Bands like Flogging Molly make me proud to have Irish roots, to have Irish in my hair and my skin, and in my drinking and emotional patterns. Barring the previous sentence, though, I refuse to fall into the pit of over-Irishizing myself, or suggesting that drinking Guinness is an essential part of the Irish soul—as the members of said band did on Valentine’s Day in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
I give them credit for not overdoing the Valentine’s Day thing—one joke was all, and it was a good joke—but dudes, stop playing up the Guinness guzzling. I’ll bet you secretly prefer Jameson anyway.
14 Feb 2005: Theatre of Living Arts Philadelphia
That said, amid all the anti-war/anti-American sentiment going on in the rock world today (some of which reared its head at this show) it’s nice to witness nationalist politics with a fairly clear agenda ring out from a stage. Flogging Molly is reinvigorating the concept of political rock by combining traditional Irish wedding music and Clash-era punk rock.
That the band is popular among the Green Day and emo crowds in America is also good news. The vague, generic anti-war songs championed by today’s young bands are not doing anything. Why not write a song about something? An actual event with an actual setting with actual repercussions. Not this “the war” stuff. There’s so much within “the war” to critique.
Flogging Molly’s agenda is to “dance on the grave of Oliver focking Cromwell.” It’s to rebel against Catholicism and indulge in the seven deadly sins. It’s to celebrate friendship, to celebrate humanity and all the flaws that come with each. It’s to (unfortunately) reinforce the gender-exclusive politics of most nationalist movements, in which women are inactive participants who symbolize the country that the men must save and protect (“What’s Left of the Flag”). It’s to get your heart racing and your feet kicking. It’s to have a good FOCKING time, lads and lasses. And to have another pint.
The band played furiously, and they put on a killer show. Seven strong, each with his or her own Guinness (see?), Flogging Molly took up a lot of space and played a lot of lightning-fast runs on their various instruments—which included mandolin, fiddle, accordion, tin-whistle, plus the usual drums, bass, guitar, and vox.
Ringleader Dave King kept us entertained between songs with anecdotes and jokes, the best of which was most certainly his tale of being confirmed on St. Valentine’s Day and taking Valentine as his Catholic name—“my mother thought it would be good.” He dedicated “Selfish Man” to Dick Cheney, noting that, in reference to Iraq and Cheney’s recent shooting of a friend, “they should just send Dick Cheney out there, he’ll blow up everyone.”
And the band blasted off into more of the fiddle-driven punk that ran the show. Flogging Molly digs the fast-fast-fast and the slow-fast-slow-fast-slow song structures, and, while they manage to vary the melodies enough to avoid drudgery, the wall of jumping sound can get overwhelming. But there were enough instrumental breakdowns to show off each band member’s talent, from the sparkling guitar solos to the fury-fingered fiddle and mandolin duets.
King’s right-hand woman, Bridget Regan, impressed with multi-instrumental affinity - she’s equally proficient on fiddle, tin whistle, and backing vocals. But certainly all of the musicians got down, in between sipping guess what, guess what. What were they sipping? You don’t know? Fine, I’ll tell you. They were sipping Guinness.
They saved the best and most popular, “What’s Left of the Flag”, for last, but brought out a whole carnival for the last last song—“Sentimental Johnny”, the liveliness of which lit up my ears just as their receptivity had begun to dull. It was like the circus, with a real trumpeter and everything—and as the trumpeter rippled authoritatively through his act, he drank what while chilling out between his parts? Guinness. Guinness Extra Stout. My Goodness My Guinness. Guinness for Strength. Lovely Day for a Guinness. Guinness: Since 1759. Guinness Is Good for You. Guinness.