Review – Black Flag

Date: Sunday 13th October 2019

Venue: Academy 2, Manchester

Supports: Total Chaos

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When the option comes up to see a band play that inspired most of the bands that you listen to currently it is a real no brainer. Especially when it’s the first time that the band have played the UK in over 35 years. And with that said the drive across to Manchester seemed like nothing for the spectacle that tonight was going to be seeing Black Flag playing live.

First up however were tonight’s only support Total Chaos. Starting out with the ringing guitar before launching into ‘War in L.A.’ really set things off to a great start, the band sounded great live and were clearly enjoying themselves with everyone jumping around and really filling the stage. The crowd may have been a little sparse at first but certainly filled up as the set went on .Total Chaos were the only support tonight so had a big job to build energy before tonight’s headliner but with a 45 min set of original hardcore punk the levels were easily met by the crowd. ‘Punk No Die’ got a great reaction to the crowd and really stuck to the title with the crowd pogoing in the pit throughout. ‘Running with the Youth’ brought riffs aplenty and definitely got some heads banging. And just when you thought you’d seen everything this band could offer they then brought out Tezz from Broken Bones/Discharge for a play through of one of his top tracks ‘Decapitated’. While playing tonight the band mentioned that tonight was part of their celebration of 30 years as a band which is amazing to hear as very few bands make it that far without a lot of effort and dedication. As the set went on it was clear to see during ‘Complete Control’ that, despite it being released over 20 years ago, there’s still the same issues around. Newer track Toxic Fallout sounded great and by the end of the set there was a sizeable pit forming. As Total Chaos finished with arguably their biggest track ‘Riot City’, it was clear that the crowd had increased massively and they had definitely build the energy up in preparation for Black Flag. Although the band may have been around for a long time but have certainly honed their performance over the years as there wasn’t a foot put wrong all while showcasing the raw energy of punk in its finest form.

Total Chaos

As I mentioned at the start, Black Flag were playing their first tour of the UK in over 35 years tonight so was a real no brainer for me to go having not even been born last time they were across. Opening their set with ‘Depression’ it was obvious that the crowd had been waiting for this moment for the entire night. As the riffs rang out on stage the crowd wasted no time in erupting into chaos. By the time the band had reached ‘Black Coffee’ it was clear that the crowd were at maximum activity. As with total chaos before it was clear that Black Flag were enjoying themselves up on stage and with the addition of Mike Vallely on vocal he really brought a ton of energy to the stage dancing around whilst Greg Ginn dazzled the crowds with his insane technical ability. ‘Gimme gimme gimme’ was notable tonight for having the first crowd surfer of the night go over the barrier and it certainly wouldn’t be this evenings last. As the band flew through the huge 22 song set list tonight it was nice to have a breat of fresh air as the band played an extended intro to ‘Six pack’. The bass and drums sounded incredible in the mix and were played to perfection, building the song up well with maximum frenzy once the track kicked in fully. 

It took until 40 minutes into the set before Black Flag gave a quick round of introductions to their current line up before launching straight back into it. Whilst usually I’m not a fan of bands that just play all their songs with very little talking tonight seemed different and with the timelessness of their tracks the link between crowd and band was already there without needing to appeal to newer fans. It was nice to hear from Mike V when he mentioned about how he’d seen Black Flag  when he was younger and that it was wild they’d asked him to step up to do vocals back in 2013. After playing through a couple of lesser known songs, it was time for the band to finish the night with the big hitters, Launching into ‘Nervous Breakdown’ the entire venue was shaking with the crowd really going for it and screaming along with the words. As if that wasn’t enough the band then went into ‘TV party’ which got exactly the same reaction from the crowd and really set things to end on a high.  

Black Flag

With no let up on their finale, the band brought Total Chaos back out to help with vocals on their penultimate track ‘Rise Above’. Being a true classic in the hardcore punk scene it was no surprise that the crowd lapped it up with the pit engulfing the entire front half of the venue. It was definitely the highlight of the set and a moment that would be hard to top for any band. After the carnage of ‘Rise Above’ there was only one track left for them to play before finishing off their UK tour and that was their well-known cover of Richard Berry track ‘Louie Louie’. Usually when listening to this track it’s a minute of pure energy and would have finished the night off perfectly however Greg had other plans this evening as it became an extended guitar solo for him to really showcase his talent. Unfortunately while his technical ability was clear the song seemed to drag on for minutes and after the high energy of ‘Rise Above’ it seemed like a very weird way to end the night. After the extended guitar solo he then passed his guitar across to Shawn from Total Chaos to finish the night’s solo before things came to a very abrupt end. With no encore to follow on and just a crowd photo with the band it seemed to draw the conversation after the show. With no one talking about how incredible the set was but just questioning why the solo ended things this evening.

