GI054 (Jim Saah)

“Salad Days”: Get Schooled on the DC Punk Scene

Words by Jamie Maleszka Photos by Jim Saah

The documentary Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980 – 1990) is a sweat-drenched, scream-sung ode to D.I.Y empowerment. It plunges headlong into the birth and (r)evolution of all your favorite old-school DC punk greats. In the film, the fiercely independent, euphoria-inducing, not-built-to-last-but-built-to-matter spirit of bands like Minor Threat, Bad Brains, Scream, Void, Government Issue, and Fugazi are on mighty display.

FAITH DC Hardcore

Fostered in the shadows of the then murder capital of the nation, the harDCore aesthetic was born out of the indigenous funk sounds of go-go, desolation, decay, and crime. The clutches of the music business were elsewhere. You played for your friends. You put out your own records. You booked your own shows. “You can always grow something here because no one is looking,” says DC sage Ian MacKaye.

Kickstarter-funded and four years in the making, Salad Days draws on never-before-seen photos and footage from house parties and raucous club gigs and interviews with the scene’s luminaries to trace the sounds and ethos of the distinctive (and incendiary) strain of hardcore. Ian MacKaye, Jeff Nelson, Dante Ferrando, Henry Rollins, Mark Andersen, Dave Grohl, and Thurston Moore all share insight and anecdote.

And who better to tell the tale of the DC scene than the wide-eyed kid that was there? Writer/director Scott Crawford started his own fanzine, Metrozine, about the community when he was only 12. Nearly 30 years later, with the help of Jim Saah, he turns the camera onto many of the same “accessible super heroes” that he heard music with and from.


Outlined in piety and progressive thought, that decade in DC was spectacularly transformative to independent culture—for the kids there and the adults they’ve become.

Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980 – 1990) will make its world premiere at this year’s DOC NYC Film Festival, on Friday, November 14 at 9:30 p.m. at the SVA Theater. You can purchase tickets here.

On December 19, it will make its DC premiere at the AFI Theater. A theatrical run and DVD/VOD release will follow.

Watch the trailer for the documentary in the video player above.


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