Black Flag - Trees - May, 24, 2013
Sure, there was plenty of speculation about Black Flag reuniting. A previous reunion ten years ago was disastrous and forgettable. Seemed like the band was best left as a myth and plenty of fans were fine with that. Especially since there's no way longest-tenured singer Henry Rollins will ever play again with mastermind Greg Ginn. So what does the latest incarnation of Black Flag bring to the table in 2013?
Essentially, this is a Black Flag that plays the old stuff that people want to hear the most. Spoken word interludes and punk-prog-jazz jams are kept to a minimum in favor of the most urgent and shortest material. Those lucky to squeeze into an at-capacity Trees on Friday night had the pleasure of seeing this with their own eyes.
Reunited with vocalist Ron Reyes, whose original time with the band was very short-lived, the four-piece delivered 22 songs in a little over an hour. Rapid fire blasts of "Fix Me," "Depression" and "No Values" sounded full and cathartic. New bassist Dave Klein was the key weapon as his fluid jazz and punk stylings fit perfectly with Ginn's John McLaughlin-meets-Johnny Ramone style. Drummer Gregory Moore, a longtime collaborator with Ginn, did decently as he pumped along his enormously-sized drums.
Reyes might be over 50 and Ginn might look more like Tom Stoppard, but they still capture an angst which isn't exclusively tied to the teenage years. When Reyes sings about being "down in the dirt," his facial expressions fit exactly with how he sings those words. There's a broken dream nature to all of Black Flag's material, and Reyes certainly kept that spirit alive.
This wouldn't be punk show if it didn't have its share of technical issues. Unfortunately they were often distracting throughout the band's set. Ginn's guitar kept going out, leaving holes in the onslaught of aggression. Good thing Klein helped carry the water by never letting up on the fretboard. Reyes even changed the lyrics of "No Values" from "I've got no values" to "I've got no guitar amp."