Screen Reviews
Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC

Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC

directed by Scott Crawford

New Rose Film

At 16 we are wild and untamed, ready to tackle the world but at fifty we begin yelling at clouds and reminding our children that snow was “this deep” and the scene was “this cool.” This is a classic “Music Scene Film”; well executed and full of intellectualizing. The players were the spawn of middle class lawyers and administrators; as children seduced by punk music they eventually grew up to be middle class lawyers and administrators as well. While this story occurred across America, in DC it took a more intellectual turn: its business is government and the population is relatively small, relatively wealthy and full of smart people.

Like all punk scenes, this one grew out of an abandoned metropolis. DC was the murder capital of America, and abandoned buildings filled the city. Teens found little to do beyond the pricey bars of Georgetown but punk music filled the air. If you could ply “Smoke on the Water” on one string, you were qualified to join a band. The punk DIY attitude came to DC, and bands like The Teen Idles, Bad Brains and Fugazi warped into existence. Someone started a zine, someone started a record label, and handmade posters and police in riot gear completed the picture.

While I’ve seen or read this story a dozen times regarding the scene to Johannesburg to L.A. and even Milwaukee it’s still fun. The characters and paths often align and even duplicate band names pop up, but there’s enthusiasm and nostalgia and cool VHS videos of nights long gone but not forgotten. And you always learn something; here I discovered Henry Rollins worked at a Häagen-Dazs in Georgetown, which I rank as the weirdest fact I know about punk. And why do I care? Because it could have been me. Someone in this film summed it up like this: “It was an incubator for new ideas, but not all of them were sustainable.”

This film is part of the 2015 Florida Film Festival

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