by Adam Gold
You know what’s totally weird? An active version of Black Flag will play a festival gig in a podunk Tennessee town this summer. Sorry to disappoint, but that news doesn’t mean the phrase “Black Flag at Bonnaroo” is one you get to utter anytime soon. Of course, “Cookeville, Tennessee,” “roots revival,” “reunion” and "festive" aren’t exactly the first terms that come to mind when pondering the punk legends’ future either. “[Cookeville’s] the sort of place you'd go to get the shit kicked out of you for liking punk rock,” former Scene music editor Tracy Moore says of growing up in “CookeVegas” during Black Flag’s heyday. But logic and bumfuckery be damned, as the more official one of two newly-reconstituted incarnations of punk’s most oft-borne flag will headline Cookeville’s Muddy Roots festival, which goes down Aug. 30-Sept. 1.
In case you haven’t heard, one of the most counter-intuitive reunions since Van Hagar 2004 was announced on Friday: Black Flag founder, guitarist and dictator Greg Ginn has piecemealed a version of the decades-defunct hardcore heroes that features Ron Reyes (the band’s original second vocalist) and Gone drummer Gregory Moore. Black Flag v20.13 will play a handful of off-the-beaten-path festival gigs and release an as-yet-untitled new album, the band’s first since 1985’s sludgy swan song In My Head, which featured exactly one member (i.e., Ginn) from this lineup.
In My Head also featured one member (drummer Bill Stevenson), who — in related news — is part of another recently announced nostalgia-core incarnation of Black Flag. Simply called FLAG, this hardcore Creedence Clearwater Revisited answer to Greg Ginn’s Fogerty features Stevenson and his Descendents bandmate Stephen Egerton, founding Black Flag bassist Chuck Dukowski and is fronted by legendary OFF! and Circle Jerks singer Keith Morris (Black Flag’s original first vocalist). Sounds like a hardcore version of Ringo’s All-Star Band, doesn’t it? No word yet as to if/when that ensemble might roll through (or within a hundred miles of) town. One thing that is evident, however, is that most-famous-by-a-long-shot fourth original Black Flag vocalist Henry Rollins won’t be getting in any vans any time soon.
Perhaps Black Flag and FLAG can keep active on the road while actively suing each other for control of the band’s trademark, a la the two respective current versions of L.A. Guns and Great White. Come to think of it, maybe those hair-metal has-beens will repeat history and once again give Black Flag and FLAG bubblegum glam to rage against. But that’s doubtful.
At press time, Muddy Roots is Black Flag’s only scheduled U.S. appearance. Other acts slated to play the festival include Red Simpson, The Monsters, Shooter Jennings, Dale Watson, Deadbolt, Greg Garing, Hillbilly Casino, Jack Oblivian, Stuck Lucky, Goddamn Gallows and Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs. Visit the festival’s official site for tickets other information.