In their autumn years, D.C. punks return to the salad days


Scream performs on the main stage of the Black Cat during the second of two days of shows celebrating the upcoming release of the documentary “Salad Days: The HarDCore Punk Revolution.” (Josh Sisk/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)
December 30, 2012

The second of two shows celebrating the upcoming documentary “Salad Days: The HarDCore Punk Revolution,” Saturday night’s triple-bill at the Black Cat could have easily succeeded as a nostalgic exercise. There was a tinge of sentimentality in the air, including a wistful appearance by H.R. from the seminal Bad Brains. But sets from Youth Brigade, Government Issue and Scream functioned as a reminder of just how powerful the District’s punk rock scene was in the early 1980s.

Two of Government Issue’s longest-standing members — singer and leader John Stabb and bassist/guitarist Tom Lyle — were augmented by guitarist Brian Baker (in the band from late 1981 to mid-1982) and drummer Colin Sears. The quartet delivered a lively, hard-charging set. Stabb was inimitable as ever: half self-depreciating jokester, half snotty punk (no small trick for someone north of 50). Baker was stellar on guitar, delivering the clawing riffs of “No Way Out,” “Hall of Fame” and “Bored to Death” as if Ronald Reagan were still in office.

At its best, Scream brought a unique suburban desperation to a blend of hard core, dub and hard rock. The original quartet of Kent Stax (drums), Skeeter Thompson (bass) and brothers Franz Stahl (guitar) and Peter Stahl (vocals) were supplemented by an extra guitarist Saturday night, which only served to intensify their ear-splitting roar. Reunited for some time now, they looked and sounded like a working band, attacking classics like “This Side Up” with a vigor that one-off reunions typically can’t muster. With some recent material and the aforementioned H.R. guesting on a couple of songs, their hour-long set was a fitting demonstration of their influential chemistry.

The night began with a rapid-fire performance from Youth Brigade, which was formed and disbanded in 1981. The band’s brief but stinging set mirrored their short-lived original existence perfectly.

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