Published May 08, 2015Scott Crawford's aptly named documentary Salad Days examines the veritable petri dish of creativity and teenage rage that was the tightly knit D.C. punk and hardcore scene in the '80s, from which sprung bands and subcultures that would go on to change punk as a whole forever.
Crawford's documentary is an in-depth look at the decade during which seminal bands like Bad Brains, Minor Threat and S.O.A arose from the despondent youth looking for an outlet to express themselves. In a small city in which following the "normal" life path meant working for the government after finishing school, the punk and hardcore scene was a reflex of sorts, a violent reaction of resistance against homogenization.
The film sheds light on all of the major events and time periods within the decade, from the inception of major bands, to the development of the Straight Edge culture popularized by Minor Threat, and eventually the wave of emotional-hardcore and alternative rock that came following the infamous "Revolution Summer."
The viewer is guided through all of these important historical snapshots by a number of influential people who were a part of the scene at the time. Ian MacKaye and Henry Rollins are the two most prominent talking heads of the film, offering some real insight into the mindset of the young people involved, the struggles they faced and the solidarity of the community in a time during which D.C. was in decline due to rampant drug-related violence.
Salad Days is paced well, keeping the narrative flow consistent with a number of firsthand accounts, intercut with photos and archival video footage from concerts to give the viewer a sense of what it was like to be there at that time. Pre-rendered graphics are put to good use too, providing context to geographic locations, showing the reality of how close all of the major players really were to one another.
The lack of a narrator makes the storytelling experience more democratic, as the progression of the culture is documented almost exclusively by the people involved. That is not to say that Crawford lets his interviewees take the reins completely — he does often appear as a talking head, giving extra context to each subsection of the film — but for the most part, the segments are divided with text titles to frame new topics.
Salad Days is an informative and engaging experience that details one of the most important and influential scenes in punk history, and is a must-watch for fans of the genre.
(New Rose Films)