WHAT KIND of Black Flag fan are you?
Are you in the Keith Morris corner and just stick to Nervous Breakdown? (You did know they had singers before Henry Rollins, right?) Or maybe you're in the Ron Reyes camp, gravitating toward the Jealous Again EP. Or perhaps those two are not obscure enough for you—you're partial to the Dez Cadena year(s). Maybe you're a metalhead and swear by My War, Side Two. Or perhaps you celebrate the band's entire catalog, even pretending to like Family Man.
I don't have the four bars tattooed anywhere on me, but I'm closest to that last category (except for the Family Man part). If you fit into any of these camps, you've probably heard that there are basically two Black Flags these days—and they don't coexist peacefully. There's the more official, Greg Ginn-led one that's playing the Hawthorne Theatre on Thursday. As the band's mastermind, primary songwriter, and lone consistent member, Ginn changed the shape of punk rock and has pissed off a lot of former bandmates over the years. This currently touring version, according to the band's website, is "not to be confused with the fake FLAG band currently covering the songs of Black Flag in an embarrassingly weak 'mailing it in' fashion."
"We're all the guys that won't play with Greg Ginn just because of his business practices, just because of the way he has treated the majority of us, just some of the things he has said about us," Morris told the Washington Times about Flag, which also features Cadena, Chuck Dukowski, Bill Stevenson, and the Descendents' Stephan Egerton.
Reyes, who replaced Morris in '79 and whose original recorded output is the least of Black Flag's four former vocalists, left the band acrimoniously in 1980 (he's credited as "Chavo Pederast" on Jealous Again). Now he's back in the fold, along with Ginn, bassist Dave Klein, and drummer Gregory Moore. They've even released a couple new songs and promise a full-length later this summer.
But as a celebrate-the-entire-catalog (except Family Man) kinda guy, I don't feel a strong allegiance to either of these reunions and can't find much reason to tout one over the other. I'm usually pretty cynical about the sort of nostalgia trips that are the basis of FLAG. And while I like the new Black Flag songs just fine, the cautionary tale of the Stooges' resurrection—to pull just one example—has taught me to be skeptical about old punk bands re-entering the fray.
Not that any of this means I'm skipping out on Thursday. I mean, it's Black Flag.