“I’m not Henry Rollins.”
Those were the words that Keith Morris greeted the crowd with as he strolled out onto the stage with the rest of the Black Flag alumni. Chuck Dukowski, Dez Cadena, Bill Stevenson…this was a like a hall of fame punk rock panel, only these guys (along with Stephen Egerton, who played guitar in Descendents with Stevenson) were loaded for bear, straining at the leash and ready to inflict sonic damage throughout the far reaches of the packed club.
1-2-3-4! In a flash, the crowd erupted as “Revenge” pummeled their heads. With Greg Ginn getting all lawsuit-happy, maybe this wasn’t just a random song to kick off the night. With Morris’ long dreads flailing away, Egerton and Cadena pushed their buzzsaw guitars into the thick of the mix while Dukowski and Stevenson anchored the bottom end, stoking the engine room and keeping things on track like a German train schedule. As the maelstrom gradually churned from the circle pit and began puking random punters onto the stage, Morris’ Germs shirt became a ripped casualty and the air was filled with aggression of the best kind.
“Fix Me,” “Depression,” “Police Story,” “My War.” There is no denying the impact these songs had thirty years ago and continue to have in the present. About two-thirds of the way into the set, Morris decided to take a spell and surrendered the mic to Cadena. A lot of people forget that Dez sang lead in between when Reyes left the band and Rollins got recruited, and while he’s made his paycheck working for the non-Glenn Danzig Misfits lineup (hmmm, I see a trend) for the last decade plus, the songs he sang on the Six Pack and Louie, Louie 7″ singles are just as crucial to the Black Flag oeuvre as anything else. The corruscating, decaying blast of “Damaged I” set the blueprint for scads to follow, blowing apart the strict guidelines of what hardcore was supposed to sound like.
Comparisons between the Ginn-led troupe and this one are inevitable, and after having seen both it’s pretty clear who pins who to the mat. This show was like an adrenaline-dripping ice pick to the aorta. Ginn’s show suffered from his poor choice of rhythm section (seriously, could he have chosen some different random guys taken from the street?) and his insistence on wanking around on a theremin for some of the songs. Morris and company stared straight ahead, unblinking, while they massaged your trachea with their boots. Not even close.
TSOL are long-running colleagues of FLAG, heralding from the early LA punk scene and cutting their teeth via early records on noted LA punk labels Posh Boy and Frontier. Singer Jack Grisham spoke of the early days and the current litigious environment, saying that he’d go to a club to see Keith et al on stage, get loaded, survive a police riot, have sex in an alley way, and then wake up thinking…fuck high school! He’d like to sue for damages too. Despite the presence of a keyboard player they hit a lot of their early material pre-dating the Beneath The Shadows era, concentrating on the strange cowboy/goth/punk mix that Gun Club also plied very successfully.
Cerebral Ballzy is a NYC-based hardcore unit that has previously toured with OFF!, and hit the right side of teen angst and abandon to get the crowd’s blood pumping.