RED FLAG 77 - DANGER’S CLOSE - SKA-PA, Royal Oak, Ipswich, UK - 23rd July 2010
After very nearly six months in Ipswich, and a departure date set to head back home to New Zealand rapidly approaching, it looked distinctly probable that I would not see erstwhile Ipswich Punks, RED FLAG 77, on this visit. That’s kinda ironic as on the three previous visits, I’d seen the band at least once during each - and those visits lasted little more than four weeks each! Thankfully, some flakey pub crud-rock band cancelled the lame effort it no doubt called ‘a gig’ at the last minute and into the fold stepped the FLAG, with a scrum-diddley-umptious supporting line-up to boot!! Choice!
I’d already seen SKA-PA once on this trip and, for such a new band, had been relatively impressed. It seems the band has been practicing though, as this was a notable step up. The band was less ragged, somewhat more focused (especially the bassist) and certainly more visual - even if Kyle didn’t have that impressive Mohawk on show - although that could be due to the larger stage at the Oak. Highlight of the set for me was still ‘Shattered Young Girl’, although ‘Pirate’s Quest’ sounded impressive also. Gotta say though, that cover of ‘Teenage Kicks’ is fucking awful. There is still something of ISOCRACY about the band, but on the strength of this, it’s now coupled with something much leaner with a harder dynamic.
Had a bit of a chat with some FLAGgers after SKA-PA’s impressive skanky blast and, mid-conversation with FLAG guitarist Mickey, realised that this could well be the last time I ever see RF77. I don’t plan on returning to the UK for sometime (as in years) and although the FLAG has been a constant on the UK Punk scene for the best part of 20 years (and even more relevant to that of Ipswich), it can’t go on forever. That was kind of a sobering thought and one that got in my way of fully enjoying DANGER’S CLOSE.
I had been hugely impressed with DANGER’S CLOSE when the band played with the ADICTS last year, but for some reason they didn’t quite hit me tonight. I do remember ripping versions of ‘Apathy’, ‘Denial’ and a scathing ‘What’s Your Problem’ but a lot more passed me by. Sure, the band was good but I think I had been expecting a bit too much. How a band that has a vocalist like Abby - someone who can sing with power and has a stage presence that is both explosive and natural - can pass me by I am not sure but unfortunately for me it did. The band got a great reception from the assorted local Punks - guess it just was not my night.
And so came the FLAG. In one form or another, and in many different places, I’ve probably written more about this band of reprobates than any other. This show though, as suggested above, had a greater sense of gravitas than any I had previously witnessed at the hands of the FLAG. The more I thought about things (and too often through the DANGER’S CLOSE set), the more I realised that this could very well be the last time I see the band live; it felt like kissing away a great part of my history. As per usual, the band played a blazing set, culled from all three albums.
Undoubted highlight was, as always, ‘As I Fall’ (personal dedication aside - thanks for that Rik!!). It’s a song that I first recall hearing back at the Earl Roberts many years ago, sat next to Jim Kocher, and after RF77 had played the song, we both looked at each other and kinda went, “Fuck me - that’s in a different league!!” To me, it’s still a song that resides in the Top Three All-Time Ipswich Punk Songs and, on a personal level, probably stands at #1. Other highlights included opener (I think!) ‘Insane People’, the excellent ‘Time Has Been Called’, ‘Backs To The Wall’ and the too-catchy-for-words ‘Stormy Weather’ while ‘You Won’t Get Me’ saw vocalist Rikki prowling the crowd for some audience participation. When it came to requests, I called out for THE DRONES’ classic ‘Lookalikes’ which resulted in a chuckle but no performance. Tut tut!!
As always though, covers are still an integral part of the FLAG live. Besides the obligatory ‘Football Crazy’ and CLASH tunes, I was treated to ‘People Who Died’ - the old JIM CARROLL classic. I half expected Pete Hurley to come lurching back from musical obscurity, brushing the cobwebs outta his bleached barnet, to reclaim his FLAG place for the song; instead we got another ex-FLAGger, Jonny Learjet, who gave the track a neat ragged, raucous vibe before falling over a monitor and ending up on his back on the beer-drenched floor - but still playing!
A sobering walk home surely helped dispose of the Guinness-induced damage I should have felt the next day. ‘Drunk Again’? You can betcha bondage pants and brothel creepers I was!!
Another great night at the hands of RED FLAG 77; I sincerely hope it was not the final one.