• Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC



    Released By: MVD Visual
    Released On: September 18, 2015.
    Director: Scott Crawford
    Cast: Dave Grohl, Ian Mackaye, Henry Rollins, Fred Armisen, Brian Baker, Thurston Moore
    Year: 2014

    The Film:

    What's that, you wondered aloud? Another documentary on hardcore punk? Do we really need another documentary? The answer is, of course, a resounding yes...with the OG scenesters dropping left and right, and the somewhat incomplete status of past documentary films, another entry into the genre is most welcome. And while the hardcore scene from the Nation's Capital got a fair amount of press in Stephen Blush's American Hardcore, and while the politics of DC's punks received notice in the Positive Force film, Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC mines that vein a little further, expanding pretty significantly on what is already a matter of public record.




    Of course, the epicenter of DC punk must be Dischord, and thusly Ian Mackaye makes the perfect focal point for this film. Discussing DC's isolation, wealth, and the pervasiveness of its politics, the Minor Threat frontman talks about his call to arms in the form of a Cramps show, where a vomiting Lux Interior showed him the way to the life of a punk rocker. Uniting with other punks and starting bands, Ian talks about the formation of the Teen Idles, Minor Threat, and Dischord, the DIY label that he helped start to get the bands from DC on the global map, and to promote more shows at a local level.

    Though Salad Days does spend a lot of time with Mr. Mackaye, they invite many of the scene's other key members to share screentime as well, and Henry Rollins, as well as members of Marginal Man, Iron Cross, Void, The Untouchables and more also discuss growing up in DC punk. The film follows the formation of the earliest hardcore bands, the rise of Dischord, and the eventual scene-splitting trend that was Straight Edge, the intention of the movement fully explained by Ian, and reacted to with every emotion from respect to head-shaking mirth from a whole host of those affected.




    Focusing strictly on hardcore, however, would render the film over before you had a chance to tell somebody to Flex Their Head, and the filmmakers here have wisely chosen to focus on the aftermath and influence of hardcore as well. Dissecting DC's crime, poverty, and violence helps to document the rise of the "Emocore" bands, and Fugazi, Embrace, Rites of Spring and others are thoughtfully examined against a backdrop of political action by Positive Force, a mid-80's movement that hit DC and inspired the hardcore scene to use their political persuasion for good instead of chaos.

    One of the most awesome things about Salad Days is that it doesn't function as a document of record; for every politically heavy punk rocker to hit the screen with a definitive opinion on Straight Edge, Positive Force or any other notable cause now synonymous with the DC crowd, opposing viewpoints from the same scene are included, sometimes to great hilarity. Ever wanted to ask Ian if he was a snob when it came to picking bands for Dischord? Now's your chance to see what his reaction would've been. Though the film does tend to get a little confused at times, especially when it comes to timelines...and really, why are the Bad Brains only in here for a minute?... a great number of resources are on hand here to dissect the DC scene a little further, with occasional outside commentators such as Thurston Moore and J Mascis on hand to help add perspective.




    With a ridiculously thorough amount of talking head interviews, vintage photos and loads of live footage, Salad Days will most definitely be compared to American Hardcore and Positive Force: More Than A Witness; and the comparisons won't be invalid, due to an overlap in information and aesthetic delivery. But the information contained within the film, (though open to criticism) is massive, and the film ultimately succeeds in taking the viewer from the seeds of harDCore through the 80's, and on into current times where the effects of the bands and their unique approach to getting things done lingers on in a new breed of performer.




    VIDEO/AUDIO/EXTRAS:

    Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC comes to DVD from MVD in a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer that looks great. Despite some of the source material, such as old photos and vintage footage, the picture is mostly clean with rich detail, and the newer interviews are crisp and sharp with nary a negative effect to be seen.

    The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is more than acceptable enough, with the film being mainly dialogue heavy; while the front speakers do a great job of conveying this, the use of the surrounds is not really noticeable, and certainly not overdone. While an argument could be made in favour of a more surround-ish track, it's not really necessary here.

    Supplements on the disc are broken down into two main sections. Extended Interviews contains, well, extended interviews from the film, giving us fourteen more clips of Brian Baker, Ian Mackaye, Kevin Seconds, J Mascis, Henry Rollins, Monica Richards, and more.

    Live Performances will definitely appeal to a great many viewers as well, with clips of Embrace, Beefeater, Fugazi, Government Issue, Gray Matter, and Marginal Man.

    The Final Word:

    It's unlikely that there will ever be a definitive film made about hardcore, or any of the specific scenes that it consisted of, but Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC, is a pretty nifty start.





    Comments 4 Comments
    1. Alison Jane's Avatar
      Alison Jane -
      I want to watch this.
    1. Roderick's Avatar
      Roderick -
      When I went to a screening of Salad Days last year the director addressed the reason for the relative lack of Bad Brains in the movie. The short version is that the director and HR have some history and while they are on good terms, he didn’t really want to deal with HR in his life again. That and the fact that during the bulk of the timeframe looked at in the movie Bad Brains were no longer based out of DC anymore.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Quote Originally Posted by Roderick View Post
      When I went to a screening of Salad Days last year the director addressed the reason for the relative lack of Bad Brains in the movie. The short version is that the director and HR have some history and while they are on good terms, he didn’t really want to deal with HR in his life again. That and the fact that during the bulk of the timeframe looked at in the movie Bad Brains were no longer based out of DC anymore.
      Fair enough, and I get that. The first part of that argument makes a little bit more sense, though...I think that Iggy and the Stooges got more screen time than the Bad Brains haha. So while they had moved onto NYC fairly early on, I felt that their influence on the scene should have been given a little more weight.

      BUT...I didn't make the movie, so it's not my call.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Quote Originally Posted by Alison Jane View Post
      I want to watch this.
      You could've....but Ian sent it to me before you had the chance, I guess.