US - California - Full Moon 76 - 12/19/02
Sonic Ballroom, Cologne, Germany 30.11.02
"Do you play an instrument? You can be in the band tonight!" I've met White Flag mainstay Pat
Fear for the first time ever about two minutes ago, yet I've already been offered a position in
the band. Presumably he was just joking, but then again, maybe he wasn't. Two days before the
Cologne show, a gig in Iceland had ended with just guitarist Viv Vacuum on stage, playing with
three complete strangers while Pat was watching from the audience! Ladies and gentlemen: Welcome
to the weird and wonderful world of White Flag!
Cologne's Sonic Ballroom is tiny. It's a Punkrock bar, small, greasy, no stage - the band
just set up their stuff on the floor in the corner. And the place seemed to be even smaller when
you consider that the last time bass player/singer Kim Crimson played Cologne under his real
name Ken Stringfellow, he entertained nearly 100 000 people at a massive open air show as the
keyboard player in R.E.M. and the last time Viv Vacuum (his mom knows him as Eric Erlandson, you
may know him as the former lead guitarist in Hole) played Germany, it was in front of approx.
60,000 people at the Hurricane Festival. Today there are only about 60 (!) people in the audience.
But despite (or because of) that, the two, together with the aforementioned Pat Fear on guitar
and vocals and veteran WF drummer Trace Element had the crowd go berserk within seconds.
15 years ago, White Flag - currently on their 20th Anniversary tour - caused a riot down the
street in Cologne by playing "Ticket To Moscow". Tonight, the decided not to play that tune, but
a lot of other 80s classics like "Instant Breakfast" or "Face Down" had found their way on to
the setlist placed on the wall behind Trace. And there were newer, more 60s-pop-oriented songs
from the recent "Eternally Undone" album too, many of which gave Viv the chance to play some
really hot solos. At The Soundcheck (with their Dutch tour manager on drums) they had even
attempted to play "Dig A Pony" by The Beatles and Black Sabbath's "Paranoid", but for the show
they decided to stick to their infamous cover of " Hot Rails In Hell" by Blue Oyster Cult and the
great Gram Parsons tune "100 Years From Now". They wanted to leave the "stage" after about an
hour, but since the only stage exit was through the crowd, the guys just got pushed back and had
to play many, many encores. And once it was really over, you just stood there and couldn't help
but feeling that you just witnessed the best show ever. Of course it wasn't, but the power and
intensity of WF's performance was quite stunning. I'm sure a lot of the so-called punk band,
that you see on MTV every day could still learn a lot from these guys!
Copyright © 2002 Carsten Wohlfeld (photos also)