whatever it was. All of these things were possibilities. If only everybody had grown up here doing that. Could you imagine?”
Although Crawford, whose own punk trajectory started at twelve years old with Metrozine, abandons the Xerox machine on his project, Salad Days—an elegant collection of photos, videos, and exclusive interviews with with Henry Rollins, Ian and Alec MacKaye, Dave Grohl, Thurston Moore, and so many more—screens like a mature and elegant fanzine.
Check out Salad Days at the IFC Center April 17–23 or at Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn on April 30th.
Article by: Heather McAdams