Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Flag at the Gramercy Theatre

Keith Morris
 Guitarist Greg Ginn formed Panic, soon to be renamed Black Flag, as a punk rock band in 1976 in Hermosa Beach, California. Ginn was the band leader, primary songwriter and sole constant member through Black Flag's three EPs, six albums and ever-changing personnel until the band dissolved in 1986, just when it seemed like the band was finally about to break into the mainstream market. Ginn revamped the brand briefly in 2003 with a new lineup, and then again in 2013-2014 for another album, What The.... Meanwhile, despite legal action by Ginn, four of the 20-odd ex-members, none of whom were in Black Flag at the time of its initial split, formed a new group, Flag, that would relive the music of their former band. Flag consists of original Black Flag vocalist Keith Morris (1976–79) and bassist Chuck Dukowski (1977–83), with later drummer Bill Stevenson (1981, 1982, 1983–85) and guitarist/vocalist Dez Cadena (1980–83, 2003), plus guitarist Stephen Egerton, who was recruited for Flag from the Descendents. Flag has performed live since 2013 but has not recorded.

To Flag's credit, the bulk of the set list at the Gramercy Theatre tonight was comprised of the band's early Morris-Dubrowski  and Dubrowski-Cadena years, only once going as far as Dukowski's "My War" from 1984. That said, the set list remained firmly entrenched in Black Flag's hardcore punk era, even though the band's more experimental later years were more popular. Morris sang 18 songs, including "Don't Care", which he originally sang with Circle Jerks after leaving Black Flag, and Dubrowski's "You Bet We’ve Got Something Against You!," afterwards asking Dubrowski if the song really was written about him. Cadena, who is reportedly battling cancer, sang five songs from 1981. In the end, any Black Flag reunion without Greg Ginn and vocalist Henry Rollins is not going to look like the Black Flag known to most punk fans, but this version of Flag did a more than fair job of paying tribute to the early sounds and legacy of one of the most pivotal punk bands of all time.