Few times in my life have I ever been this emotionally conflicted about stepping into a show.
On the one hand, I finally get to cross off a band from my musical bucket list who’s been on there for more than a decade alongside Jamiroquai, Daft Punk, and an exhumed James Brown (just waiting for technology to catch up). This group has touched my heart, brought me to tears and to the brink of alcoholism.
On the other hand, I fucking hate St Patrick’s Day, and any Flogging Molly show pretty much melds the best and worst of that day into a few-hour window: incredibly passionate and soulful music mixed with insufferable people whose existence is only tolerated under the assumption that all the men are already sterile from alcohol and can’t breed.
With my wits and courage before me, I ventured into the vast hall known as Metropolis for what would surely be sweaty, green-hued havoc.
Kicking off the show was something I had never really seen before, a solo acoustic act playing a hall the size of Metropolis. I’m not sure what kind of venues Dylan Walshe is used to playing, but he sure as fuck lucked out being invited to open in these massive walls. Dylan’s soulful Irish acoustic-blues chops were wonderful from what I could hear. The drawback of being a solo artist with just an acoustic guitar in front of 2,000 people is that you get drowned out by everyone talking. He certainly would fit in better wowing a bar crowd, but he held his own and treated fans to a number of tracks including a Joe Strummer cover, and even brought Matt Hensley of Flogging Molly out to play accordion with him on a track. I’m very excited to check out more of his music.
Next from Los Angeles came The White Buffalo, who for this evening was also playing solo acoustic. Apparently Jake Smith and Co. had some border trouble or something and his two bandmates were unable to join him. Jake’s booming voice and bluegrass tunes filled the venue and more than made up for the absence of his bandmates. I’m curious to check him out again live with the full band to see how much it changes the vibe of his songs, but I can say he made a great first impression regardless.
After twenty minutes of palpable antici…….pation, the lights dimmed and blacked out the stage, only for it to be illuminated again by the colours of the Irish flag. The venue was electric as Flogging Molly tore into “The Hand of John L Sullivan,” and the floor erupted into the biggest jig pit I’ve ever seen. Actually the jigging went all the way up to the bar at the back, and I’m sure people were dancing up on the balcony as well.
Addressing the crowd with a slightly hoarse voice, singer Dave King lavished the crowd with praise for our enthusiasm, which he did again periodically throughout the night. King came off like the world’s greatest drunk uncle who’s the life of every family reunion. He’d certainly be the family member to sneak you drinks when you’re only thirteen.
The set flowed exceptionally well with occasional slow songs to let people catch their breath, and the band pummeled the crowd with favourites like “Swagger,”“Drunken Lullabies,” “Tobacco Island,” and even “Laura” from their Whiskey on a Sunday album (which apparently they hadn’t played in twenty years). “Devils Dance Floor” came on suspiciously just past the middle of the set despite the fact that I was certain they were going to close with it.
Dave King, always being the masterful host, took the time to introduce the entire band one at a time before songs throughout the show, making it feel a little more personal and closer to an intimate bar show than something the size that it actually was.
As most love affairs do, the end came too quickly as they closed with “Crushed” and “Salty Dog,” wringing the last bit of energy from a giving crowd and instilling the hope that it’s not going to take god knows how many years for them to make their return. Their new album Life is Good is hitting stores next week, so here’s hoping for a speedy return. SLAINTE!
Written by Paul Ablaze
Photography by Thomas Gentil
*edited by Kate Erickson