Black Flag - Club Red, Tempe - 7/11/13
The idea of Black Flag coming to town works in principle. Seeing the remnants of an iconic punk band that hasn't performed in Phoenix in decades sounds good in theory, but the reality is that Black Flag has gone through so many lineup changes that seeing the band is a bit of a gamble, especially when the ticket prices are high.
That didn't stop fans from piling into Club Red on a weeknight to see one of the currently touring Black Flag reunions, this one featuring the band's sole consistent member, Greg Ginn, on guitar with Ron Reyes on vocals.
The theremin is not a punk rock instrument. Having a punk musician who's been in the industry for over three decades play a theremin in one of the world's most iconic punk bands is a pretty bold move. One could argue that it's the punkest thing Greg Ginn could have done last night, alongside his drummer, who lay on the floor and kicked his feet in the air to stretch before Good for You's set. But who am I to say what is or isn't punk rock? Henry Rollins' long hair, shorts, and neurotic stage presence confused the hell out of people at first but helped redefine the rules.
Melissa Fossum Black Flag's Ron Reyes on vocals
But after 30-some years, there's no reinventing the wheel of punk music. The genre still has its weird twists and turns, spawning strange subgenres that bands like Attack! Attack! belong to, but the ethos is still there, for the most part. Even though Thursday night's band played a slew of Black Flag songs, and half-consisted of original members, it didn't quite feel like a true Black Flag show. The band released the entirety of its albums before I was born, but after seeing FLAG, the other Black Flag reunion act at Punk Rock Bowling in Las Vegas a couple months ago, Greg Ginn's lineup fell short by a wide margin.
Melissa Fossum Black Flag: With founding member Greg Ginn on guitar.
My biases are clear, but I tried to make the most of the show regardless. I bounced ideas off a friend who'd bought a $40 ticket without hesitation simply because he could say he's had the experience of seeing Black Flag. He said it was worth it just for that, but when asked if he would pay the same amount to see them again, he hesitated. He said a better venue and lower ticket prices would help, but otherwise he had a pretty good time.
By the looks of things, a decent chunk of the crowd had a good time, too. The circle pit got fairly large during "Six Pack," even if it quickly lost momentum -- though it was a weeknight, and I'm sure most fans had to get up early for work today. Fists were thrown in the air at key moments, though some of the band's most iconic work fell flat. Musically, Black Flag sounded okay for the most part. A tempo was off here and there, but the main issue is that Ron Reyes is not Keith Morris, Henry Rollins, or Dez Cadena.