Is there any justice in this world that I get a rare (for me) head cold and end up feeling punk all week – the week my beloved Flogging Molly are playing? This proves a negation of God. No god would be so cruel as to make my bi-annual head cold coincide with such an important event. But then I guess there’s no better place to be when feeling punk than a punk rock show. I wasn’t going to miss this show, and as they say, there’s no rest for the wicked.
I had a stroke of good luck in that I found free parking about four blocks away. The bad luck was it started snowing (yes, I know it’s March. I don’t control the weather). I didn’t want to bring my jacket into the show, so had to brave the elements wearing my Flogging Molly sweatshirt with my Flogging Molly t-shirt under. Good luck struck again as the snow tapered off by the time I was within two blocks of my destination. There it was, Flogging Molly’s name in lights on the marquee of Seattle’s Historical Paramount Theater.
I arrived just in time for the start of the first act, Sean Wheeler & Zander Schloss. I’d seen them a couple weeks prior opening for The Presidents of the United States of America (Presidents for short), and had been underwhelmed. I enjoyed them much more this time. Perhaps I was in a better mood. Perhaps this audience was more receptive. Whatever, the reason, they put on a very spiritual (for lack of a better word) show. Zander Schloss played a bouzouki throughout most of the performance. For all you Monty Python fans out there, I can hear you snickering, remembering their Cheese Shop sketch, but there were no cries to “shut the bouzouki player up” from this crowd. They were rapt and very engaged. For musicians this versatile to wow a punk rock crowd is high praise indeed. They finished their set with a cover of Johnny Cash’s song, Spiritual, which Sean Wheeler introduced as a song that creeped him out, but he liked it. They finished their set to resounding applause.
The next band was Suedehead, a five piece band from Southern California, although singer/guitarist Davey Warsop is a UK transplant. Suedehead has that “rock star” look – or at least the three guys in front playing guitars did. The drummer reminded me of Urkel from the nineties TV sitcom Family Matters and the keyboardist looked even less “rock star.” Often their music was reminiscent of The Jam or Style Council. Although these guys knew how to play and play well, there was just something about the music that didn’t click with me. There didn’t seem to be that proverbial spark that ignited anything in me. They did seem well received by the crowd, though, so perhaps I’ve been part of the scene for so long I’m more difficult to please. I was glad when they were over.
The break tape came on and played several old school punk songs and I sang along to the likes of Uncontrollable Urge by Devo, The Sex Pistols Anarchy In the UK, and The Buzzcocks’ Fallen In Love With Someone You Shouldn’t Have Fallen In Love With.
Then the house lights dimmed and the Flogging Molly banner was dropped behind the drum set, and Flogging Molly hit the stage like a hurricane, beginning with Drunken Lullabies. Singer Dave King at first glance looks ordinary, but the minute he hits the stage, he drips with contagious charm and exudes such high energy, it’s impossible for anyone to stand still. King even mentioned this crowd made even a warm Guinness taste good as he raised the can he’d just taken a few swigs from.
While introducing the song Life In A Tenement Square, King gestures to band member Bridget Regan, his wife, who plays tin whistle, fiddle and pipes in the band. During an acoustic set, Regan actually sang lead vocals on one song. This is the first time I’ve seen her sing lead. She has a crystal clear, very sweet voice that is very compatible with the traditional Irish flavor of Flogging Molly’s music.
When performing The Power’s Out from their newest album Speed of Darkness, King dedicated the song to all the bankers who threw so many people out of their homes. He grabbed a megaphone with a siren and let the siren wail before the band churned out the chords to the powerful song.
All through the performance, guitarist Dennis Casey leaped about the stage, doing windmills ala Pete Tonwshend. He kicked his legs up and ran around the stage like he was on fire. He dove toward the mic he shared with mandolin/banjo player Bob Schmidt, before darting away to perform his acrobats again.
King then dedicated The Son Never Shines On Closed Doors to his mum who still lives in Ireland and turns ninety this year. King then added, “and she better fucking be in bed right now,” while glancing at his watch. He continued saying how his father died when he was ten years old and often his mother had trouble paying the light bill so the lights were often off at his home.
When the band performed the song Float, many sang along. During a long, drawn out rendition of Black Friday Rule, guitarist Dennis Casey performed a stunning solo before raising the guitar above his head, then shoving it face down across the stage, trying to bend it over the edge of the stage, and stepping on it. All the while, the guitar screamed and shrieked, before King announced that the only reason that guitar could put up with such abuse was that it was made in Seattle, Washington.
Next up was Rebels of the Sacred Heart, which King introduced by explaining how disheartened he was by the current GOP and their version of God. “They want to take us back to the Spanish Inquisition,” he said. “But we won’t let that happen.” During the line, “forgive me, Father, for I have sinned,” he gave the audience a grin and said, “Well, that’s a fucking surprise, isn’t it?”
Other notable songs were Devil’s Dance Floor and If I Ever Leave This World Alive, which again, everyone sang along to and it echoed beautifully throughout the Paramount. When the band played What’s Left of the Flag, not only did everyone once again sing along, the crowd surfing increased dramatically. These behaviors didn’t stop when the next song was Seven Deadly Sins. In fact, people began jumping up and down so furiously, I could feel the floor heave under my feet.
When King asked if everyone was looking forward to St. Patrick’s Day, everyone cheered. King then added that every day was St. Patrick’s Day for Flogging Molly with an endless diet of alcohol and Alka-seltzer. This led into The Worst Day Since Yesterday.
One of the final songs played was the Flogging Molly contribution to the Bob Dylan tribute album recently released by Amnesty International – The Times They Are A Changing. Their revved, up Irish/punk flavored version of that song rivaled the version put out by Peter, Paul and Mary some forty-five years ago.
When the band left the stage, the break tape came on playing Monty Python’s Always Look On the Bright Side. The band immediately returned to the stage and King got the audience to sing along. To my surprise, almost everybody seemed familiar with the song and sang along. Soon, Zander joined the band on stage and took turns dancing arm in arm with various members while King continued to lead the audience in the sing-along. This put an unusual but fun exclamation point to an already fun-filled performance by Flogging Molly. The only sour point was their not letting anyone take pictures after the first three songs, so I didn’t get many good shots. Otherwise, I am still on a high. The staff was courteous, the floor was made of wood so comfortable to stand on for long periods, and the acoustics of the Paramount are the best of any other Seattle venue that hosts rock bands.
As a post script I would like to thank Lindsey at Alleyesmedia and Antonio Hicks at Seattle Theater Group for making this review possible. You guys rock as much as Flogging Molly does.
All photos property of Holly Homan, all rights reserved.