Hard Art: DC 1979: By Lucian Perkins, 94 pgs. By Jimmy

Jun 12, 2014

While Washington DC’s much-lauded hardcore scene revolving around Dischord Records has been extensively documented via nearly all media imaginable, comparatively precious little has popped up about the scene’s beginnings, the early half of the book Dance of Days notwithstanding. I’m sure this is not due to any nefarious plot concocted by Ian MacKaye to corner the market on the punk stock index so’s he can keep hisself and his pals up to their eyeballs in sno-cones and Funyuns (yeah, I know he’s a vegan. Just funnin’, so unclench for a minute, you puritanical punk type-a-types), but it is nonetheless a rarity to see/read stuff that predates the harDCore heyday, which is exactly what makes this a treat.

Photographer Lucien Perkins was assigned by the Washington Post to get some shots to accompany an article about local punk rockers. Collected here are a number of the resulting photos he took at three Bad Brains shows late in 1979—one in the quad or a low-incoming housing complex, one at Madam’s Organ, and one at the Hard Art gallery (hence the title). The photos are of course top-notch—no surprise seein’ as the dude is a pro—and capture crucial glimpses of the scene when the “rules” defining approved punk fashion weren’t yet codified. Like many peers in the greater punk scene, the locals were still working on their “look”—the results of which are on full display and would likely embarrass some of those same people today—as are faboo pics of Bad Brains, Trenchmouth, and Teen Idles whooping it up.

Sweetening the deal are some choice recollections of each gig from Alec MacKaye, who successfully aims to give the reader a then-fourteen-year-old attendee’s feel for the shows rather than a bland blow-by-blow. History without being a historical overview, the book is a nice collection of a few brief snapshot moments from the infancy of one of the planet’s most influential punk scenes. –Jimmy Alvarado (Akashic Books, PO Box 1546, NY, NY10009)