Review by Kirsty Hillyer with Photography by Kevin Rossin

Californian hardcore punkers Total Chaos open proceedings. With over 20 years of experience they deliver a rousing set of rebellion, growls, scissor jumps and dirty, metal edged punk. Mohawks and spikes were high as they crammed their set with a snarling energy.

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Their thrashing guitar riffs are too metal for my preferences but I hold my hands up to a tight set that balances politics and fun within the core of original punk rock energy. As for their merch game, if their’s a product you can find it with their name on it and so there is something for all wallet sizes. As founders and supporters of many a good cause I urge you to open your wallets for this bunch of rebels.

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After a rip roaring opener there is only one word to describe Black Flag and that’s underwhelming. When you finally get round to seeing stalwarts of the scene you want to feel a build up of energy for when they enter the stage. As the between bands pop-punk playlist continues to ring out they they casually embrace their instruments to the sounds of Fall Out Boy’s Arms Race; positioning their A3 laminated set list for all to see. There was something comical and tragic about the affair. As if a contemporary Shakespeare had penned the moment a punk dream died.

So what about the actual show? The pit opened up from the very first guitar note of Depression strummed by… the last of the originals.

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I had been super excited to see Flag driven forward by the aggression and presence of skater Mike Vallely. A man for whom I associate an ambitious drive to constantly demand more from himself. When I think of Mike Vallely I remember a table of food being overturned at a skate comp because his wife wasn’t allowed comped food too. I wanted to feel his aggression deliver the words of another that means as much to him as the people singing back.

If you closed your eyes there were moments you wondered if you were hearing Henry sing. Maybe that’s the problem. He’s trying too hard to honour Henry’s Flag and he’s bringing less of his own interpretation and performing authentically.

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It was a tight set with favourites such as Black Coffee, Six Pack, Slip it In, Gimme Gimme Gimme, Loose Nut and White Minority. Security stepped into the pit to keep it contained as one man’s hair just couldn’t be tamed. Beyond the music there was no connection or engagement with the crowd. A drum solo ensued and the band’s backs were to the crowd; we were simply spectators to a private jam session.

The sound was great, they were tight. I could have stayed home and played the records. There was simply nothing extra about seeing a version of Black Flag in the flesh.

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One Response to “Black Flag + Total Chaos at The Mill, Birmingham, UK – 8th October 2019”

  1. NotRollins Says:

    Total Chaos were plastic.
    As fake as their off-the-shelf punk.

    Black Flag were alive.
    The moment they hit that first note, the energy was palpable.

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