It’s the last original one, the only shirt old enough to not be tainted by lawsuits, brutal public feuds between band mates and even broken family ties. Black Flag shirts historically worked for every show from Devo to Pantera to Steel Pulse but for the first time in my life, it’s not that easy. I certainly cannot wear anything from the last Official SST version of Black Flag.. The release was weak and uninspired at best. The singer quit mid-tour leaving one founding member on guitar. The artwork was cartoonish, embarrassing, and was not from the “silent band member” Raymond Pettibon, who created the Iconic Bars Logo and the bands previous album artwork. Wearing a brand new Black Flag shirt would be a slap in the face to these guys. I’ll just wear something else I guess…
The venue, Shakas Live, was great for a punk show. The stage is low and the barriers double as launching pads. Security handled everything perfectly. I can’t fairly review the first two acts, The Dirty Nil and War on Women. Anticipation clouded my perspective and muffled my senses for the first time. If you like your punk delivered by frantic tag team vocalists with a post pop/r&r style from a three-man outfit or if you like your feminism infused with hi-octane riffs and punk rock attitude from a woman’s point of view, check them out on your own time. Sorry, on this day, we would be in the presence of punk icons, Keith&Chuck&Bill&Dez&Steven.
FLAGIIII is fronted by Keith Morris, founding member of Black Flag, The Circle Jerks and OFF!, Chuck Dukowski, a founding member of Black Flag ,who also managed the band at one time as well as writing songs such as “My War” and others, plays bass. Dez Cadena, Black Flags third vocalist and then guitarist from 1980-83 who has been a member of the Misfits since 2001 is on guitar. On drums is Bill Stevenson, Black Flags drummer from late in 1981 to ‘85 before he hooked up with Steven Eggerton, now on lead guitar for FLAG, to form the legendary band Descendents.
You know how sometimes you build yourself up about something and then it just doesn’t deliver? This was not one of those times. Remembering the respective ages and medical issues would certainly damper what they could have done in their early years?
From the first song, “Revenge,” to the last of the two song encore, youth and health were replaced by angst and adrenaline. I lost all concept of time and place. For an hour and a half I was young again. An almost endless flow of stage divers and crowd surfers filled the air. Beautiful Chaos. At times, raining shoes, jewelry, change and even people. Keith sounded even more pissed off singing the songs than ever before. His voice was just how you would imagine, raw, irritated and defiant. He fielded many over excited fan encounters and used a particular instance as a teaching moment for security with a wagging finger and a “Be Nice ...NO..NO.... Be.... Nice.” The energy from that room could have lit the city for the night. Everyone there must have sang every song without a mistaken lyric to be heard. The songs are in our blood, our tears, our accomplishments and our frustrations, and it’s a good thing. Keith, who at 61 years old still has the stamina of a twenty something porn star, surprising turned the microphone over to Dez after blistering through a dozen songs. Its only surprising because Dez has been fighting a personal battle with throat cancer. No one expected him to sing under the circumstances. His speaking voice was raspy and forced as he thanked the crowd, his fans in general and his band mates, taking time to name them each individually. Keith turned from the crowd and seemed to bow his head as the band started back up and then Dez went to work up front. To hear those songs pushed through his scarred and weathered vocal chords sent the room into an emotion filled frenzy. His live versions of “Damaged” and “Spray Paint” will forever play in my mind now when I think of those songs. Bill kept the pace fast and furious while Chuck beat the notes out of his bass like it owed him money. Steven surpassed expectation with his phenomenal accuracy. We witnessed the show of a lifetime in my opinion.
So how does it work? How did it feel so perfect and complete? Because it's about the songs. It's about the honesty and passionate defiance that drove the songwriting and that same honesty and passion was still present in the performances tonight, decades later. These songs will never be obsolete, insignificant or dated. They are a part of the history of EVERY person that has read this far into the review. For any of the younger generation(s) here, this was as close as you will ever get to what a Black Flag show experience was but better… the songs can be covered by anyone but the thick vibe of raw, unapologetic punk that permeated that crowded room is rarely experienced. One thing is certain, what I saw tonight. I guarantee will never be seen at an “SST Officially sponsored Black Flag” concert of any kind, anywhere. That being a group of old friends that are having fun together, playing hardcore punk music… I hit the merch table on the way out and bought a shirt…
Here is the complete set-list : Revenge, Fix Me, Police Story, I don't care, Depression, Ive had it, No values, My war, No more, Gimme gimmie, White minority, Jealous again, Wasted, Clocked in, Rise above, American waste, Spray paint, Thirsty and miserable, Padded cell, Six pack, Nervous breakdown, Louie louie
MANY MANY PICS AND VIDEO (2-cam shot) BELOW! Just scroll on down!
Pic Gallery #1 below, photos by Virginia Beach photographer Danna Cullen! ...just scroll over it and read the caption story!
Pic Gallery #2 below, ...fantastic photos taken by Andy McKay!
Pic Gallery #3 below, more photos by Danna Cullen!
Pic Gallery #4 below, photos by Brian McDonald! ...dig it.
VIDEO BELOW (just below Brian's bio) PARTIALLY 2-CAM MIXED SHOT, footage shot and provided by David Blevins and Brian McDonald! ...just click play. (Intro, Jealous Again, Wasted, Rise Above, My War, and Nervous Breakdown)