TSOL, Cerebral Ballzy
17 Irving Place
East 15th St. and Irving Place
New York, NY, 10003
Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM
This event is 16 and over
On January 27, 1979, at a Moose Lodge in Redondo Beach, California, Black Flag took the stage for the first time. Whipping up as much meat energy as possible, they didn’t so much play songs as create rapid-fire, rhythmic drives.
Everything was short. Stripped-down. A wall of distortion, built on a relentless series of riffs. And vocalist Keith Morris ran around the stage like an escaped lunatic, eventually wrapping himself in one of the venue’s American flags like it was a straitjacket. It was hardcore punk-rock before anyone ever started calling it that. It was great. You could ask anyone who was there.
Although Black Flag’s line-up -- Morris, bassist Chuck Dukowski, guitarist Greg Ginn, and drummer Robo -- would splinter within a year, the band’s ever-shifting membership released a half-dozen LPs (including the now-classic Damaged, My War, and Slip It In), two live albums, two compilations (Everything Went Black and The First Four Years), and several EPs that incorporated heavy metal, free jazz, and break-beats into the mix before they finally imploded in 1986.
Along the way, Black Flag wrote dozens of enduring songs, ranging from the sarcastic (“TV Party” and the Morris co-write “Wasted”) to the anthemic
(“Rise Above” and the Dukowski-authored “My War”) to “Gimme Gimme Gimme” and “Nervous Breakdown.”
Black Flag also headlined sold-out shows at L.A.’s Olympic Auditorium, the Hollywood Palladium, and the Santa Monica Civic, and saw an early live performance immortalized in the ground-breaking 1979 punk-rock documentary, The Decline Of Western Civilization.
Meanwhile, Dukowski served as co-owner and booking agent at the band’s own SST Records label, which became one of America’s most influential independent labels, issuing more than 100 records from such future stars as the Minutemen, Sonic Youth, Soundgarden, Hüsker Dü, Bad Brains, and the Meat Puppets, for openers. More importantly, Black Flag and SST’s acts hit the road, building a nationwide touring circuit for indie recording artists that continues to this day.
This D.I.Y. ethos, along with the band’s anti-rock-star attitude and refusal to follow any fashion dictates, would be their greatest legacy.
At least until Morris, Dukowski, drummer Bill Stevenson (who played in Black Flag from 1981 to 1985), and guitarist Stephen Egerton (who’s been a member of the Stevenson-founded Descendents and ALL since 1985) reunited for a surprise performance at L.A. promoter Goldenvoice’s 30th anniversary concert in December 2011.
Inspired by the crowd's enthusiastic reaction, Morris (whose post-Black Flag career includes fronting the Circle Jerks and, most recently, hardcore revivalists OFF!), Dukowski (who, after exiting Black Flag in 1983, founded SWA, Würm, United Gang Members, October Faction, and, his current outfit, the Chuck Dukowski Sextet), Stevenson, and Egerton joined forces with Dez Cadena (who sang lead, then played guitar in Black Flag from 1980 to 1983, before fronting DC3 and joining the Misfits in 2001) decided to extend the legacy, working up a repertoire of 30 classic Black Flag songs with an eye toward future live performances.
Taking their cue from the black flag of anarchy, they’re calling themselves FLAG. Long may they wave.
When T.S.O.L. blasted onto the Orange County punk explosion in 1979 with white face paint, 6' plus frames and blazing punk anthems, they were automatically a force to be reckoned with. Their previous band, Vicious Circle, had already established themselves in the South Bay and Orange County with large crowds and several riots at historical venues such as the Cuckoo's Nest and the Fleetwood. With the boost of the now classic Poshboy EP that introduced the songs "Superficial Love" and "Abolish Government", TSOL picked up where Vicious Circle left off, but with an armory full of ammunition.
This enabled the band to spread it's popularity around California, supporting heavyweights like The Damned and The Dead Kennedy's in big cities like LA and San Francisco. By the summer of '81, the band released the highly anticipated debut full length LP, Dance With Me (Frontier), which propelled the band to the highest echelon of Southern California punk status, and enabled them to headline 3000+ seat venues (ala the Hollywood Palladium) with bands like Bad Religion, Social Distortion and the Adolescents opening for them.
There were obvious reasons why TSOL was so huge so fast: They were cuter, their songs were catchier and their live show was a lot more energetic and fun then any other band going. They single handedly initiated the influx of girls into the early 80's punk scene. With songs about fucking the dead, "Code Blue" and gothic punk ballads like "Silent Scream", they became the first punk "phenomenon"; it was the "OC Invasion".
Jack Grisham, Ron Emory, Mike Roche and Todd Barnes were four kids who grew up together in Huntington Beach; now they were the talk of the West Coast. The band moved on to Alternative Tentacles records, where they released the Weathered Statues EP, here they introduced the reggae-tinged "Word Is" alongside the blistering "Man and Machine". That gave the fans something to chew on while the title track hinted at the direction the band was heading as they put together their masterpiece, their punk-opera so to speak: Beneath the Shadows. It was at this time when the band was featured in the motion picture "Suburbia", directed by Penelope Spheeris (Wayne's World, Decline of Western Civilization, etc.), a stark semi-documentary on the punk scene of early '80s Orange County. The band appeared both in the film and on the film's soundtrack.
Beneath the Shadows (Alternative Tentacles), the band's second full length LP, showed just how much the band had rapidly matured. It wasn't a breakaway from their previous releases; it was a progression. The band added keyboards and the arrangements became more complex and stylized, it made one think that the London Symphony might be touring with them in the future. As other bands of their genre fumbled around "into the unknown", TSOL forged a new sound, one that didn't turn fans away, but made them even more numerous and rabid.
But with their enormous popularity, and their first tours, the foundation began to crack. Excessiveness and things that go along with "bigness" forced changes, including the departure of Jack and Todd, leaving behind a band that was well on the way, to instead regressing to a more primitive punk sound that quickly stagnated and alienated fans.
Today, 10 years since it's last "reunion", the band is back to give us what they gave then. "Superficial Love", "80 Times", "Code Blue", "Wash Away" and the rest of those vintage punk nuggets will be blasted live into our faces again. Those who were not around to witness TSOL in their heyday can finally see for themselves why the band spawned a generation of bands and changed the shape of music today.
There's a new band in New York City. Of course, there are a lot of new bands in New York City, but a good chunk of them belong to a world inhabited by smarty-pants artsy types like Animal Collective, Dirty Projectors and the foppish Vampire Weekend. This lot are different. Their name is Cerebral Ballzy, which is neither big nor clever, and in being neither big nor clever, seems to do quite a good job of defining what one might describe as their essence.
Five kids from the end of Brooklyn yet to experience the coffee shops and bijou boutiques carried along in New York's waves of gentrification, they play a raggedy, breakneck punk steeped in the music of early-80s hardcore icons Minor Threat and Bad Brains.
-Louis Pattison of 'The Guardian'