• FLAG with T.S.O.L. And Cerebral Ballzy, Irving Plaza, New York City, NY, September 19, 2013.

    As most fans know, there are basically two dueling Black Flag reunions touring right now. The first is Greg Ginn’s version which features Ron Reyes on vocals. They hit Brooklyn a few months back and you can read my thoughts on that here. Let’s just say I’ve seen better shows, though in the band’s defense much of the problems that night had to do with terrible sound and horrible security. That doesn't excuse Ginn’s use of a theramin, however.

    At any rate, last night it was time for the other guys to take a stab at it. I’m not feeling like going into the history of Black Flag right now, just let it suffice to say that FLAG, which features Keith Morris on vocals for half the set and Dez Cadena for the other half. Dez also handles guitar duties alongside Steven Egerton and they’re backed by Chuck Dukowski on bass and Bill Stevenson on drums. So yeah, you can make some pretty legitimate claims as to the legitimacy of this incarnation even if it doesn’t involve Ginn or have the word ‘BLACK‘ in front of the band name.

    Brooklyn’s Cerebral Ballzy opened the show. We got there late and only caught the last song but when we saw them open for OFF! awhile back, they were great. What we saw sounded good, we’ll assume this set was great too and plan ahead to deal with stupid subway delays for next time.

    A few minutes later, T.S.O.L. came out on stage and started their forty-five minute set. I’m not the world’s biggest T.S.O.L. fan, but credit where credit is due, they sounded really good. Jack Grisham likes to talk, and he’s amusing enough when he tells stories about his mother’s plan to assassinate Dick Cheney. Or when he tells stories about wandering around in drag and flashing people. Or ranting about Obama and requesting some Presidential head. He talks. He talks a lot. Keith Morris also talks a lot, but Jack Grisham, at least last night, definitely won the ‘crazy rambling between songs’ contest. There was also an unusually long drum solo during their set during which a short stocky dude near the bar decided it would be a good idea to run around barking at people. Just say no, kids. At any rate, yeah, T.S.O.L. were fine. For some reason, Jerry Only was hanging out at the bar during their set. He was in full costume. Everyone figured given his connection to Dez that he’d show up on stage at some point, but he did not. He just kind of hung around. The last Misfits album was garbage in my opinion, but I guess it was cool that Jerry was hanging out being friendly and stuff. He seemed nice enough even if he’s turned The Misfits from a band into a brand.

    At any rate, at pretty much 10pm on the dot, FLAG took the stage. Morris took the microphone and stated, lest there be any confusion:

    “Okay, before we start, this is a disclaimer. We are NOT Black Flag. We are called FLAG.”

    From there, the place immediately went off. Morris was in fine form, wailing his way through a dozen or so early tracks without really taking much of a break. During his breather, after White Minority, he ranted about not wanting to ever be affiliated with white supremacists and the stupidity of racism. It’s pretty hard to argue with that. Then he said that even though he was part Jewish he didn’t give a fuck that it was a Jewish holiday any more than he gives a fuck about other holidays, wisely using ‘Easter and Ground Hog Day’ as his examples of other holidays he evidently does not care for. Highlights included all the songs you’d want Morris to sing – Gimme Gimme Gimme, No Values, Wasted, Police Story, Depression. You get the idea. All the early stuff.

    Dez took the mic at various times throughout the second half of the set, setting down his guitar and handling vocals for some of the later era tracks that have made their way into the set list – American Waste and Spray Paint The Walls being highlights. Morris was back to close out the set about thirty-five or forty minutes in and then they ended with Louie, Louie. But you could tell there would be an encore. And there was. Morris did No Values and Dez came out and did a New York-specific version of Damaged, during which someone dressed like Doctor Who could be clearly seen crowd surfing up towards the stage. That was kind of weird. While all of this was going on an irritating shirtless guy was stinking up the place, a guy in a poncho and track pants was chugging beers and a group of men fast approaching retirement age were in the corner having an air drumming competition.

    But you know what? That was rad. Nobody was there to start trouble, everyone was just there to have a good time and enjoy the show. So let them bark, let them chug beers and let them air drum. The venue was smart enough to NOT put up ‘no mashing or stage diving signs’ because it would be futile to even try (are you reading this, Warsaw?) nor did they feel the need to pack the place with bouncers the size of a house situated smack dab in the middle of the stage (seriously, please pay attention Warsaw). In fact, the security crew at the front of the house were not only polite, but actually helpful, so good job, Irving Plaza. You did it right even if your beer is ridiculously fucking expensive. Five bucks for a can of Genessee? Suck it, you lesbians. Seriously, if you've got thirty five dollars, you're not going to have much change after you shell out for a six pack.

    FLAG was, to be brief, fantastic. The entire band was into it. There was a ridiculous amount of energy on stage and a genuine sense of camaraderie evident as well. These guys are having a great time. You’d think Morris being Morris would be the centerpiece of the act and to an extent he is, but Dez is fantastic on vocals too and almost as fun to watch. The real surprise? Dukowski on bass. He’s a great musician to be sure but the man jumps around like a lunatic for the entire set and is the most energetic guy on stage. At one point, had Dez not propped him back up, he’d have knocked himself on his ass when he landed wrong, but he kept on going. Egerton on guitar is also tight and if he doesn’t sound exactly like Ginn does, that’s okay, we don’t need him to. This was just fun. Way more fun than Black Flag were. It’s amazing that Black Flag in its current incarnation sold out two nights at a bigger venue and Flag didn’t sell out Irving Plaza last night (and tickets were half the price too). It just goes to show you the power of a name, I guess. Despite the fact that there is a law suit going on and that there is some controversy about this incarnation, they do what they do incredibly well and should keep at is so long as they’re having fun doing it. That energy is infectious, and the lack of theramin solos and unsettling pretension was also quite welcome.

    Blurry poorly lit pictures of T.S.O.L.!

    Less blurry slightly better lit pictures of FLAG!

    Crappy VIDEO shot from the back of the venue!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Goldberg's Avatar
      Goldberg -
      I saw Off! earlier this year and Jello Biafra & the Guantanamo Bay Blues Band. Both were fantastic.Mind you 'Flag' look like a bunch of old drug dealers.Black Flag are coming here in December, kinda curious about it all, just to see Greg Ginn before he dies.