Well, the hills were definitely alive with the sound of music this weekend as Cardiff was rock city central with quality on offer at every turn across the city and tonight, Saturday, You have MC50 and the Coop over at the enormadome but me I’m in the sweaty packed confines of the Tramshed to witness the first performance of Black Flag in this town along with Californian punks total Chaos.
I was pleased to see the venue was pretty much sold out considering what else was on in town and a really mixed audience packed out the place. Total Chaos takes the stage and immediately get down to business and use every year of their 30 plus in this business to knock out a set of dirty filthy metal meets street punk that ticked all the boxes. Spikey har, shouty choruses, swearing, studded belts, black and white t-shirts, and songs that rally against the government, cops, teachers, parents, society etc bla, bla, bla but- big but. They do it well and in a really convincing manner. In fairness, unlike many of their contempories, the temptation to take it in a full metal direction is resisted and to be nothing more than a “go through the motions” punk by numbers band is also averted but only just.
As nice as it was to see the likes of Total Chaos play Cardiff Tramshed tonight is all about the headliner for me having never seen Ginn play and having been familiar with the various line ups throughout my adult life it was one to tick off the list even if it was Black Flag twice removed. to say it is a band that had many line up changes and different vocalists that managed to remain credible throughout its existence so why should now be an exception? if you’ve got a ticket for Black flag 2019 then you know what you’re getting so all that history and he said she said should be tucked away under the mattress for tonight. Ginn and Valley work well and to be fair as a frontman Black Flag are the perfect vehicle and his delivery is spot on at times you could close your eyes and be forgiven for thinking Rollins was on the stage. It was a best of set and I’d imagine by the laminated set lists the same set on every night of the tour ‘Black Coffee’ sounded brutal as did the likes of ‘Fix Me’, ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’ and ‘Loose Nut’ and this four piece were nailing the Black Flag sound with the aid of the incredibly tight rhythm section who to be fair were the perfect players to enable Ginn to do his thing as he gave his head a wobble and let his fingers fly across the fretboard. There were times when the extended intros went on a little longer than they possibly should as it kinda stopped any momentum building but it did provide some respite and showcase how good the players were riffing off each other ‘Six Pack’ was definitely the exception to the rule with the rhythm section hammering home how tight they were and how bloody good the song is.
Valley must have gobbed out twice his body weight but worked up a hell of a sweat as he brought the house down with a brutal ‘Six Pack’, ‘Clocked In’ and crowd pleasers ‘Jealous Again’ but it was the finale of ‘Nervous Breakdown’ followed by an exceptional ‘Rise Above’ complete with gang vocals from Total Chaos before the final number the progbustin ‘Louis Louis’ that seemed like a strange song to end the set, Well under normal circumstances it would have been nice to hear a couple of other Black Flag tunes but I guess a cover is alright but to make it last over ten minutes might have been a cool down post-workout for the band and those in the pit but it was the opportunity for me to snake my way out of the venue and get a head start getting out of dodge.
I’m glad I got the chance to see such a legendary name and player like Ginn play his songs but I can’t help think how much I’d love to have seen the original or the Rollins version but I guess that was then and this is now and the now is a pretty cool place to be. It might not be the ’70s anymore but I’m sure Ginn is pleased there isn’t a line of cops outside with billy clubs drawn. The club is clean and the stage pristine and raised unlike the good/bad old days and security that are really excellent and look out for the audience who might have had a little too much to drink, are rowdy, take no notice of the no crowdsurfing signs and run the club well. Whilst the trade-off might be a little of the danger that’s associated with Black Flag or the edge of seeing them in a tight room with an air of rebellion and danger might have dissipated but these are different times for sure but one thing remains and thats the back catalogue of songs. They are still as good as they ever were and as long as Ginn has six strings on his guitar the singers may come and go but they will always be one of the most influential bands from American punk rock and that will never be diminished.
Who Knows, Maybe, just maybe before these guys retire it would be nice to know that the old members would shake on it and for one night only turn back the clock but until then this version is more than capable of delivering the goods.
Author: Dom Daley