This stop on Flogging Molly’s 2009 “Green 17” tour was technically a rescheduled date from a concert postponed months earlier. Many things around Houston were cancelled in the wake of Hurricane Ike, and Flogging Molly’s September concert was one of them. Even though most of the city was back up and running by that time, the Verizon Wireless Theater chose to postpone the concert at the last minute. So, after a six months delay, the show finally happened. We arrived at the Verizon Wireless Theater just in time to see the last two minutes of first opener The Mighty Stef. They wore leather jackets and sounded like Irish rock, which made sense since Flogging Molly frontman Dave King later said the band was from Dublin. The second band of the night was The Aggrolites, a Los Angeles band I’d heard of, but never actually listened to. They described themselves as purveyors of “dirty reggae”, though it was never quite clear exactly what separates dirty reggae from regular reggae. Basically their music was slightly more upbeat than traditional reggae without ever getting as fast as the punk-influenced bands of third wave ska. The band is very good at what they do, but the hyped-up Flogging Molly crowd was not particularly into it. Their laid-back style probably works great in headlining shows or in the middle of a sunny afternoon at a music festival. As a warm-up act for the sped-up Celtic rock of Flogging Molly, however, the band seemed to do the opposite of warming up the crowd.
Curiosity and initial excitement in the crowd lasted for maybe two songs before boredom seemed to set in, leaving lead singer Jesse Wagner to continually urge the crowd to sing along or to move. Unfortunately for the Aggrolites, nothing they did was able to win over the audience, not even when Wagner started ending every sentence with “HOUSTON!” Even a medley of covers at the end of the set didn’t get the crowd going, partly because it seemed like the crowd didn’t actually know most of the songs in the medley. The Clash’s “Police and Thieves” and Toots and the Maytals’ “Monkey Man” got half-hearted recognition, but the audience had clearly checked out by then. It was a tough night for the Aggrolites; hopefully the rest of the shows on this tour go better for them because they’re very good at what they do.
Flogging Molly came onstage thirty minutes later to thunderous audience reaction. The band launched into a pair of upbeat songs (“Man With No Country” and the even-faster “The Likes of You Again), which set the stage for a high-energy night. Lead singer Dave King is quite talkative, introducing most of the songs, thanking the audience for being there, and occasionally telling short stories about what a song is about. He mentioned, before playing the third song, that the band had pulled out some older material for this tour. Then they played the excellent “The Worst Day Since Yesterday” from the band’s first album Swagger. More of the band’s signature Celtic-punk songs followed (“Selfish Man”, “Drunken Lullabies”, “You Won’t Make a Fool Out of Me”), covering all four of their albums, before they slowed things down for three acoustic songs. King dedicated “The Son Never Shines (On Closed Doors)” to his 86-year old mother and talked about how he doesn’t get to see her as much as he would like. This mini-set ended with the title track of Float, which, King mentioned, with its lyrics about keeping one’s head above water, seem particularly appropriate for the current economic state of America.
The band finished their set with another bunch of fast sing-along songs, including “Rebels of the Sacred Heart”, “The Seven Deadly Sins”, and a particularly great rendition of “What’s Left of the Flag”. They were also canny enough to not get completely locked in to the fast speeds, though, breaking it up with the complex “Lightning Storm” and the ballads “If I Ever Leave This World Alive” and closer “The Story So Far”. The typical Houston audience chant of “One more song!” before the encore was quickly overwhelmed by another section of the crowd shouting “Flogg-ing Mol-ly! (clap-clap-clapclapclap)”, sports event-style. The encore itself was a quick affair, with King doing “Grace of God Go I” practically on his own and then finishing it with the full band playing “Devil’s Dance Floor”. The band took a well-deserved bow while the rest of us were left to file out, picking our way across the floor now sticky with dozens of spilled beers from throughout the evening.