Book Review: Dance Of Days - Two Decades Of Punk In The Nation's Capital
Dance Of Days is a decent enough book. It tells stories well and covers as much as it can through the political activist-colored glasses of the author, Mark Andersen. The book was co-written (read cleaned up) by DC alt-journalism staple Mark Jenkins, who probably and thankfully removed the tear-stained confessional aspects of Andersen's writing that moistens the book's beginning and end.
The subtitle is misleading to some because it's not hugely comprehensive of every band and scene in DC, but Andersen was not a writer by trade but an active participant in the Dischord scene as an organizer for Positive Force, a DIY activist group. The book is slanted heavily towards politically correct assumptions of what is right and real, but in that regard its saving grace is Andersen's compulsion to point out the good along with the bad. To his credit, and in defiance of the rules of political activism, he insists on reporting the DC scene warts and all.
In the world of Dance Of Days, "meaning" is really important. Lyrics contain the answers to all life's problems and banging pickle buckets in the park across from the White House accomplishes a whole lot. Shows are remembered in perfect detail, and the right word or note creates synergies between band and audience as close to a religious experience as most are ever going to experience.
The major players of the scene are creative types full of the euphemism "contradictions". Ian MacKaye is ok even though he's pushy with ideas. The DC scene would rank up there with Passaic, NJ if not for him. Henry Rollins is pathologically hypocritical in everything he does and says. HR of Bad Brains is clinically insane.
It's safe to say Dance Of Days is not a history of the DC punk scene but a well researched set of remembrances of what one person found exciting and interesting. It's where you can read the line "They were trying to survive, searching for a tribe, for family, for fun" and maybe not puke. Maybe.