It may have been the four iconic black bars, or the nostalgia of seeing arguably the world’s most influential punk band in a venue as small as House of Blues Anaheim that convinced this writer to buy a ticket to “Black Flag’s” Victimology tour, but regardless it was an obvious mistake. The court battle over ownership rights to the Black Flag name, logo and songs that Greg Ginn brought against his former band mates who were touring under the name Flag, caused this show to not only sell poorly but also fall short of expectations. The odd pairing of openers and lack of energy from Black Flag, a band known for their aggressive tendencies, left this writer underwhelmed and annoyed.
The Dollyrots were first to take the stage as people dressed in shirts sporting those overfamiliar bars trickled into House of Blues Anaheim. This three piece pop punk band sounded similar to The Go Go’s or Josie and the Pussycats with a faster tempo. Kelly Ogden’s high pitched vocals caused the band’s sound to resemble a Japanese commercial. They had a fast, bizzare, and in your face style backed by catchy melodies and it was over before you knew what hit you. The whole act was short, sweet, and unlike anyone else on the bill.
Next up was two piece Cinema Cinema from Brooklyn, New York. This duo of cousins have been creating what they describe as “atmospheric punk”since 2008. They have toured all over the world with Greg Ginn’s musical projects and the Victimology tour is no exception. Ev Gold tears it up on guitar with Tom Morello-ish distortion while his partner in crime Paul Claro bashes a musical backbone on the drums. If you’re wondering where the vocals are, you’re not alone. The occasional grunt or scream Ev belted into the microphone made this writer hesitant to call the performance anything more than a 45 minute jazz style jam session. Each song bled into one another which lost its appeal after a short while. What the duo lacked in harmony they made up for with energy. Gold ran back and forth across the stage banging his head to the melody and even implemented some Jimmy Hendrix style guitar shredding.
Finally it was time for the main event. The curtain opened to the latest installment of Black Flag. The band consisted of founding member Greg Ginn with Mike Vallely on vocals, Brandon Pertzborn behind the drum kit, and Tyler Smith on bass. These stand-ins were all drastically younger than Greg, but did not have the same energy as what Black Flag has come to represent. It was almost like the band grew up and lost its youthful and edgy sprit. The band blew through Black Flag anthems “Rise Above” “Six Pack” and “TV Party” but lengthened these tracks from quick bursts of energy to give Ginn plenty of opportunity for guitar solos. This make shift cover band fell far below the bar set by previous Black Flag lead singers like Henry Rollins who literally sang every note with veins popping out of his neck and sweat dripping down his face. The Victimology edition of Black Flag may have had one original member, but sounded like nothing more than a cover group.