If Black Flag had finished tonight at the end of ‘Rise Above’ then it would have been a 10/10 set with no doubt however this ending really shut down all the energy in the room. Whilst I am very happy I saw Black Flag this evening I can’t help but feel that no one had really thought about how to end it and it would be interesting to see if the same happened at other venues on this tour. Still regardless of this it was certainly one that I can now tick off my bucket list of bands and the added bonus of seeing Mike V who was one of my favourite skateboarders growing up was insane. This will certainly be a night for me to remember in years to come.

Black Flag

Review – Have Heart (One-Off Reunion Show)

Date: Sunday 21st July 2019

Venue: Stylus, Leeds

Supports: Stages In Faith, Big Cheese, Payday, Abuse Of Power

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Playing 10 year one off reunion shows in 4 cities was always going to be a huge hit but to have Leeds as one of the cities was monumental and really showed just how impressive the underground hardcore scene is in Leeds to draw a show like this. With tickets selling out extremely quickly, it was clear that everyone in attendance was in for a special night.

First up tonight were Stages In Faith. Going for a more old school hardcore sound mixing clean vocals and spoken word over the heavy distorted tracks, it was very reminiscent of bands like Leatherface. It was good to see that type of style was still being developed by the next generation of bands. Highlights from their set were recent track ‘Floodlights’ and their new unreleased track landed well with the early crowd to get the movement in the crowd started. Definitely a solid set to start off the night and hopefully the larger crowd that were present will pick up some of their tracks

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Stages In Faith

 

Next up were the mighty Big Cheese. After seeing these last year when they supported Madball I knew what to expect from them. As expected they put on a killer set which really work the crowd up. The hardcore dancers were out in full and kept up the same energy throughout the set. Going for a much heavier style of hardcore than SIF but it worked wonders to get everyone involved. To say they’re still a little off the radar they’re certainly making waves in the underground hardcore scene and definitely for the right reasons. Huge energy from the band matched the crowd perfectly and certainly a band to check out if you dig the heavier side of Hardcore! As the poster over the amps said – Don’t Forget 2 Tell The World.

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Big Cheese

 

Continuing Big Cheese’s theme of heavy hardcore were Payday it certainly kept the party mood well and truly in check. The set seemed to fly by with their short sharp bursts of songs but with the new album due out in September hopefully it’s not too long until Payday are back in Leeds. Highlight from them was the track ‘Blueprints’ from their new album which sounded very heavy and intense so will be interesting to see if the rest of the album matches. Certainly one I’ll be keeping my eye on in the near future! The whole band were tight and didn’t put a foot wrong throughout. Definitely a good choice by Have Heart to book them and hopefully this will springboard them with their new album into the forefront of the hardcore scene.

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Payday

 

Last of the support bands tonight were the fantastic Abuse Of Power. Given the three stunning sets before them it was looking to be an uphill struggle for them to top what had already been a fantastic night. The band however had other plans and took the rooms energy up an extra level. With the front half of the floor becoming a warzone with people everywhere moshing and hardcore dancing. While the crowd were going crazy it was not much different up on stage with each member of the band moving non-stop as they powered through their set. Each member put in a fantastic performance and the end result was crushing hardcore that went down a dream.

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Abuse Of Power

 

Last up tonight were the band that everyone was here to see, Have Heart. It took a single note from the band before people were launching themselves from the stage into the crowd. As the band worked through the opening salvo of ‘The Machinist’ and ‘The Unbreakable’ it was clear that even though it had been 10 years they certainly hadn’t lost their edge and were still performing at a fantastic level. Crashing through their 17 song setlist it was clear that everyone in attendance had some connection to the band as every word was screamed back at the band throughout. Top tracks ‘Watch Me Sink’ and ‘Armed With a Mind’ got huge reactions from the crowd and were perfectly placed to keep the energy levels up even after three hours of solid hardcore. As the set reached its mid-point the band mentioned that the reason for this one off reunion is the world is currently going backwards in terms of equality and rights and that the band were showing that things need to keep moving forward with progression. Following this speech, vocalist Pat Flynn kicking the next song in with “Backwards Never, Forwards Forever”, a memento to live by that was shouted back by the crowd. In true Have Heart fashion as they reached their final track, they announced that this would be their last song ever with no encore or anything like that and as they smashed their way through ‘Watch Me Rise’ the entire crowd flooded the stage with chants of “I’d rather die on my feet, than live on my knees.” As the final note rang out, you could see the emotion on everyone’s faces, this really was a monumental show for everyone involved and certainly something that would be talked about for many years to come.

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Have Heart