Thursday, November 12, 2009


After playing a handful of local gigs and making a small name for themselves during the first part of 1979, Black Flag was somehow booked to perform in front of little over 1000 people on a Sunday afternoon in Manhattan Beach's Polliwog Park on July 22, 1979. Clearly the event organizer had no knowledge of what Black Flag represented. The Tourists and Big Wow were two new wave groups that opened the show and I have read in some sources that Black Flag was a last minute replacement. Either that or Greg Ginn did his typical finagling when it came to speaking to a promoter; Ginn's angle to bypass a booking refusal was to tell a promoter that Black Flag were "a rock group with jazz influences".

The crowd of Southern Californian families had no idea what was about to hit them that afternoon. Expecting a relaxing Sunday afternoon in the park while casually listening to a tame, bearded Eagles type rock group, onlookers were treated to the unadulterated vitriol of a young Black Flag. One fan reflected on seeing Black Flag that day: "They played for my winning Little League team that day. They were a last minute replacement band. We threw chicken bones and watermelon at them". 100 or so ardent Black Flag fans turned out for the performance and acted totally unruly. A local newspaper described that crowd as "jumping up and down in the traditional punk pogo and pelted the band and nearby crowd with oranges, tomatoes, watermelons, cans, rocks, and bottles".

The audience source of this recording is indeed primitive sounding for the casual listener of Black Flag. Regardless of the quality, this is truly a significant and historic performance. It's incredible to think that this performance even lasted 24 minutes (6 minutes of it being an actual riot) and that the plug wasn't pulled on the band during one of the first few songs. Unfortunately there is considerable clipping during "Machine" and a drop out during "I've Had It". Regardless, this is an enjoyable listen and truly a lasting punk rock document from an era when bands were truly confrontational.

If anyone has a different source of this performance, I would love a copy.

Track list:
1. Don't Care
2. White Minority
3. I've Heard It Before
4. Machine
5. I've Had It (cut)
6. Nervous Breakdown
7. Spray Paint
8. Jealous Again
9. Police Story
10. Promoter speaking to the crowd/rioting
11. Revenge
12. Fix Me
13. Depression
14. Louie Louie



  1. Hard to believe this was over 30 years ago! I was there and it was one of the more surreal moments of my life, exactly as you describe here, with families on blankets on the park grass enjoying a sunny southern California day, completely unaware of the maelstrom about the engulf them. It was splendid. Even harder to believe someone had the forethought to record it. Kudos!! ~stupiddle of Distemper (Hollywest forever)

  2. FYI, "Tourists" was the moniker of Red Cross before they changed their name.

  3. It is so awesome that you posted this infamous show- thank you! I have read about it a lot over the years- starting with Spot's liner notes in Everything Went Black- and even saw a news clipping from the time about the show. I wish I could go back in a time machine and show up at Pollywog Park that summer afternoon. I even think Ryan Richardson was selling a print from the show on his Ryebread Rodeo site a while back. You have a great site, with one of THE cleanest designs too! Very nice! Keep up the great work!

  4. es padrissimo - gracias!