His fairness toward his ex-bandmates and other groups who recorded for his SST label has long been questioned, but Greg Ginn can’t really be accused of ripping off fans who paid $20 to see his latest remade version of Black Flag at the Triple Rock on Sunday. The club was barely half-full – more people showed up to see OFF! with original Black Flag singer Keith Morris last month -- so everyone seemed to understand that Ginn is the lone member from the band’s original 1976-1986 era now in the touring lineup. The new rhythm section, in fact, doesn’t even look like it was born yet in 1986.
True to form, Ginn threw down a challenge to the audience to start the show. He took the stage first as his solo project, Greg Ginn & the Royal We, playing his signature clear/see-through-design guitar and theramin – yep, theramin – with accompaniment from pre-recorded free-form rhythms and black-and-white video montages that rolled across a flat-screen TV at the center of the stage. “Who said there wouldn’t be a TV party tonight?” Ginn quipped for his only comment into the microphone. To put it mildly, though, the Royal We set was anything but a party.
It took all of three seconds for things to get moving when the Black Flag portion of the show officially started. A mosh pit exploded right just as Ginn slid down his guitar to kick off “Rise Above.” From the get-go, it was apparent that new singer Mike Vallery – a former pro skater and band manager who took over when Ginn fired old vocalist Ron Reyes mid-show last year – was little more than a stand-in. His Rollins-lite raspy howl lacked bite, but he at least gave it his all through the entire hour-long set. On the other hand, brand-new drummer Brandon Pertzborn and bassist Tyler Smith were better than just perfunctory, propelling the show to fast, excited mayhem at times. At least the mosh pit was bigger Sunday than it was for OFF!
For fans who also saw last year’s FLAG show with Morris and other Black Flag alumni at First Avenue, Sunday’s show probably seemed less authentic and certainly was less exhilirating, but it was at least a nice contrast. Ginn’s crew played some of the latter-day Rollins-era tunes that FLAG didn’t touch, including “Slip It In,” “Annihilate This Week” and three off the “My War” album (though, disappointingly, not the song “My War”). And there was no denying the distinctive, sonically gnashing guitarwork, especially in “Slip It In” as well as “Black Coffee” and “I’d Rather Die.”
“TV Party” was included, too, with at least a few current shows thrown into the shout-out mix, including “Family Guy” and “The Voice” (you might consider “Dallas” current, too). You would have to hate Ginn pretty severely – and, let’s face it, plenty of his peers do – to not get some form of enjoyment out of the oldies fix he offered Sunday. He seemed to be having fun himself, too, spinning his head like a windmill throughout the set and leaving the stage mid-song during “Louie Louie” to watch the finale from the crowd. A regular man-of-the-people.
Here's the set list:
Rise Above / Six Pack / I've Had It / Fix Me / No Values / Annihilate This Week / Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie / Depression / Damaged II / Black Coffee / I'd Rather Die / Jealous Again / Nervous Breakdown / Police Story / Can't Decide / Beat My Head Against the Wall / Slip It In / TV Party / F---ed Up / Revenge / Louie Louie