Written by Samuel Barker
ImageThere is a double-edged sword aspect to being in a punk rock band, especially a landmark one.

For being a genre/community that wore non-conformity on their sleeves, the straight-line rules made sure everyone wore the same non-conformity on their sleeves…oh, the irony of it all.

The resurrection of Black Flag by the band’s guitarist, founding member, primary songwriter, record label owner and driving force, Greg Ginn has been polarizing to say the least. To make matters worse, in a move that rivaled the subsequent glam metal scene in the California music landscape, past members started a version of the band called Flag to create a mess for fans and musicians alike.

The drama was huge in the whole scenario, but that is something you should search out on your own. For this night, my sole concern was: how would the show go off?

I have seen my fair share of “reunited” bands where a single past member starts a band back up to cash in on the name. They come out uninspired, bored and spend the set counting audience members so they know the paycheck they will cash at the end of the night. It is always a sad event when things go down like this. How would this night go?

While the stage was being prepared for Black Flag to start, you could not help but watch Ginn patrol the stage reconfiguring amps, tuning his guitar and being part of the setup. Having the reputation of being a perfectionist, this was definitely something you would expect from Ginn and was the first moment of the night that endeared me to what was going down next. No matter how much time had gone by, Ginn was still interested in the sound of the set and was not above setting up his own gear.

Finally, without cheesy walkout music or anything like that, Black Flag took the stage in a torrent of cheers from an audience that ranged from people who saw the band’s last appearance in Houston of 1986 to kids for whom the band was nothing more than an artifact. Well, as they quickly learned, when history comes alive, it can be rather captivating.

As the drummer, Brandon Pertzbon, kicked off the set with some solid fills, Ginn and bassist, Tyler Smith, began jamming out while vocalist, Mike Vallely, patrolled the stage. After a few moments, Ginn began the signature nosedive run that kicks off Rise Above and from there, it never slowed down.

The band was obviously well rehearsed and tore through the catalog of songs with great intensity. Vallely stomped around the stage, belting out classic punk rock tunes that he spent his youth skating to while looking like someone living out his dream, which undoubtedly was one of the many influences on Ginn, who looked like he was seeing a lifetime of work come to the point of reward.

ImageOver 30 years removed from the original writing of some of these songs, it has to be hard to keep the energy level up and the intensity alive. But, Ginn bounced around the stage, shook his head and made every chord roar through his amp while the rest of the band rocked along.

In the heyday of the band, Black Flag ran through members are a blistering pace, only Ginn remained for the entirety of the initial 10 year run of the band. Over 20 people have spent time as a member of Black Flag, which was one of the main reasons this current return did not feel too out of bounds. Black Flag was always Ginn and a cast of members who brought his songs to life.

I will admit to walking into the door expecting to see something I could turn into a punchline. With the whole surrounding drama, it seemed like there was no way I could walk out fulfilled as a listener and participant in the concert. Surely, this was going to be a letdown. Right?

Well, I am thrilled to say I was wrong. Hearing songs like Six Pack, Depression, Police Story and Nervous Breakdown come to life out of the guitar of Ginn instantly brought back memories of hanging with friends skating and learning to play guitar myself. For a brief moment, I was a teenager again rocking out to a band I really never thought I’d get to see.

Some elitists will say I still have not seen Black Flag, but that is fine by me. In my mind, I saw a great band play an intense show and enjoyed seeing them look as thrilled as I did about being a part of the night…I saw Black Flag.