Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Southern California punk recalls epic gig with Black Flaggers Rollins, Morris and Dukowski

Henry Rollins revs up the crowd at Amoeba Records Hollywood in 2002. (Chris Berry photo)

By Chris Berry

Growing up in the South Bay, I’d hear so many great stories by South Bay locals of the punk scene that occurred back in the '70s and '80s.

But being born in 1978 meant that I was 8 years old when Black Flag broke up and I had no chance to see them when they were around. By 6th-7th grade, I had discovered punk from my older sister and my friends’ older siblings. I started going to shows around the same time, worked at the Bijou Theater in high school and Scooter’s Records in college (both in Hermosa Beach). I witnessed some of the South Bay punk mayhem in the '90s, like when Pennywise would play backyard parties on the Fourth of July and destroy the house they played at, but those stories of the original scene seemed so much more legendary.

In December of 2002, about six months after I graduated from college, I saw that Rollins Band was performing Black Flag songs along with Keith Morris and Chuck Dukowski. I knew that this was going to be the closest that I’d get to see an original line up of Black Flag (even without Greg Ginn involved). The show was a benefit for the West Memphis Three and was going to be held at the massive record store, Amoeba Records. I was curious how a record store was going to handle the first “Black Flag” show since 1986.

Anyways, my friend Tom Dunbabin and I drove out to Hollywood from Hermosa Beach and there was a line already around the block to get in and it was still 2-3 hours before the show was going to start. When we got inside Amoeba, we tried to get as far forward as we could. There were what seemed like hundreds of people crowded in the aisles in between record racks waiting for the show to start. By random chance, we ended up standing a few record rows back from the stage next to Martin Sorrondeguy (the singer for Los Crudos and Limp Wrist). We chatted with Martin a little bit and he was a really nice guy.

Then Morris went on first and played all of the "Nervous Breakdown" 7" and some others from “Everything Went Black,” which was so amazing and intense to see. He was awesome! There were kids pogoing up front, but nothing too crazy, partly because there just wasn't much room for the kids to go nuts up there. Again, this was in a record store, not at the Fleetwood.

Henry Rollins came on and was also extremely intense. Even in his 40s at the time, he blew away most of the younger hardcore bands that I had seen up to that point. The crowd was still pretty tame and I kind of felt like I was getting possessed, especially after he performed “Rise Above,” so during "Six Pack" I asked Tom and Martin to help lift me up and they did. I flipped over a couple record aisles and got floated, Rollins gave me the mic and then I was quickly grabbed by security. This all happened in like 15 seconds! This big security dude with purple hair had me in a headlock and dragged me out of the store, told me I was "86'd." I stood outside for a bit, but it was very crowded there and they could not keep track of me so a few minutes later I walked right back in and got to see the rest of the set (from further back), including Dukowski's performance.

Rollins raging. (Chris Berry photo)

Even though this was not the real Black Flag, I felt like it was the closest thing for a kid who grew up in Black Flag’s neighborhood and never got to see them live. Rollins played some more "Black Flag" shows later on in other cities in early 2003 (but I'm not sure if Keith and Chuck performed with Rollins in those other cities). Morris wrote a little bit about this show in "My Damage" and Rollins in "Broken Summers." This was also before those Ginn “Black Flag” shows at the Hollywood Palladium the following year…

For Amoeba-Hollywood's 10-year anniversary in 2011, they had this online competition to tell the best story you had of being at Amoeba Hollywood and the top three stories would get a prize, so I wrote about this story. I came in third place and they sent me a $50 gift certificate! I think first place went to someone who ran into Morrissey there (meh). That's got to be one of the only times someone has been rewarded for getting kicked out of a place without a lawsuit ha ha. Fun times!

***Below is the video of the Amoeba gig. Look for Berry's flip at around the 15:30 mark.

Berry is one of the guys compiling a book in progress, "I Want To Be Stereotyped: An Oral History of South Bay Punk, 1975 - 1991." People with stories and photos can email Berry at or visit them on Instagram at

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