Salad Days premieres tomorrow at DOC NYC , and as we mentioned in this week’s Reel Psyched, it’s definitely on our short list of must see-films. Given our devotion to all things East Village and Lower East Side, we thought it might be cool to talk to filmmaker Scott Crawford about the D.C. hardcore scene of the ’80s and see how it compared to the punk scene in New York City.
Crawford’s been around the block. He threw himself into the hardcore scene at the ripe old age of 12, immediately launching his own DIY effort, a fanzine called Metrozine. Three decades later, Crawford revisited the D.C. he remembers from 1980-1990 through Salad Days, a doc that pulls together old footage of house shows, and interviews with the likes of Ian MacKaye, Henry Rollins and others. Check out the film on Friday, November 13 at SVA Theatre. Tickets are standby only.
I wasn’t way out there in bumfuck, in the suburbs you know. So it wasn’t that hard for me to get downtown. So I just started going to shows, and you know what it’s like when you’re a kid– you just get obsessed with stuff. And so that was me, and I just started reading everything I could find on the subject and at that time the only thing available were fanzines. I was buying fanzines like every weekend. I don’t know what possessed me at 12 to start one, but I did. And I did it for about two years.
Yeah. The first punk rock band I ever saw was actually Rock Against Reagan, and that would have been 1983. And I think MDC played. But the first show that I saw inside a club– well if you wanna call it a club, it was really a hall– was a band called Void.
And they were just intense. I’d never seen anything like it. So I have a real soft-spot for them because of that. They were just amazing. And to be that young, I would just stand back and I’d just kind of watch. It was amazing people-watching, if you can imagine.
Well, yes and no. I was young, but I also looked really young. I hadn’t even hit puberty when I started going to shows. So eventually people started to look after me, and a lot of people and bands took me under their wing. And I’m still friends with a lot of those people now actually that are in the film. But I would just go nuts. I was the kid doing back flips and stuff, and they would like carry me to the back of the room and stuff because I was what, like 90 pounds or something. I was definitely crazy at that point. But it was fun.
Yeah, I did, actually. Every show we played was an amazing bill and we were really lucky. I played guitar. One of our last shows was opening for Fugazi. We actually played two shows with them. The first show we played with them was their third show, so we actually headlined. And two months later we played with them again, and there was like no discussion about us opening. We couldn’t even think about it, because they had gotten so huge, so fast.
But yeah, we played with Fugazi, Soulside, Shudder to Think, like all those bands that were around at that point. This would have been 1987, I guess. Later on I was the guitar player for Clutch — well, not for very long but I recorded on their first single.
I’m curious, Ian MacKaye of Fugazi [whose first demo comes out next week, and is currently streaming] was straight edge but was there a divide in the community? Like edge and not-edge?
Yeah, I actually explored this in the film because I know a lot of people are curious about that. I was never a big drinker, I never really drank or anything. That was later. But at that point in the ’80s, I was such a kid. But you know, I think there was definitely a rowdy element. And it wasn’t that big of a scene, so there were dudes you just knew to stay away from, because they were the hell-raiser dudes. They were always getting in fights and always drunk.
But Ian was friends with them, there wasn’t a huge divide. I don’t think they were out there playing racquetball on the weekends with Ian or anything, but there wasn’t any kind of like, “Oh, you can’t hang with us because you’re drinking beer.” That’s become such a part of the D.C. mythology. But it was never like that.
It was later, yeah. I never really went up there. Sometimes they would come down to D.C. and I would see some of those bands like Youth of Today — militant straight edge. Then straight edge took on vegetarianism too. It’s really interesting how the whole thing morphed over the years. There’s a lot of great stuff happening around New York now, but I wasn’t really excited about what was happening in the late ’80s. It just wasn’t really my thing musically.
The main thing is that he’s just a huge fan. So when I approached him he said he’d love to talk about it. And Sonic Youth covered an Untouchables song in the early ’90s, and the Untouchables was a really early hardcore band in D.C. And it was Ian MacKaye’s brother, Alec MacKaye.
There was a lot of urban blight, a lot of decay. In a lot of ways, the city never really recovered from the riots in the late ’60s. When you would go to these shows, they would just be in these shitty neighborhoods because no one was really paying attention to what was happening. So you could just open up some kind of shit-hole club and have bands play there. And no one really cared as along as you were paying the rent.
I’m sure it was the same in the Lower East Side in the ’80s. Crime was just really bad. I remember there was a youth curfew for a while and I had to duck behind buildings and stuff when cops would drive by. But of course it’s almost unrecognizable. The old 9:30 Club is now a J.Crew. And D.C. Space was just one of those clubs, it was everything from jazz to hardcore to new wave and some weird like artsy porno film at like midnight. It was just this weird art space. I loved that place and that’s now a Starbucks. So there you go. It was just a very different city back then.