Friday, September 20, 2013

Flag at Irving Plaza

Keith Morris and Chuck Dukowski of Flag
Guitarist/songwriter Greg Ginn formed Black Flag in 1976 in Hermosa Beach, California. Black Flag was among the first West Coast punk bands and later became one of America’s first hardcore punk bands. Black Flag went through numerous line-up changes and recorded six albums by the time Ginn disbanded the band in 1986. Since then, with so many previous members available, various combinations performed occasionally as Black Flag. Earlier this year, Ginn announced he was reforming Black Flag with some of these previous members. Meanwhile, former members Keith Morris (vocals), Chuck Dukowski (bass), Bill Stevenson (drums), Dez Cadena  (guitar)and new member Stephen Egerton (guitar) formed a separate band simply called Flag, performing the music of Black Flag. Ginn is pursuing a legal battle over the use of the name and logo.

The last few years of Black Flag had the band moving in many different musical directions, yet remaining tied to its hardcore punk roots. Henry Rollins, the vocalist at the time, discovered he could entertain the audience simply by talking to them, and was becoming a Jim Morrison-styled front man. Ginn’s guitar playing was being influenced by slower psychedelic, free jazz and other styles uncommon to punk music. Black Flag’s increasingly unique approach to punk music influenced the grunge scene that was beginning to percolate in Seattle. Black Flag was about to break into the big time, then suddenly broke up. The new band Flag does not take any of this into account, mainly because most of its members were no longer in the band when this evolution occurred. At Irving Plaza tonight, Flag’s music was fast and furiously punk. Flag played as a retro tribute band, reminiscing an early stage when Black Flag was a leading hardcore punk band and before the more innovative ventures materialized. Flag performed no new songs, as Morris and Cadena sang 22 songs, including “My War”, “Wasted”, “Nervous Breakdown” and “Six Pack” from their time in the original band. Though the messages in these songs had more political and social significance when they were written during the years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, the audience responded to the familiar catalogue with mosh pits and crowd surfs. Flag provided enjoyable entertainment and a nostalgic return to the origins of hardcore punk, even if its content was less than the whole story of Black Flag.

Flag does not seem to have a website other than its FaceBook page, https://www.facebook.com/flagband