Though he may not be doing stage dives at Kingface shows anymore, director Scott Crawford is still a devout punk pundit. His recent feature Salad Days: The Birth of Punk Rock in the Nation’s Capital documents the evolution of the metropolitan hardcore scene, and highlights key figures who cherished and championed the 1980s D.C. punk movement.
Salad Days made headway as a 2012 Kickstarter project, and the official website initially boasted a late 2013 release. It finally began screening throughout the US late last year, and will premiere on the West Coast when it hits a sold out Roxie Theater this Saturday.
Crawford wrote and directed the documentary, and employed fellow D.C. natives to work alongside him. District local Jim Saah served as Director of Photography, capturing on tape oral histories from notable affiliates like Dischord founder Ian MacKaye and hometown hero Dave Grohl.
Crawford traded emails with The B-Side about revisiting his past through film and his punk legacy, which includes hardcore fan rag Metrozine and local band Darkness at Noon. Read on to find out what it was like to be a young punk journalist, why D.C. wasn’t just a boys club back then, and what his best experiences with Salad Days are so far.
What has been your favorite response to the film?
The response has been a bit overwhelming. It’s so surreal to share this intensely personal project you’ve worked on for years with an audience. The premiere in D.C. in December was a high point so far because so many of the people in the crowd were in the film and/or part of my experience. To have them come up afterward and tell me I nailed it was something pretty special.
You seem like the right man for this filmmaking job: you started a fanzine on all of this stuff early on, and so you too are a part of the fabric of D.C. punk. How’d you get started doing the fanzine? Do you remember a particularly great moment while doing the fanzine?
I started going to shows when I was 12 and it wasn’t long before I became completely immersed in all of it. Doing a fanzine was the best way I could think of to document what I was witnessing. I didn’t know what I was doing but I had zines like MRR, Flipside, and others to use as a guide of sorts. There were so many great moments at that point — it was like a whole new world had opened up to me. I do remember one time while interviewing Hüsker Dü’s Grant Hart (during a show where there were maybe 20 people in attendance). I tried to speak with Bob Mould and he laughed and waved me off — no doubt because of my very young appearance. But in hindsight, I might’ve done the same!
How did you become a part of the DC punk community? Do you remember meeting anyone in particular that was a gateway? Or did you just put yourself out there?
I had a number of people really take me under their wing and introduce me to their friends in other bands, etc. Marginal Man’s Kenny Inouye became a big brother of sorts. We’re still close.
When you went to shows, did you go as a journalist, or were you there to enjoy? What was your mindset?
Early on I was there as a music nut — I was the kid doing backflips off the stage. But as the years went on, I really took a more critical look at what was going on around me and I think that’s reflected in the later issues of the zine.
I also read that you were a musician, too. Did you play any cool shows?
Yes, I played guitar in a band called Darkness at Noon. We played with some amazing bands of the time: Kingface, Soulside, Shudder to Think, Swiz, Fugazi and others.
This question comes from my friend and fellow DC-er Hannah McCarthy: Ian MacKaye has a really amazing emotive, melodic talent, and you can definitely hear it bleed into all his bands. There are always those small moments of weakness, especially with Fugazi. Was there ever backlash in the hardcore scene over that? Or was that ‘Embrace’d?
I think initially when bands like Rites of Spring and Embrace first started playing out there was a small contingent of the scene that just didn’t “get it.” That’s where the “emo” tag came from. It started here and was meant as a joking reference to their lyrics and emotive stage shows. Those bands were dramatically different than the wave that preceded them and I think that was a conscious effort to not repeat what had come before musically or otherwise.
Did you learn anything new while making this film? Or was it just a totally great nostalgia fest? Anything you didn’t want to remember?
The film is really therapeutic for me on a lot of levels. It was great to go back and discuss certain situations with people that I may have misunderstood in a cloud of teen angst 30 years ago.
Anything you wish you could have added to the film that you didn’t get to?
So much music, many people, and many places that I couldn’t fit in. It’s not easy to distill a decade down to 100 minutes. I could’ve easily made a 4-hour film.
Do you feel like you covered the female perspective in this film? For instance, when Dave Grohl did his D.C. episode of Sonic Highways, a lot of D.C. residents were noting how much it lacked a strong female narrative. Is gender an important aspect for historians to cover? Or is it OK for them to be subjective and present the perspective they know?
It’s a hard subject to tackle completely but I wanted to make a point of addressing some of the sexism and “boys club mentality” that existed back then. There were plenty of strong female role models in the DC scene though — from bands like Fireparty to photographer/club booker Cynthia Connolly.
What was your favorite venue back then? Do today’s D.C. venues live up?
My favorite club would have to be D.C. Space. I saw so many amazing shows there. It’s an institution of sorts — that’s now been replaced by a Starbucks. On any given month you could see bands as disparate as Lydia Lunch to Sun Ra to Fugazi. Still miss that place.
Why should Cal students, or any California resident, go check out this movie?
Ultimately the film is about the power of community and conviction — and how just about anything is possible even when the odds are stacked against you. That’s a pretty universal theme that I think just about anyone can relate to.
Follow @saladdazed, check Facebook for updates, and catch the film February 21 at 7 pm at The Roxie. A Q & A with Crawford, Mark Haggerty (Grey Matter), Meghan Adkins (Chaos of Birds) and Nicky Thomas (Fire Party) will follow.
Article by Audrey Gertz