Friday night will be like St. Patrick’s Day for me. That’s the night Flogging Molly is bringing their Irish punk music to the Music Farm.
I love punk music. I love Irish music. The combination is not U2. It’s a brand of music that tells the stories of Irish history and culture. And it does so with pounding beats and loud guitars that buoy frantic—yet melodic—voices, tin whistles, fiddles, and an occasional accordian.
Irish punk music is a culture within two distinct cultures. I’d like it if you came to see how Flogging Molly does it. Their shows are rarely, if ever, about their latest single or CD. They are events. Happenings. Don’t ask me which CD to get. I’ll tell you to get them all. Just come along. It will be fun.
When I brought my wife to her first Flogging Molly show at a House of Blues in Cleveland, I did not properly prepare her for the event. So when the pre-show chants of “Flog-ging Mol-ly (clap-clap, clap-clap-clap)” reached their crescendo and the crowd began to compress closer to the stage, she became a bit concerned that my friend Dan and I were trying to form a two man protective wall around her and Dan’s girlfriend.
Once the show started and she got a feel for the rhythms of the room, she didn’t need our protection anymore. Nay, she was just as apt to shove someone back into the mosh pit from which they came.
For you however, I will give the short primer that I denied my own lovely wife. Do I like you better than her? Heck, no. But she won’t be joining me for this one and I’d like you to have a good time.
1. Irish music is inclusive. You know that anybody can be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. Just grab yourself a drink (Guinness gets you further) and you’re part of the crowd. Even our president was lauded in song as Barack "O’Bama" when he was seen drinking a Guinness on a trip to Dublin.
2. Punk music is inclusive. It may sound loud, aggressive, and angry at times, but there is nothing threatening about shouting together. So join on in, and the whole event becomes a team effort. Of course, some punk music is ugly, mean, and outright racist. Not true punk music. And certainly not when mixed with Irish sensibilities.
3. So really, all you have to do is show up and leave any bad attitude outside. Everyone else will. Starting to sound like fun?
4. Good. Then you might consider buying me a Guinness.
5. Flogging Molly is from Los Angeles. That does not make it less Irish. The premier Irish punk band, The Pogues, was really a London band. Another stalwart, the Dropkick Murphys, are from Boston.
6. The songs contain lessons in history, misery, religion, slavery, politics, and revelry. Somewhere I think there may be love songs, but in a decidedly Irish way. When things slow down and they play "Whistle the Wind," you may see a tear in my eye, and in those of many a fan. However, as sweet as the song sounds, it is about losing a friend to suicide. Don’t worry, the next song might be about piracy and slavery in Barbados. Just the sort of thing to cheer you up.
7. Singing along is encouraged. In fact, you may hear the audience shout words in unison that are not being sung from the stage. Feel free to get Flogging Molly Live At The Greek for a sense of their live show.
8. Attire. Anything you don’t mind getting dirty, sweaty, beer soaked, or possibly ripped. The Charleston dress code of blue blazers and visors with fishing logos (guys) or strappy dresses (girls) is simply not appropriate. I mean, wear it if that’s you. We’ll be happy to give you a big old sweaty bear hug after we pick you up off the slippery floor.
9. Being drunk is not a requirement. Seriously. You’ll see members of the band drinking all night. Beers will be served. But the true fans will hold their own.
10. You will see an acoustic guitar, violin, banjo, bodhran and tin whistle on stage. Don’t be fooled. This is not folk, country, bluegrass, or Appalachian music. It’s loud, fast, anthemic, and emotional. But if you talk to me long enough, I’ll tell you how Irish music gave us folk, country, bluegrass, Appalachian, and even reggae music. If I start telling you this, and it gets in the way of listening to Flogging Molly, then get me to shut up by buying me a Guinness.
11. There is etiquette in a mosh pit. If you notice a group of people pushing out a circular space for themselves near the stage, this is the formation of a mosh pit. In said mosh pit, some men may go shirtless. No women will. These sweaty people, shirted or not, will thrust themselves at each other and collide like a dozen toddlers in a bouncy house. Most will stay upright, but occasionally once will fall to the floor. Or one will lose control and bump into the people standing on the fringes. If you are on the fringes and a mosher bumps into you, feel free to give him a big shove back into the center of the melee. He will look back and give you a smile of thanks, unless his teeth are getting knocked out by another mosher. Oddly enough, moshers are usually relatively sober. They know what they are doing and keep elbows and knees away from faces and groins. They are smart enough to keep bottles outside the pit. And if one falls, the others clear a path so he can hit the floor unobstructed. They even give him 2.3 seconds to get back up before occupying that space with their boots. The mosh pit is a place where people whose emotions are stirred so by the music, that they can expend some of that energy in a safe and friendly environment. If you don’t want to get bumped by a sweaty, beer soaked mosher, then I suggest you avoid this area. For anyone who gets too close, and then acts annoyed by the melee, that person runs the risk of being forcibly invited into the center of the action. Good luck.
12. Buying me a Jameson’s shot is not required, but not a bad idea in and of itself.
13. Location, location, location. At the Music Farm, if you are in front of the sound board, you are likely in proximity to the mosh pit. Behind the sound board ought to be much more serene. Behind the bar area, you may as well not even be there. Come close. Join the fun.
14. Ear plugs. Your choice.
15. I’ve seen Flogging Molly in Cleveland, Myrtle Beach, and Charleston. By far the most sedate crowd was Charleston. I’d like to see that change.
16. Dave King, the singer, is over 50 years old. So, in many ways he is my hero, his stint as lead singer of Fastway in the '80s notwithstanding. He will rock harder than you. Listen to him when he talks between songs. You may learn a bit of history. All hail Dave.
17. If I start using phrases like “cute hoor” or “bowsies,” you won’t know what I’m talking about. If I slip into “Craic agus ceol,” it is clear I’ve had too many and am now that annoying American Irishman who believes with all his green heart (though four generations removed from the ancestral isle) that he is now closer to his roots because of the music in the room. Stand apart from me and pretend you don’t know me. Let’s assume it won’t get that bad and you can still get me that Guinness you promised. You offered the drink earlier, right?
18. Stick around until after the show is over. They may pipe in a recording of “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” complete with lilting whistles, during which the band may skip around on stage. It’s a fine finale to what promises to be a gratifying experience.
19. If you are lucky—and the band is so inclined—they may find a local place to have a few after-show pints. Find that place. Bribe the tour manager. Stalk the bass player. Whatever it takes, find that place. If they bring along some instruments, you may get to hear these loud and brash punkers play traditional melodies on much quieter instruments for a couple of hours without stop. It’s a scene to behold.
20. If I have been enjoying a few too many drinks, and am hanging with Flogging Molly into the wee hours, I will be taking a cab home. If you’re headed my way, hop on in with me. Because everything about the night will be about sharing anyway—from the mosh pit to the drinks you forced upon me. May as well split the cab ride. My wife knows the rules about a FM concert as well as anyone. She won’t be surprised if she has to drive me back downtown to get my car on Saturday. Yea, though you might not want to stick around, as she’ll scold you for buying me all that Guinness. Ya poor fool. But let’s not tell her about the Jameson’s.
See you at the show.