Black Flag comes to town
When I was a young 'un, one of the biggest teases was an old Black Flag flyer that was wheat-pasted to a pillar in front of the Sam's Hauf Brau next to Tower Posters on Watt Ave in Sacramento. Tower Posters was Tower Records' head shop and is long gone. The flyer has Black Flag playing a place called Slick Willies, which was a bar in the ''burbs. I was too young to go there as it quit doing shows in '79 or so (I do have a photo of the Ramones on stage there, that I bought from a guy who used to sell concert photos in front of Tower Watt). We young punkers would stare at the flyer, fantasizing about seeing Black Flag with Keith Morris. Hell, we dreamed of seeing Black Flag in Sacramento. The two times I had seen them was in Frisco and getting to Frisco was tough, as none of us had cars . To get there we had to try to convince some rocker with a car that they would like this show - "It's kinda like Sabbath but faster." Of course, these rides never did like the show but we got to Frisco. Failing a ride, our way out of town was hitchhiking or taking Greyhound and then walking the streets til the morning 'hound left back home.
In 1981 and 82, there were a couple Black Flag shows scheduled in Sacto but they fell through as the band was going through Chavo problems and the quest for a singer. When the search finally resulted in Henry Garfield being the singer, we were kind of excited and kind of disappointed. Excited because Henry was in SOA and they were supposed to be good live. Disappointed because Henry was from DC and we hated anything from DC because it was 1. The East Coast and 2. Straight edge. Our loyalty to the Schmidt's sports pack was as strong as our regional pride. Of course, when Minor Threat came through and then the Bad Brains, we sheepishly admitted that we just got our skulls handed to us, cracked and in an adrenaline frenzy. But still Black Flag was Black Flag, Keith, Chavo, Dez or Henry.
Finally we hear that Black Flag is coming to Sacramento. They are scheduled to play this place called the Galactica 2000. The Galactica was a disco on 15th & L. It opened up in the mid 70s and had a science fiction theme. The inside was decorated with a lot of shiny metal and murals of outer space. Painted styrofoam was glued to one long expanse of wall. By the time the Galactica was open to doing Clear & Distinct Ideas (promoter Stewart Katz and hands) all-ages shows, disco was dead and the styrofoam was pitted thanks to young punks grabbing chunks off in order to throw at each other. As the Galactica declined, more and more good shows happened there. Eventually the place changed hands and turned into an all-ages dance club, switching names every couple years to keep ahead of rumors that the owner & staff fondled the kid dancers.
The night Black Flag came to town, the kid dancers were punks looking for a pit and all fondling was limited to body slamming off body. I am not sure who opened the show, but I do remember that Crucifix (while they were still in their Germs phase) played before Black Flag. During Crucifix's set the tension was pretty high. While they played great, everyone was buzzing about Black Flag. And, christ, why not? Black Flag were the quintessential punk band. More so than the Ramones or any UK band, Black Flag stripped rock and roll down to a raw, spastic nerve. The music was done without theatrics or a look or a fashion layout, fueled by boredom and full of anger. Any alienated child of American suburbs, with a taste for loud, fast music and willing to put themselves at odds with their peers, could relate. Nervous Breakdown, Jealous Again, and Six Pack were soundtracks as well as anthems. Fuck, Black Flag was our Elvis, our Beatles, but a hell of a lot better. So, yeah, the room was definitely buzzing for Black Flag.
Crucifix finished their set and people started pushing toward the front. As the bands and their roadies swaped out equipment, the room became so tight with anticipation that any ripple in the crowd sent people murmuring and craning their neck toward the stage. Greg, Chuck, Robo and Dez made their way on stage. People started, "Where's Henry? Where's Henry?," looking around for some bald-headed dude. After a tense five minutes, a hairy Henry pops up and the band lurched forward. The place fucking exploded. The pit became a chaos of bodies, a psychotic game of human bumperpool - with spikes and boots. People not only dove off the stage, but from whatever surface was high enough to jump from. Tables, barstools, the bar itself were all launching points. What happened was less of a concert and much, much more a release of pressure. Raw energy, completely unharnessed, bounced from wall to wall, from body to body. Focused, the energy could have razed the block; dispersed, god knows what happened to it.
The show didn't wind down as it just ended, like a car propelled off a cliff, driver thinking "Shit." No fanfare or epilogue: Sound off, good bye.
I've been meaning to do one of these blog things for quite some time but never get around to it or inspired. Tonight, as I sat down to right some reply to a post on Agony Shorthand (http://agonyshorthand.blogspot.com/) regarding Black Flag, I said to myself "Shit, why not now." So instead of this appearing on Jay's blog, it's here. Check back for more stuff later. I'll do this til I burn out on it.
Smitty "Feminist Baseball"