It was Sunday night (6.9.13) and while most Clevelanders were at home dreading Monday, a select and dedicated crowd could be found hovering outside of the Grog Shop. On this particular Sunday, five legendary musicians would occupy the tiny stage in Cleveland Heights.
Keith Morris, Chuck Dukowski, Bill Stevenson, DezCadena and Stephen Egerton had recently come together to form a new version of the famous hardcore punk band Black Flag, and renamed the group Flag.
Here’s where it gets tricky. Establishing member, songwriter and guitarist, Greg Ginn also formed a new band, except Ginn kept his rights to the original band name, Black Flag. Both bands include members of the original Black Flag, and both are playing Black Flag songs, yet it is apparent that the two new bands do not get along. So, if you’re an avid Black Flag fan, which of the new bands should you see? My answer would be both.
Some people might think that because Ginn’s band still holds the original name, that his band stands truer to the legend that is Black Flag. However, Flag’s lineup actually includes more original Black Flag members than the current lineup of Black Flag. The current members of Black Flag include just two original members, Ginn on guitar and Ron Reyes on vocals. Flag, on the other hand, includes four long-time Black Flag members, Morris, Dukowski, Stevenson and Cadena, who all played major roles in Black Flag’s earlier years. Flag’s fifth member is Stephen Egertonis, best known for his time with The Descendents, which is just as notable.
As the men took the stage, I don’t think anybody knew exactly how the show would turn out. After all, this new band formation had just begun touring and the members are all old enough to be my father, with the youngest, Egerton, at age 48.
Nonetheless, the five men still knew how to rock. The band opened with “Revenge” from Black Flag’s 1991 album ‘Jealous Again’ which drew everyone’s attention to the stage and had the crowd chanting back the lyrics. Of the rather lengthy set list, almost half of the songs were chosen from Black Flag’s first album, ‘Damaged,’ which was released back in 1981. However, it was the album ‘Nervous Breakdown’ that got the crowd moving that night, with the band playing the entire album which included four songs, “Fix Me,” “I’ve had it,” “Wasted” and of course, “Nervous Breakdown.”
About half way through the set, the lights went out in the venue, leaving the band members on stage asking, “Hello? Mr. Light Guy?” After a brief moment, the problem was fixed and the band continued playing some of Black Flag’s most memorable songs, ending the set with “Six pack.”
Of course, every great band does an encore, and after a few minutes of fans chanting “one more song,” the band returned to the stage to close the night with “Rise Above” and “Louie, Louie.”
Those who were skeptical in the beginning of the show were definitely pleased by the end. The five men handled the stage as if they were playing their first show in the ‘70s, and definitely succeeded in gaining crowd involvement. Fans, old and new, both sang and danced to the recreation of one of the best punk bands of their time.