Dance of Days: Two Decades of Punk in the Nation’s Capital

January 01, 1970

(Akashic
Books)

 

www.akashicbooks.com

 

BY
ROXANA HADADI

 

There
is basically nothing wrong with the updated version of Dance of Days: Two Decades of Punk in the Nation’s Capital. In
fact, if you’re looking for flaws, good luck.

 

A
slightly tweaked version of Andersen’s and Jenkins’ original work, which came
out in 2003, this edition now includes a new chapter, more photos and some
extra original material about the nation’s capital’s viciously lively and
undeniably impactful underground punk scene. Whether Andersen, a local activist
who co-founded the activist collective Positive Force D.C. in 1985, or Jenkins,
a music writer for The Washington Post,
Blurt, Time Out New York
and other publications, are turning their eyes to Bad
Brains, Minor Threat, Fugazi, Bikini Kill or the one and only Henry Rollins,
their musings and insights are offered up with eloquent depth and ease.

 

It’s
obvious that the two know the subject inside-and-out, and that kind of
reassuring intimacy makes the book impossible to put down. There’s so much
packed in here, though, that you have to take a breather every now and then to process
it all. There’s 16 chapters, an introduction, a preface and an afterword, all
of which not only put you closer to Andersen and Jenkins – who each describe
their interest in and affection for the punk scene – but also to the book’s
countless characters, kids who became enamored with a fledgling underground
scene that still continues to this day.

 

Whether
the authors are touching on hardcore, riot grrrl or the political and social
motives driving bands like Bad Brains and Minor Threat, the depth of research
put into the subjects is somewhat staggering. There are lengthy conversations
here with people like D.C. legend Ian MacKaye and Virginia’s Dave Grohl, and detailed accounts
of important events like Revolution Summer, which went down in 1985 and helped
switch the city’s original thrashy hardcore sound into a more melodic one that
would later inspire bands like Fugazi and Jawbox. As the book notes,
“‘Revolution Summer was a climax, the end of something,’ Amy Pickering said in
1987. The innocence and isolation of the original hardcore scene was gone, a
development that was both threatening and promising.”

 

And,
as any good book about punk should do, Dance
of Days
also covers the concept of selling-out, and how the decision by
some bands to sign with major labels sent shockwaves through the community. The
role of D.I.Y. legend Dischord Records, which is co-owned by MacKaye and Minor
Threat bandmate Jeff Nelson, is closely looked at, but as Andersen and Jenkins
note, “the growing division of labor between musicians and labels was a logical
evolution… For the most successful, signing to major labels was the next
step. This was a painful transition for idealists like MacKaye. In early 1987,
he sadly noted that bands like Hüsker Dü were no longer ‘confederates in the
same conspiracy.'”

 

In
that sense, then, the book is awash with nostalgia, a kind of hard-edged
sentimentality that’s obvious in the plethora of bands named, people
interviewed and overall care given to describing this scene as closely and
accurately as possible. But while the book is unquestionably a labor of love
for Andersen and Jenkins, it’s still critical and graphic enough to work as a
well-rounded narrative, one that – as Andersen writes in the book’s afterword –
should inspire you to “find your own ideals, your own dreams. … Make it a story
worthy of being told to others someday, a story worth having lived.” Preach on,
brother, preach.

 

 

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