I’ve already penned a few posts about Henry Rollins, Black Flag and Maxwell’s in Hoboken, respectively, so I won’t bother re-hashing those here, but a certain Dangerous Minds entry resurfaced on Facebook recently, and it begged further extrapolation.
Back last December, DM put up a trio of live Black Flag clips that remain notable inasmuch as that band’s guitarist/founder Greg Ginn is notorious for keeping something of a stranglehold on any video content of the band. Nine months later, however, the three clips are still live. While they’re all worth your time (if you’re a fan), I’m focusing on the one shot in Hoboken’s Maxwell’s in October of 1984.
For a start, I appreciate this clip in that it provides a fairly telling glimpse inside the since-vanished club in question. I haven’t been back to Hoboken in veritable eons, so I don’t know what transpires in that particular space now (ping-pong tables? Karaoke?), but this is a great document of what the experience of a full-throttled live show in that room was like.
The other thing that strikes me about the video, however, is how it underlines how iconoclastic a band Black Flag really was. By 1984, hardcore punk had seemingly started to both calcify and mutate. Some primary bands had already quit, flamed out or seemingly lost their way entirely. Many were happy to reinforce by-then-established formulas, creatively running themselves aground. But not Black Flag.
Unwilling and potentially incapable of staying stylistically static (as many of their fans may have preferred), the Black Flag making the rounds in `84 was a wholly different beast from the one that had recorded the iconic Damaged album. Giving sway to their penchant for lengthy, free-jazz-inspired jams (as opposed to the taut, splenetic sprints on their early recordings), Black Flag was evolving into something else entirely, and not everyone was necessarily onboard.
Their sound had become defiantly sludgy and turgid, defying the speedy mores of the hardcore community. When they felt like stepping on the gas, they could still whip a crowd up into a frenzy, but Black Flag were no one’s performing monkeys.
Two other things I love about this. Note the bouncy punk with the Mohawk at about 0:28 into, earnestly pogoing, trying to get a pit going and dutifully adhering to all his chosen subculture’s then-patented practices, willfully oblivious that Black Flag have clearly moved on. It’s also striking to see such a po-faced Henry, looking like an impossibly youthful hybrid of Jim Morrison and Charles Manson.
He’s lightened up a bit since then.