May 8th, 2015 | Film | 0 Comments
If you decide to make a film about hardcore or DC punk or something, and you’re going to include Ian MacKaye, be prepared, because he will dominate the film. He won’t bust into the editing room and commandeer it, but MacKaye is just so magnetic, interesting and influential that any discussion about hardcore or post-’80 DC music can’t help but place him at the centre.
That being said, Salad Days – itself named after a Minor Threat song – tries to cover a lot more than just MacKaye and the Dischord scene: it touches on how DC politics and the state of the city affected the hardcore generation, Positive Force, the DC scene’s part in setting the stage for grunge and alternative music’s into mainstream culture post-Nevermind, the gender issues of punk, and the popularity of go-go among DC punks. But the most important thing, and film’s principle interest, is ‘the scene’, and Salad Days‘ ability to recreate it gives the film a warm punk rock family reunion feel. Which is nice. Especially telling is one comment about how the scene was so tightly nit that when guys in local bands went onstage and sang love or heartbreak songs, everyone knew who they were singing about. And when the girls started putting together bands and getting onstage, they might sing songs in reply to the very boys who sang about them.
Considering how much has been written about DC and the great hardcore scene that developed around and outside Dischord, there are times when one might question whether we really need another documentary about it. A lot of the points in the film have already been covered by other docs (like American Hardcore) or books (like Our Band Could Be Your Life, or Dance Of Days: Two Decades Of Punk In The Nation’s Capital). Salad Days tries, unlike someone of the aforementioned, to go outside the Dischord scene and cover all the other cool bands and personalities that made DC punk in the 80s and 90s so exciting, but ultimately it almost seems to reaffirm that Dischord was almost always doing and putting out the most interesting stuff, or at least what’s aged best. Still, Salad Days‘ strength resides in its ability to comprehensively portray the time, place and community out of which those legendary DC hardcore bands and records emerged.