Black Flag – Club Red, Tempe, AZ 7/11/13

Punk rock isn’t dead, in fact it’s alive and well when punk musicians reach their 50’s, as was the case with Black Flag, who announced in January of this year that guitarist Greg Ginn and vocalist Ron Reyes would reform the iconic punk band.

When you are standing in a ridiculously long line outside of a show and already having a good time, you know you might be in for a treat. That was the case at Club Red amidst Black Flag’s U.S. tour.  People were quick to humor and the opportunity to lean into a sordid joke. Record stores still do exist and Kevin Smith would be perfect to do a movie on Asylum Records right next to Club Red. Two men held a jovial conversation and open containers, while another found his way to a comfortable couch of shame inside the record store. It was a scene straight out of Clerks.

A sea of arms, elbows and bodies donned with tattoos, moved slowly to the entrance to Club Red.  At the security check point, there was a disclaimer on moshing, but unlike the intolerance of this behavior at most Valley venues, it was a “at your own risk “disclaimer. The preconceived notion of unnecessary “machismo” at a punk rock show was minimal,  and security to boot, did an amazing job through-out the course of the evening allowing people to have fun, while weeding out any asshole chaff.

blackflagposterThe opening act Good for You were as out of place looking as they were tight and true to the punk rock spirit.  Grey haired guitarist and Black Flag member Greg Ginn  looked more like a dentist on his day off, bass player Dave looked as if he was prepared to sleep in his clothes and get someplace quick, despite a horrible PBR hangover.  Drummer Greg Moore looked the part of a Muppet as he donned large protective ear-guards, as he hammered away while punishing the tubs with flailing yet accurate gangly “Henson-esque” movements.

This wasn’t the shirtless frenzied madness of low-def youtube videos circa 1980 with  Henry Rollins evoking mayhem in heaps of  angry punks without the restraint of a stage, but it did carry on the energy of DIY musicianship. Even though they all found shirts, they still kept true to their punk rock roots.

The song opener consisted of three words… “Fucked, Up” repeated over and over followed by the a epic resolution on the word. There were moments of clarity however as Ginn’s runs were strong and had sneaky and subtle leanings into more post punk phrasings. The guttural, almost belching lyrical commentary of lead singer (and pro skater) Mike V. served as the kick in a poppy punk chili.

After some intensely long drum solos and mixed in bass conversations, “Good for You” ended on a more musical version of their opening song: a brilliant que for all the fans to grab a beer and get ready for what they all came to see. Hoards of thirsty punkers surrounded the bar, while a sublimely blonde bartender fended off the masses of what must have been the scariest night of her life, calming the walking dead with beer instead of bullets.

The intermission between bands was mostly uneventful, aside from a 50 something who was reliving his punk rock days, trying to start a fight in the line of the men’s bathroom. Folks looked on and silently laughed inside their heads as the guy rambled and then left continued his drunken ramblings all the way to the bar.

Black Flag has had more members than Michael Jackson has illegitimate children. Originally named “Panic” in 1976  then changing over to Black Flag, Greg Ginn (guitarist), has been the backbone and brain of the band, and the only continuous member. Behind most of the lyrics, and all the sleight of hand member changes, Ginn has been the force of continual change in this band’s long and bumpy history of 18 members to date. Including Ginn, there are two members on tour from the bands earliest years, the other being Ron Reyes (lead volcals).


Reyes also known as the nefarious “Chavo” in liner notes and punk rock folklore was the second lead singer in the bands original line-up. At its earliest, Keith Morris handled Black Flag’s vocals, who would later be followed by Chavo, Dez Cadena and then of course Henry Rollins.  Drummer Gregory Moore is a relative new comer to the collective starting in 2003.  Bassist Dave Klein and former member of punk rock band Screeching Weasel is the newest member of Black Flag, starting here in 2013.

The iconic Black Flag symbol seen as four off set bars is a representation of the opposite to a white flag, meaning surrender. Even though its oldest members are late in their 50’s, they still play with the intensity and angst of their earliest years, when they were blacklisted by the LAPD for the destructive nature of their fans. One can see the truth in a namesake as these boys aren’t giving up… ever.

Black Flag’s entry was sneaky, as all members of Good For You hung out on stage minus lead singer Mike V. There was no curtain or dimming of the lights, just the entry of Chavo followed by a cheering that must have carried across a canyon.  When folks heard the cheer, everyone dropped what they were doing to be present for the first crippling chord in the opener “Revenge”

Ever been in a happy riot?  That’s the only way to describe the culmination of energy that had been set on slow boil waiting for the entry of these punk heroes to emerge. Chavo’s vocals were poignant and held the same timbre as the earliest of the band’s recordings on vinyl, while Ginn’s guitar runs were dead on. A sea of frenzied fans danced and pushed their neighbors in excitement, but not with brutality, while security kept a close watch.

It looked like a wave of grain on a windy day, but with an awesome soundtrack. Henry Rollins is quoted as saying (in regards to the blacklisting by the LAPD) that the “police caused more problems than anyone else.” Looking out at the frenzy it was harder to keep yourself from not being involved, than it was to be scared. Crowd surfers sporadically popped up then disappeared in the frenzy fueled by the music.  Most songs in the set-list were under two minutes, which allowed for the intense burst of energy and the ability to catch your breath. Chavo’s meanderings during one of those breaks involved a short breathy personal rant…”If I am going down I am taking you fuckers with me” which led into the song “No Values.“ Then another happy riot ensued.

Black Flag ended with “Louie Louie” and with no encore, although as much as a disappointment this may have been, after playing so intensely, the band in entirety ended up at the back bar of Club Red. They were approachable without reproach, and were quick for a photo op. Some things do age well, who would have thought Black Flag could actually be on that list.


I’ve Had It
Nervous Breakdown
Fix Me
The Chase
Blood and Ashes
No Values
Now Is the Time
Six Pack
TV Party
It’s Not My Time to Go Go
I’m Sick
Black Coffee
Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie
Police Story
Wallow in Despair
Down in the Dirt
Can’t Decide
Rise Above
Jealous Again
Louie Louie
(Richard Berry cover)



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