A new documentary on DC's punk scene gets its Madison premiere, with an in-person visit from the filmmakers and Minor Threat drummer Jeff Nelson. Info
The new documentary Punk The Capital: Building A Sound Movement offers a deep-digging perspective on Washington, DC's punk scene, emphasizing the early formative period between 1976 and 1983. Filmmakers Paul Bishow, Sam Lavine, and James June Schneider all have deep ties to DC and its rich but often misunderstood music communities, and they're currently touring around to screen the film and discuss it in person with audiences. They're also bringing along Jeff Nelson, drummer for Minor Threat and co-founder of Dischord Records, so the Q&A element of this event is just as enticing as the documentary itself.
Punk The Capital is hardly the only documentary to touch upon the incredibly varied and influential explosion of punk in 1980s DC—to name just one, Scott Crawford's excellent Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-90) screened at the High Noon Saloon in 2015. The films were actually in the works around the same time, though Salad Days came out first, and the Washington Post reported in 2014 that the two filmmaking teams actually met and discussed their work and came at it with different approaches to begin with. And besides, it's worth having multiple documentaries on a scene that has been so often mythologized and oversimplified, and that produced such a wealth of still-influential music and activism, and on top of that existed alongside other DC musical subcultures like go-go. Punk The Capital draws on dozens of interviews, including but far beyond figures including Ian MacKaye and Bad Brains' HR, and the filmmakers use rarely seen archival material, including Super 8 footage from the late '70s. They also created a flipbook of HR doing a backflip at a show in 1980, pointing to a resourceful, mixed-media approach that complements the film's historical depth. —Scott Gordon