When Tom Brady was wrapping up a lopsided victory over the Indianapolis Colts via the use of deflated footballs in last season's AFC Championship Game, an unexpected bass line pumped throughout Gillette Stadium and furthered the feverish pitch from an already-amped New England Patriots constituency.
Of the 68,756 partisans who vigorously roared while the rhythmic introduction of Fugazi's "Waiting Room" was wafting inside Robert Kraft's pigskin palace, how many were cognizant of the artist and song in question? I'm almost certain that ESPN's Scott Van Pelt, a D.C.-area native and music aficionado, would've furnished a correct response on "SportsCenter's" post-game coverage. Rob Gronkowski being grilled on the topic by the Worldwide Leader's Lisa Salters? Uh, probably not.
Since Fugazi vocalist/guitarist Ian MacKaye and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick have similar tastes in reductive fashion, perhaps the hoodie brothers had reserved front-row seats at the Boston screening of "Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-1990)." If Mel Kiper, Jr. had done a draft assessment on the pioneering efforts of Bad Brains in 1980, he would've pegged H.R. and company as "an already hall-of-fame talent with a very high motor." Indeed, their phenomenal, hour-long performance amongst the throng at CBGB's two years later is arguably the greatest footage ever recorded from any hardcore act. 1982's seminal Flex Your Head compilation was a stellar showcase for MacKaye's Dischord Records imprint. Featuring a Pro Bowl roster of The Teen Idles (their Wire-y take of The Stooges' "No Fun" is even better than the Sex Pistols' attempt), The Untouchables ("Nic Fit" would later be reinterpreted on Sonic Youth's Dirty LP), Government Issue (John Stabb's Dave Vanian-like pipes commanded attention), Void (who shared space with The Faith on a still-revered split album) and Iron Cross (a highly influential American Oi! combo), this collection became the alternate choice from a Dischord mail order by a young J Mascis. Though the would-be Dinosaur Jr. CEO was $2.50 short of the list price, an enclosed note said to pay the difference back next time.
Also included on Flex Your Head were two cuts from Dischord Records' signature outfit. Years before pounding the snare and cymbals for the label-backed Scream, a 14-year-old kid named David Grohl wrote a letter to the frontman requesting information on how to get in touch with movers and shakers in the scene. He also left a phone number and the time frame to contact him. Thirty-two years since scribbling the rough memo, Grohl revealed that he "learned how to play drums by listening to Minor Threat's Out Of Step (LP)." Per standard-bearers such as "Filler," "I Don't Want To Hear It," "Minor Threat" and "In My Eyes," thousands of others have been inspired by the lesson plans from Ian MacKaye, Jeff Nelson, Brian Baker, Lyle Preslar and Steve Hansgen. One tune, in particular, was directly responsible for birthing an entire subculture within the hardcore community. "Straight Edge" addressed the band's intolerance for alcoholic beverages and hard drugs. The otherwise positive stance would become a bone of contention for those not following the "party" line. "For me, the biggest misconception of DC punk was that straight edge was the rule and law of the land," said Minor Threat guitarist Brian Baker. "One song has defined the region and all bands within."
Leading off a roll call of the rest, Black Market Baby subscribed to an edge that was rather crooked with their winning toast to a "Drunk And Disorderly" lifestyle. The James Brown-tinted, loose-groove entourage called Trouble Funk were the leading lights in the "go-go" genre and shared bills with Minor Threat and other supposed mismatches. Embrace and Rites Of Spring, two of the progenitors of "emo-core," joined forces in the mid-1980s, anti-violence movement known as "Revolution Summer." Much-heralded studio offerings and five-dollar cover charges took Fugazi as far as any D.I.Y. group had ever gone. Jawbox and Shudder To Think made controversial steps by jumping from Dischord to major labels.
For the fan already versed in DC punk, "Salad Days" highlights many terrific "I remember them!" or "I was there!" recollections during the two-hour presentation. To the uninitiated, it shines as an excellent sampler of artists from this decade-long window. Marginal Man and Gray Matter are just two of the subjects I'll further research.