A documentary on the D.C. punk scene should be an easy win, yet somehow Scott Crawford’s film falls short of expectations. He tells the story of how D.C. became a key stop on the map of American punk through old footage, and interviews with the same talking heads you’ve probably already seen in a ton of other music documentaries (Thurston Moore, Ian MacKaye, Henry Rollins, Dave Grohl…etc.). Yet despite D.C. being the home to a fertile scene with so many unique facets and characters, Crawford’s movie sticks to the basic info you already know, and ignores opportunities to pull new angles out of old stories. So, while you get the headlines of straightedge, Dischord, Revolution Summer, and the idea/ideal factory that is Ian MacKaye, the film ignores other potentially interesting moments.
Among other things, why not explore:
*The Bad Brains leaving D.C. for New York?
*Henry Rollins leaving small local band State Of Alert to join Black Flag in California?
*What it was like for Alec MacKaye to be part of the DC scene, but always under his brother’s shadow?
*When high-school aged Teen Idles travelled across the country to play shows in California?
*The economics of running a label like Dischord?
*What the local D.C. music/punk scene was like prior to Dischord and how those participants reacted to the “new kids” taking over?
*D.C. punks’ fights with other East Coast punk scenes – specifically New York?
These things could have made the story a lot more human than it appears. With these elements missing you’re left with a very watchable, but dry and mild-mannered documentary that’s essentially a Wikipedia page on film, where facts take center stage over people and emotions.
In addition to the 103 minute film, there’s bonus interview footage and lo-fi live performances.