The 2014 film Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-90) told the oft-told tale of harDCore with the kind of deft and brisk story-telling that the complex history deserved. Certainly D.C. had punk bands before 1980, and loads after, of course, but writer and director Scott Crawford wisely focused on arguably the most vital decade in the long history of alternative music in this city and, in so doing, tackled political and cultural issues that other film-makers had missed when recounting the rise of a key part of this city's musical heritage. Along with photographer Jim Saah, Crawford made perhaps the definitive document on D.C.'s brand of hardcore punk, as well as the sort of documentary that rewards any fan of music, and scholar of the rise of alternative culture in America.
Now, Scott Crawford has returned with Spoke: Images and Stories from the 1980s Washington, DC Punk Scene. The book, out now from Akashic Books, serves as both a companion volume to the Salad Days film, as well as a fine visual document of that same crucial era in harDCore. And, wisely given this area's rich sense of community and the scene's familial relationships, Crawford has let the participants tell their own stories. A kind of oral history, Spoke: Images and Stories from the 1980s Washington, DC Punk Scene is a fan's book and I mean that in the very best possible way. Loaded with photos (lots from photographer Jim Saah), the volume is a joy to thumb through, or read cover-to-cover. The images practically jump off the page and a reader can't but help be energized just looking at this. And if you lived through any part of this decade here in the D.C. area, the book is a sort of souvenir of a time when music could clearly affect change -- change for the better, I might add.
The late great John Stabb of Government Issue, Wilson Center, 1983 [Photo: Jim Saah]
Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat, Wilson Center, 1983 [Photo: Jim Saah]
Sean Finnegan of Void, Newton Theater, 1983 [Photo: Jim Saah]
If you want to see Scott Crawford and Jim Saah speak about Spoke: Images and Stories from the 1980s Washington, DC Punk Scene, you are in luck as the dynamic duo of the history of harDCore has a few appearances lined up this week. On Thursday, they will be speaking with Michael Hampton (The Faith, Embrace) and Andy Rapoport (King Face) at WORD in Brooklyn. Then, on Friday, Scott and Jim will be at Cindergarden in Philadelphia. Details here. And, finally, on Saturday, Scott and Jim will be speaking with WTOP radio reporter (and one-time mod musician in Modest Proposal) Neal Augenstein at the famed Politics and Prose here in D.C. Details here.
Now, full confession time: I cannot be entirely impartial about Spoke: Images and Stories from the 1980s Washington, DC Punk Scene because I wrote 4 brief band biographies in the book (Jawbox, Shudder to Think, Gray Matter, and Fire Party), but, really, was any fan of harDCore ever totally impartial? Of course not! The musical history of this city is important and electrifying! Who can be impartial about that!?!
If you want to win a free copy of Spoke: Images and Stories from the 1980s Washington, DC Punk Scene, I have a trivia contest for you to enter. The good folks at Akashic Books will send out a copy of the book to 2 lucky winners here in the USA.
What's the name of the band featuring J. Robbins of Jawbox that just released a new single this month?
Email your answer to me at kenixfan [at] gmail [dot] com and then I'll get the winners' names to the good folks at Akashic Books who will then mail out the free copies to the 2 winners. [Big thanks to Susannah Lawrence and Johnny Temple at Akashic Books!]
[Photos: Jim Saah]