Saturday, July 18, 2009

Rise Above

"The public is usually slow to catch on to new things, and it's important that musicians stick to their guns and not look for that instant gratification."
-Greg Ginn

In 2007, Dirty Projectors, a band out of Brooklyn, New York, released Rise Above, a cover of Black Flag's Damaged, except that the songs were reimagined exclusively from the memory of head Projector, Dave Longstreth. While I appreciated the respect that Longstreth had for Black Flag, I was never able to wrap my brain around Longstreth's interpretation of a punk classic.

On Wednesday night, Dirty Projectors played Red 7 and brought Black Flag leader, Greg Ginn, on stage to jam with them on a couple of songs. I wondered to myself, as I scanned over the crowd, how many kids in the audience actually understood the importance of the older gentleman on stage who was the most influential architect of the 80's underground music scene.

Ginn formed Black Flag in 1977 in southern California, as well as the record label, SST Records, in order to release Black Flag albums. SST, however, would go on to be so much more - releasing some of the most influential albums of the 80's by bands such as: Husker Du, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr, Meat Puppets, Minutemen, The Descendants, Bad Brains, etc. And, yet, the crown jewel in the SST discography is Black Flag's first full-length LP, Damaged, which was dripping with angst, rage, alienation, and humor.

Black Flag, driven by its thrashing guitarist and primary songwriter - Ginn, would become the hardest working band in the business, touring relentlessly from city to city to even the most remote areas while establishing an extremely dedicated fanbase along the way, as well as the ire of the Los Angeles police department which constantly kept tabs on the band and harassed them because of their raucous live shows that sometimes ended in riots. It was quite the contrast to see Ginn playing his slow jams on the guitar while Dirty Projectors played loudly along side of him to a serene crowd. The dichotomy, however, was thrilling all the same.

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