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flag US - California - Full Moon 76 - 12/19/02

White Flag
Sonic Ballroom, Cologne, Germany 30.11.02


White Flag "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!

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.

White Flag 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) e-mail address

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