This was a big one for me. Black Flag were easily one of my favorite bands at the time and their live shows always carried a heavy rep. Since my older brother had caught a 1982 gig from the Henry/Greg/Dez/Chuck/Emil lineup at Off the Wall Hall in Lawrence (and seemed both impressed and unnerved by the experience), and since I’d missed their KC gig on the “My War” tour only 5 months earlier (a show which was cut short by the cops and the cause of some minor local rancor, click below to see the previous attention I’d given this, you know, burning issue in my fanzine), there was no way I was going to blow it here.
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Erik Adams, one of my earliest “Punk Rock Friends” and the guy who had inspired me to start doing a fanzine in the first place, had taken a Greyhound bus all the way up from Bartelsville, OK specifically for the show, so this was clearly a genuine event. “Slip It In” had only been released a few weeks earlier and once Erik arrived we spent the whole day bouncing around my room playing the record over and over, psyching ourselves up and acting like the hyperactive 15 year olds we were. Come evening we arrived absurdly early and got to talk to a sleepy Kira who was wandering around the hall and promised to “kick ass” for us. In an effort to hold on to everything even longer I had stocked up on blank tapes so as to document every second of audio, and Erik had borrowed a hotshit camera from his Dad that we figured would help spice up the layout of the interview I was gonna try to get (sadly if you check out the interview PDF you’ll note that those grand layout plans didn’t quite pan out. On the recording you can hear Erik shouting about some of the great pictures he was taking but by the end of the show his camera had been stolen. Later when it came time to transcribe the thing I discovered that my typewriter was busted so I crudely hand-wrote everything out instead; that interview layout looked pretty terrible).
By the time Tom Troccoli’s Dog walked on to the stage the Lawrence Opera House was pretty packed and the atmosphere felt very charged to me. A confusing choice as an opener to many I’m sure, they eased everyone into the night with a highly casual and jammy set that came complete with bongos and Grateful Dead covers. Still the Lawrence crowd was positive and receptive to all of this and after an 11 minute version of “Patience” Mr. Troccoli remarked that “If nothing else your endurance is certainly worth noting and thank you very much again for not booing me off of the stage.”
Saccharine Trust quickly set up and then launched into a killer performance composed mostly of tracks off of “Surviving You Always” (which I hadn’t heard) and subtle re-workings of a few “Pagan Icons” numbers (which I knew and loved). At turns Jazzy, noisy and Beat-style-poetic, even at the time I could tell that this stuff was expanding my tiny head. I honestly felt a little dizzy trying to follow what the guitar was doing (I still kinda do), and as a result I returned to this tape often.
Finally Black Flag were ready, and out of what eventually became a half dozen times I would see them, this was probably my favorite set. Spinning out a good mix of hits both old and new (along with a few then-unreleased instrumental numbers — man I really wish there had been more instrumental Flag albums), this was their last truly great lineup in my opinion. Kira and Bill were totally rock solid, Greg was aggressive, atonal and all over the fretboard, and Henry seemed simultaneously wrapped up in layers/totally exposed (with steam clearly rising up off of him the entire show). They all also seemed to be having a genuinely great time, and while the whole “Black Flag Work Ethic” was very much on display, the vibe felt far less serious to me than it would in the years to come. Corroborating my sense of this is Henry’s diary entry from Omaha, NE the next day (later published in Get In The Van):
I was reading Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer today while sitting on the ground in Lawrence, Kansas. Miller talked about how good everything looks when the sun’s out. Even the look in people’s eyes. When I was sitting there in Lawrence, the sun was out and everything looked good. All of a sudden it was the most beautiful place I had ever seen. I couldn’t remember what any other place in the world looked like. I felt like I had been there for a long time. I felt a need to articulate. I couldn’t do it with a photograph. It would have to be with words.
Now hours later, I can only remember the feeling. I can’t even remember what Lawrence looks like.
After the show was all over it was time to try for the interview. Maybe it was my youth (and in retrospect I realize that I looked even younger than I was) or maybe it was that whole “good vibe” thing I mentioned earlier, but contrary to other ’84 tour experiences I’ve seen & heard about, Mr. Rollins was clearly in a gregarious and open state of mind. I found him to be funny, friendly as hell and very accommodating to my dorky opener around the whole “so-the-Kansas-City-show-was-kinda-short” thing. He talked about the the ’82 Lawrence gig my brother had seen as well as the Bad Brains, SOA, Teen Idles, his plans to start publishing, a proposed SST side label called “Nixon Records” (intended to serve a similar role for SST that Zapple Records was supposed to serve for Apple), and to top it all off he very graciously tried to set me straight when I mentioned something I’d heard about Nick Cave’s June performance in Kansas City being “self indulgent”. Hats off to Henry!
A side note on the recordings: this being an all-ages Lawrence show there were a higher percentage of people I knew from school in attendance. This was cool because in contrast to a KC gig where I’d stick the tape recorder by the soundboard and cross my fingers that it wouldn’t get stolen, I could now go up front to be near the band and leave my stuff at one of the many Opera House tables under the watchful eyes of my less excitable friends. They would safeguard everything as they drank and tried to pick each other up or whatever, and the next day I would often discover bits of unexpected teenaged chitchat between the songs. I mention all of this because Black Flag’s set has one of my favorite accidental audience snippets, which you can hear at the end of “Swinging Man”:
KL: I’m fucking drunk!
KL: LaLaLaArragh… I never meant to be this drunk… Okay… I didn’t wanna drink this much…
KL: (shouting) I DRANK TOO MUCH!
Cue: Black Flag “Forever Time”
…ahhh, maybe you had to be there.
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Tom Troccoli’s Dog: Live At The Lawrence Opera House in Lawrence, KS 09-29-84 (192 kbps)
01 Introduction (0:19)
02 Eyes of The World (Grateful Dead) (2:48)
03 Loser (Grateful Dead) (5:09)
04 Play With Your Poodle (3:44)
05 Camarillo (5:17)
06 Suicide (5:59)
07 Patience (11:05)
Saccharine Trust: Live At The Lawrence Opera House in Lawrence, KS 09-29-84 (192 kbps)
01 Intro/Warming Up (1:22)
02 I Have (1:51)
03 The Giver Takes (2:32)
04 Craving The Center (1:14)
05 Lot’s Seed (2:08)
06 Speak (4:23)
07 Our Discovery (5:59)
08 The Cat. Cracker (5:04)
09 Success And Failure (1:17)
10 A Good Night’s Bleeding (1:53)
11 Peace Frog (Doors) (3:48)
12 YHWH On Acid (5:37)
13 A Human Certainty (7:40)
Black Flag: Live At The Lawrence Opera House in Lawrence, KS 09-29-84 (192 kbps).
(Comes bundled with a PDF of the interview I did.)
01 The Process Of Weeding Out (7:16)
02 Revenge (0:59)
03 Room 13 (2:42)
04 Swinging Man (2:59)
05 Forever Time (2:20)
06 Wound Up (4:10)
07 Slip It In (5:19)
08 My Ghetto (1:34)
09 Black Coffee (4:58)
10 Beat My Head Against The Wall (2:48)
11 Your Last Affront (3:30)
12 The Bars (4:54)
13 Rats Eyes (4:50)
14 Police Story (1:36)
15 Rise Above (2:44)
16 My War (6:37)
17 Nervous Breakdown (2:02)
18 Fix Me (0:54)
19 Jealous Again (2:25)
20 I Love You (3:19)
21 Nothing Left Inside (8:03)
22 Can’t Decide (4:49)
23 Louie Louie (6:46)
24 Club Noise (0:41)
• Here’s the interview in PDF form all by itself.