Flag’s surreal performance closes a long, great Punk Rock Bowling festival weekend

The band Flag performs during the Punk Rock Bowling & Music Festival in downtown Las Vegas on Monday, May 27, 2013.
Photo: Leila Navidi
Chris Bitonti

One of two Texas-based bands to perform on Monday, Lower Class Brats took the stage just after 5 p.m.

Their set included “Insult to Injury,” and “Ultra Violence” and ended with a cover of the classic soul song “Breakaway.” Lead singer Bones DeLarge and company didn’t embody the Clockwork Orange look that they are known for, but they have not lost a bit of their UK-influenced street punk sound.

Walking out on stage to an old west standoff tune and chugging beers before starting, the Casualties threw a violent party with their performance, screaming melody-less speed punk as if their music was just a vehicle to incite riots. Lead singer Jorge Herrera, with his trademark pufferfish hair style, growled out “Constant Struggle,” “Life on the Line” and a cover of the Ramones’ “Rockaway Beach.” But before playing their most recognized song, “We Are All We Have Tonight,” they challenged the pit to a group chicken fight, with the last man standing winning Casualties merch. Second place was a free beer.

Subhumans might be the only band to perform a piano ballad at this year’s festival but don’t mistake singer Dick Lucas and company for getting soft; they still tore through a set of anarchy-punk jams in their 45 minutes. Next up, Dirty Rotten Imbeciles (D.R.I.) combines hardcore punk with metal influences. They were able to get the pit foaming and were a great lead into Flag, by far the most anticipated act of the festival.

Flag is made up of four original members of Black Flag: Keith Morris on vocals, Chuck Dukowski on bass, Dez Cadena on guitar and vocals, and Bill Stevenson on drums. Rounding out the group on lead guitar is Stephen Egerton of Descendents fame. Each member of Flag could be considered a punk legend even beyond their connection with that influential band. Stevenson had emphasized how informal the Flag shows would be and that was evident last night. There are probably no other bands headlining major music festivals this summer who sound check their own instruments, but that is Flag’s attitude about the reunion and so there they were, in front of a sold-out festival crowd, checking the drum mix and tweaking the levels like five friends playing a Memorial Day barbecue.

Their performance was quick, less than an hour in length with an encore. It was a little sloppy with a few minor missteps including a false start on one song, but mostly it was surreal. As someone who grew up listening to Black Flag well after they had already called it quits, finally getting to see “Rise Above,” “Gimme Gimme Gimme” and “Police Story” performed live was incredible. The set consisted of tracks from The First Four Years, a compilation EP of early work, and Black Flag’s first full-length, Damaged, which is the body of work that Morris and Cadena were responsible for vocalizing. Cadena, who had a short stint as the frontman but continued in the band longer as guitarist, did sing a few songs, including “Six Pack,” one of the band’s most popular.

The stage was packed with members of the other punk bands who had played throughout the weekend and fans chanted along with every word. It was a nostalgic end to an outstanding year for Punk Rock Bowling, one that will be hard to top in the future.


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