Salad Days: documenting a decade of punk

Rock out with an exclusive clip of the hardcore film charting punk’s greatest decade

If you’re already a fan of bands such as Bad Brains, Minor Threat and Fugazi, Salad Days is about to become your new favourite documentary. Covering the incredible decade (1980-90) when Washington, DC’s punk scene rose and rebelled against Ronald Reagan, it’s a compelling and electrifying watch. And if you’re not already not a fan of those bands, don’t worry, you will be by the time the closing credits start rocking out. Featuring interviews with people like Dischord Records founders Ian MacKaye and Jeff Nelson, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and punk pioneer Henry Rollins, it’s a comprehensive examination of a period in history that changed music forever. The filmmaker who brought the rollicking decade to the big screen, Scott Crawford, gives us his most enduring moments from punk’s formative years in America’s capital.

You started going to hardcore gigs when you were 12. What's your most intense memory from that period?

Scott Crawford: At that point, the scene was getting bigger and the crowd could get pretty ugly. Seeing first hand how ugly violence could be was pretty intense as a 12-year-old. The fights could breakout at any moment without any warning. It wasn't just with the crowd members either – a lot of the halls and clubs were in pretty gritty neighbourhoods so it wasn’t unusual to see fights outside on the street with people from the neighbourhood.

You went to gigs, you started your own 'zine – what was your own most memorable punk rock moment during that period?

Scott Crawford: Hard to narrow it down to just one moment, really. As I got a bit older I started a band (guitar) and we played a ton of shows with bands like Fugazi, Soulside, Shudder to Think, and others and I remember how great it felt to get on stage and play for an audience. That was a definite highlight.

Who was the most legendary band you saw?

Scott Crawford: Rites of Spring would have to rank pretty high on the list. It was unlike anything anyone had ever seen or heard. The passion, intensity, and commitment to the moment that they played with was something to behold. When their set was over, it wasn't unusual to see their guitars in pieces from smashing them. When you looked around at the crowd after they'd played, it was just this collective kind of jaw-dropping. 

Bad Brains are celebrated in the doc. Did you ever see them live yourself?

Scott Crawford: I saw HR’s band shortly after the Bad Brains had broken up (the first of many times they would break up) at a place called the Wilson Center. The band came onstage and starting playing a reggae number and everyone was looking around for Rollins. After a few minutes, the song ended and a faster one started and he comes from the back of the hall and runs to the stage and does a perfect backflip and starts to sing. I finally got a taste of what everybody had been talking about (this was in 84).

Is there any story you had to cut that you could tell us here?

Scott Crawford: One particularly funny moment that I cut was hearing Ian MacKaye talk about the first time he heard “Smells like Teen Spirit” and telling Dave Grohl how he thought it could be a hit. Of course, at the time, ‘a hit’ in that context would have been on the level of the Replacements or something. Nobody had any idea it would explode like it did.

Salad Days debuts at East End Film Festival July 11