It was early 2006 and I had decided that even though I was enrolled in school at California State University, Northridge, college wasn’t the right fit for me at that point of my life.
I wanted to party and have a great time over studying and attending classes. This had become apparent the semester before when I pledged the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity. The partying never stopped, and it got harder and harder to catch up with classes. Eventually I dropped all my classes, got a job at the oldest standing head-shop in America (look it up, it’s called Captain Ed’s) and started couch hopping, taking all of my possessions with me in my car.
The setting is a nightclub in Hollywood, the name of which I have forgotten years ago. I had received a call from Ben Bernstein, a fellow Sioux City native who was living in Oakland, California and playing bass with a jam band called New Monsoon. He invited me to see the band play this cool little club, so of course I went there to support.
The band sounded great and I became an instant fan. There was a tall, unassuming, quiet, white haired man standing next to me, swaying while enjoying the music.
During the set break, Bernstein comes up to me with a fanatical look on his face.
“Dude, Ari,” said Bernstein. “Did you know that you were just standing next to a music legend?”
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“That is Greg Ginn, the guitarist and leader of Black Flag…he has been credited with creating West Coast hardcore punk,” said Bernstein.
Once the show started back up, Ginn made his way towards the stage, planting himself right next to me.
I ended up introducing myself and a friendship was quickly forged. We exchanged numbers and decided we needed to try to play music with each other.
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Like I said earlier, this was a time when I was doing a lot of couch hopping and I didn’t always have a place to sleep.
Ginn saw this as an obvious problem, and would sometimes let me stay on the stage at SST Records in Long Beach. This legendary building was the center of the West Coast, SoCal punk scene since the late 70s and early 80s. Ginn had recently renovated a large portion of it to be a cat sanctuary for homeless kitties. There were TONS of cats in the back rooms of the studios.
We would sip on cabernet sauvignon and jam on the stage; he was playing his guitar, I was playing my bass. His mannerisms were always subdued, always quiet. He was sharp yet spacey to talk to, and always extremely kind. A lot of the time you could just catch him looking at a fixed spot in the distance for extended periods of time.
During the summer of 2006, I received a call from Ginn. He couldn’t use his tickets to the Vegoose Music Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, so he decided to give them to me…around a $300 value. This is the last place I saw Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (it was supposed to be his final tour). The Raconteurs, The Mars Volta and many other bands rounded out this awesome festival.
Over the following years I would always get calls from Ginn, seeing if I would like to go to this concert or that show with him, and I always said yes. I realized how important this man was in the punk rock scene, and would see mouths fall agape once in a while when walking past people at shows or in the streets.
Ginn started to get busy again when his wife became pregnant with his daughter, so the calls started dwindling. Then Ginn called me up to tell me he and his family would be relocating to Texas. This was around 2010. This bummed me out, but I knew the music scene there was more what he was into those days. He had gotten out of punk, and had gotten into jam music.
When he came out with his jam-band CDs, he would send me copies to see what I thought. They were the opposite sound of Black Flag records, but were still pretty awesome.
Over the past several years, our communications stopped due to the distance between us.
This week, however, the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Sioux City announced Black Flag will be playing a show at Anthem on Aug. 24.
I cannot wait to re-connect with my old friend and catch up on the years come and gone.