City Paper is not for tourists
Local filmmaker and former fanzine editor Scott Crawford most recently got international attention for his 2019 documentary Creem: America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, but Crawford’s 2014 debut effort, Salad Days, about the D.C. punk scene from 1980 to 1990, remains relevant. (He followed it up with a 2017 book, Spoke: Images and Stories from the 1980s Washington, D.C. Punk Scene; I contributed a short piece to it.) While the 2019 James Schneider and Paul Bishow documentary Punk the Capital focused on D.C. punk’s early days from 1976 to 1983, Crawford’s film only quickly touches on the origin period so that it can capture Minor Threat on a bill with go-go band Trouble Funk, the anti-slamdancing period in 1985, the formation of Fugazi in 1987, and Dave Grohl leaving D.C. band Scream for Nirvana in 1990. Through scratchy film footage and interviews with band members from that era, plus a few others including novelist George Pelecanos and Crawford himself, Salad Days shows how a tiny scene of teenagers that rejected corporate rock grew and made an impact internationally with raw self-released music and activist concerns. While Salad Days lacks interviews with any of the members of all-Black punk band Bad Brains, their pivotal role in inspiring the frequently heard Ian MacKaye and others is made clear. The movie hints and briefly shows how different pre-condo D.C. was in that period, and touches on problems in the scene, including misogyny, while focusing largely on the exhilarating fast and loud bands, including Minor Threat, Void, Government Issue, Black Market Baby, Rites of Spring, Marginal Man and more, like all-woman band Fire Party. Along with go-go, ’80s D.C. punk showed that the capital is more than just a government town. The film is available to stream on Tubi, Amazon Prime, YouTube, and Google Play. Prices vary.