First, you may be wondering: which Black Flag are we talking about here? By now you know that there are dueling reunions. Well, this wasn’t Keith Morris’s newly formed Flag, nor was it the “all-star band” featuring another ex-vocalist, Dez Cadena, that, this Sunday, will play Black Flag songs at Bowery Electric as part of a show celebrating the release of a new book about Black Flag tattoos, “Barred for Life.” (To further confuse things, there’s also a new documentary about the band’s iconic branding.)
No, the man behind the Black Flag that played this past weekend was the band’s founder, Greg Ginn. Some might’ve been worried that the once scrawny guitarist – who now sports grey hair and a slight paunch worthy of the guy who wrote “Six Pack” – would give the sort of sad-old-man performance that Axl Rose coughed up at Brooklyn Bowl. But as he trudged and grooved through a set with his opening band, Good For You, his head was spinning like a dreidel being flushed down a toilet bowl and his guitar solos still sounded very much like the mass strangling of every creature that has ever posed for a Cat Flag shirt.
After the opening set, Ginn mingled with fans by the merch table. Then he took the stage again and slugged through an instrumental before Ron Reyes, Black Flag’s second vocalist, jumped in and kicked off “Revenge” with “It’s not my imagination…” After a few more numbers, Ginn plonked down the dissonant chord that augured “Depression,” and that’s when hell truly broke lose in the pit. The giant security guy who had been steamrolling stagedivers off of the dance floor with such force that at one point my cup shattered in my hand was powerless to stop the slamdancing.
According to Reyes, who our photographer Joshua Kristal later cornered outside of the King & Grove hotel, Friday’s show was even crazier. Reyes was fierce as ever, even if lines like “there’s no girls that want to touch me” sound more pathetic than angst-ridden when delivered by a rotund man in his 50s. Other lines were intentionally changed for the year 2013: during “TV Party,” for instance, mentions of “Dallas” and “Hill Street Blues” were replaced by shoutouts to “Game of Thrones” and “Breaking Bad.”
And still other songs, like “Black Coffee,” seemed unintentionally ironic, given the setting: it’s hard to see the single-origin, farm-to-cup, fair-trade black coffee of today as a metaphor for raw anger and paranoia. That said, not many of the shaven-headed, musclebound moshers at Warsaw looked like the types who regularly attend cuppings at Blue Bottle.
Sunday’s show at the Grand Victory was a different story. Half the audience at the narrow bar (show capacity: 150) wore glasses and the girl behind us was non-chalantly going on about her vegetarian, gluten-free diet as the band prepared to launch into its opening number. But as soon as Reyes said “this is going to be a fun one” and launched into “Revenge,” all hell broke loose again, and Reyes was eventually bugging out — and hugging it out — with folks in the front row (see Bedford + Bowery’s Instagram).
If you missed all this or if you’re saying “gimme gimme gimme” because you need some more, don’t worry. There’s the Dez Cadena show at Bowery Electric on Sunday and then in September, Flag comes to Irving Plaza.
Anyway, what did you think of the shows? Were they worth it, or should you just have thrown a TV party instead?