at the Hollywood Palladium
September 12 & 13, 2003

by Bleib Alien

Based on interviews I read with Ginn mentioning all of the "First Four Years" singers as part of the reunion, I purchased tickets for both Friday and Saturday night. At the last minute Ginn and Dez Cadena (on dual guitars with taped bass filling in for "Dale Nixon" and a no-name drummer) had decided to open for Black Flag by playing "My War" in all its grueling entirety. It was very pleasing to see the reaction from the crowd - lots of boos and some quickly emptied trash cans hurled in the direction of the stage. Pretty much the same reaction the "My War" material got two decades ago when I first saw the Rollins/Ginn/Stevenson/Kira lineup play it. Several minutes into "Nothing Left Inside" the friend I had dragged along said 'Just kill yourself already'. Good to see that they still have a knack for stubbornly refusing to give the audience what they want.

Here's a band who had nailed the formula for hardcore success in their hometown by the time of "Damaged" (to the extent of selling out the Santa Monica Civic Center) - that was willing to reinvent themselves as a proto-grunge band and hit the road and play to tiny crowds. Even members of the later era Black Flag (Rollins and
Bill Stevenson) have been quoted as saying that they liked the band better before they were in it. I liked "My War" back then and I thought it sounded pretty good at the reunion show (although the taped bass was a really stupid idea).

In fact, the bass playing was so bad I thought there must be a bass player hiding backstage somewhere. So on the second night I snuck backstage looking for the mystery "Dale Nixon" to no avail.

Finally even gruel mongers like myself had had enough and Ginn, Dez, Robo, and C'el (bass player from the last few months of Black Flag and quite possibly the only one still on speaking terms with Ginn) started the Black Flag set proper and played "First Four Years" and "Damaged" stuff. They played all the "hits" but they didn't shy away from the more agonizing side two of 'Damaged" stuff and it all sounded great. The obligatory pit was in full swing but not as violent as I had feared. The crowd was a bizarre mixture of aging scensters, little kids, skins, over-the-hill-skanky-mplant women, and gangstas right out of central casting circa 1983. The only thing that marred the show so far was the drum solo by Robo during "Louie, Louie". WTF? A drum solo? But then the night took a turn for the worse when they came back for a second set without Robo and C'el and