FLAG at First Avenue, 9/13/13
|Photo By Dimitri Coats|
With T.S.O.L., Cerebral Ballzy, and Off With Their Heads
First Avenue, Minneapolis
September 13, 2013
For decades-old punks FLAG (original members of Black Flag who are prevented from using the band name by Greg Ginn), there really isn't any wistfulness for one to get lost in. Their frenetic, minute-long punk songs are filled with stories as simple as getting drunk and railing against authority, and such raw, untamed aggression will never go out of style.
Those spirited, turbulent anthems worked the crowd at First Avenue into a frenzy on Friday night, as Flag kicked off their U.S. tour by tearing through 24 blistering songs in 55 taut minutes, delighting the decidedly older audience who still clearly identify with these dissatisfied songs from their youth.
"Before we get started, we just want you to know one thing," sneered vocalist Keith Morris, as if he was making a court mandated proclamation. "We are FLAG, not Black Flag." And with that out of the way, the band launched into a flurry of classic punk hits that only built in intensity as the night wore on. "Revenge," "Fix Me," and a fierce, riotous version of "Police Story" got the set started with a shot. The band -- also featuring original Black Flag members guitarist/vocalist Dez Cadena, bassist Chuck Dukowski, drummer Bill Stevenson, as well as Descendents/All guitarist Stephen Egerton -- were tight and focused, rolling from one subversive song to the next in their well-paced, breathless set.
After fiery, explosive takes on "I Don't Care," "Depression," and "My War," which still has as much relevance today as it did in 1984, someone in the crowd mockingly requested "Freebird" from the band, which caused Morris to unleash for the first time in the set. "Fuck 'Freebird,'" he shouted. "That's for somebody else, not for us." And when another fan told him to get a haircut, he quickly shot back, "Why the fuck would I get a haircut so I would look anything like you." That brazen disregard for rules and control of any kind has fueled the careers of everyone on the First Ave stage on Friday, and after that heated exchange the set, and the roiling pit on the main floor, grew even more volatile.
Feisty versions of "No More," "Gimme Gimme Gimme," and "White Minority" followed in quick succession, with Morris scolding us a bit during a brief break between songs. "We're all gonna die. All of us," he declared. "Don't be in a fucking hurry." And, during a particularly intense version of "Jealous Again," Morris took a brazen shot at Ginn, who has brought a lawsuit against FLAG as well as Henry Rollins, preventing them from using the band name and familiar black bar logo that is so closely associated with Black Flag. "Fuck you, Greg Ginn," Morris screamed during the song's tempestuous high point, bitter sentiments which were echoed by the crowd as well.
But rather than drag us all through their acrimonious relationship with their former bandmate, FLAG poured all of their energy into the raucous songs themselves, and the set thunderously rolled right along, with "Wasted," "Clocked In," and "Nervous Breakdown" all taking on an abrasive edge that hasn't been dulled by either age nor time. Morris then left the stage as Dez greeted the crowd while he took over lead vocal duty. "Hello Minneapolis and San Pablo. Isn't that how you say Saint Paul in Spanish," Cadena joked, before he took on a more snide punk demeanor. "Whether you're a hippie, or a punk with long hair -- fuck you -- this song is for you. It's called...start the song." And with that, he lead the band through a stormy take on "American Waste" that ignited the end of the main set.