Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC

salad_days_a_decade_of_punk_in_washington_dc

We’ve waited a long time for this one. Crowd-funding for the making of ‘Salad Days’, a look at the incredibly fertile hardcore punk movement that exploded out of Washington DC in the early 80s, first started over four years ago when brief snippets and enticing trailers started to work their way across the internets. And now it’s finally here…

We live in an age now where so many bands, movements and artists are getting to tell their stories in film. Every week there’s a new music documentary to see, a story to tell, but Salad Days is something special. From the very start, the Washington DC punk scene documented itself. More than any other punk scene in the world at that time, the participants took care to photograph, film and record everything that was happening. They knew what they were doing was important and special and wanted it preserved. “I didn’t want to own the scene, I just wanted there to be one,” explains Ian Mackaye, who through his work with Minor Threat, Fugazi, Dischord Records and many more is understandably the lynch pin and constant through the whole movie. So the upshot of this is that there is a wealth of incredible footage in this film. It rushes past, much like the music, in a high-speed, high-energy blur. This is not any easy film to sit still and watch in a cinema, as each band and song crashes by, every moment made me want to leap out of my seat and explode.

Ph: Ian Mackaye of Minor Threat, Wilson Center, DC, 1983 by Jim Saah

minor_threat_jim_saah_photo

Film maker Scott Crawford has done an incredible job of capturing the spirit and energy of the time. Having been involved in the scene in DC from a very young age (he was just 12 when he started going to gigs and making fanzines), he was trusted to tell the story and help the various participants open up.

Running chronologically from when Bad Brains exploded onto the scene and everything went FAST with bands like SOA, Void. Teen idles, Minor Threat, Untouchables, Youth Bridge, to the mid-80s ‘Revolution Summer’ years with Rites Of Spring, Embrace, Gray Matter, Dave Grohl’s first band Mission Impossible. They then move onto the end of the 80s as the alternative rock explosion beckoned, and Grohl, fresh out of Dischord legends Scream propelled Nirvana into the mainstream, bringing Fugazi attention they never expected, Jawbox a major label deal and the rest is history.

There are so many magical moments in ‘Salad Days’ that it’s difficult to know where to start but here’s a few. The footage of Void is utterly off-the-hook insane and demonic, the bit where MacKaye talks about Straight Edge and how he still gets people, to this day, phoning him at the Dischord office and screaming “hey Ian, I’m drunk, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT!!” before slamming the phone down, the self-belief, politics and conviction that run through every band, the thought that they really believed they were making a difference and could change. Subject to change. The realisation of just how young everyone one was when this started…

“Salad days” is a Shakespearean idiomatic expression to refer to a youthful time, accompanied by the inexperience, enthusiasm, idealism, innocence, or indiscretion that one associates with a young person.”

That says it all.

James Sherry

You can pre-order the film on Vimeo as it will be Video On Demand from August 4th.

Obstruct

obstructObstruct
Loss of Blood
Carry The Weight Records

The Northern hardcore scene has a strong DIY history and background of producing killer music. Perhaps it’s something to do with the lack of a heavy music industry/major label presence, perhaps it’s just something in the water, but the crop of bands coming out of Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool etc. recently has been uniformly fucking brilliant.

Obstruct are continuing this tradition from the small town confines of Huddersfield, with their new album Loss of Blood harnessing their furious straight edge hardcore punk to create the gnarliest record of 2015 so far. With influences apparent from early Voorhees, Walk the Plank and Creem, the band don’t let up as they storm through 11 tracks which rarely break the 1 and a half minute mark.

Listening to track after track of blistering hardcore, you get the sensation of being punched repeatedly in the head by a fist of sound as the pace and energy refuse to let up, though this isn’t to say there is no delineation between songs. While the formula never strays far from full speed ahead, with distorted basslines and pounding drums to the fore, a sense of melody emerges from somewhere within the chaos and helps to make songs like ‘Infection’ and ‘Instigate’ stand out through the Blitz-style guitar.

This is music that goes straight from ear canals to adrenalin gland, a shot of aural caffeine which will probably fuel skateboarding missions for some time to come for yours truly. Add a hint of darkness to your summer and get hold of a copy from Carry The Weight Records.

Jono Coote