Salad Days Director Scott Crawford on D.C. As the Birthplace of Punk: It Was About “Constant Evolution”

Time to dig those steel-toe boots out of the back of your closet: The militantly pious and desperately earnest scream of harDCore is coming back to San Francisco on Feb. 21 with a screening of Salad Days, the seminal film on Washington, D.C.’s ‘80s punk scene by director Scott Crawford. The film will make its West Coast premiere at the Roxie Theatre as part of the Noise Pop festival. (For more on the best under-the-radar shows the fest has to offer, check out this week's paper.)

[jump] Salad Days recounts a decade of punk when teenagers released their own albums, booked their own shows, and created their own record labels, outside the chokehold of major labels and held unaccountable to mainstream media. Crawford follows his friends and heroes — often one and the same — through the creation of their local hardcore scene, exploring what was to become emo, post-hardcore, and eventually give way to the alternative boom of the ‘90s.
”It’s a very different scene — there is a constant evolution that’s happening,” says Crawford. “Musically, people weren’t trying to repeat what’s happening already. You see that in Rites of Spring and later Government Issue. They’re trying to push the envelope. It was great to watch it unfold as we all were getting older.”

The film is the first to document the genre-shattering influence of Minor Threat, Fugazi, Bad Brains, Scream, and Rites of Spring. It charts the rise of a fiercely independent DIY ethos with interviews from Ian MacKaye, Henry Rollins, Dave Grohl, Fred Armisen, and other pioneers of the scene.

Crawford and longtime friend and artistic director Jim Saah authenticate the film with their deep roots. At 12 years old, a wide-eyed Crawford started the fanzine Metrozine, where he printed Saah’s photos. He went on to found HARP magazine in his basement, and worked as its editor and creative director for seven years. When the economy and publishing industry crashed in 2008, HARP folded, and Crawford was left floundering.

Then, in true DIY spirit, Crawford organized a Kickstarter campaign to fund a documentary on the scene he had been a part of almost 30 years prior. He reached the goal in six days. Over the next four years, he and Saah trawled fliers, zines, records, photos, tapes and records.

“I told myself ‘I don’t need a CEO, I’ll figure it out, just like I’ve done in every other aspect of my professional life,’” said Crawford.

The reception lived up to the monumental influence of the scene. When D.C. heroes Dag Nasty reunited for the film’s premier, one fan flew from Japan to Washington, D.C. to catch the show.

Crawford hopes the documentary will dispel the pious myth of the D.C. straightedge.

“There seemed to be a little less testosterone and a little more interest in social activism,” says Crawford. “Some of the people in a lot of these bands, their parents were lobbyists or lawmakers or politicians. They had those things discussed at the family dinner table, and through osmosis it just found it’s way into the music.”

Salad Days is currently touring film festivals and will be released on DVD and video on demand this summer. It screens at 7 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 21 at the Roxie Theatre. $12, roxie.com. Q&A to follow with director Scott Crawford, Mark Haggerty (Gray Matter), Meghan Adkins and Nicky Thomas (Fire Party).

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