It all began ten years ago, when I first saw Flogging Molly at the Warped Tour, on a sweaty day in the middle of Cincinnati’s river-valley summer. I hardly knew what hit me, but like God looking down on creation, I knew it was good. I was 16 years old then, and I was just waking up – to life, to music, to punk rock, to adventure and the unknown.
Fast forward eight years, and the temperature is 110 degrees. The arid landscape is dotted by only a mosque and two rusted bulldozers and looks, at least on one side, like a hallucinatory vision of Mars. But to my left are palms trees and coastline, and as I jog along the coast of the Red Sea, my iPod bounces on my hip, and the music serves to drown out the frenzied Arab traffic and the piercing call to prayer, crackling through the PA on the mosque next door. I’m on a jog in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where I spent a year living and working. And I’m listening to an Irish-rock band from Los Angeles as the Muslim afternoon prayer is broadcast through the land. But somehow, the tune doesn't seem the least bit out of place.
When Flogging Molly takes the stage at Bogart’s in Cincinnati this Sunday night, they will be rocking in front of an audience as enigmatic as the band itself. This will be the third time I’ve seen them at this very same venue. For me, it’s actually become something strangely comforting. I’ve loved Flogging Molly’s music and Dave King’s lyrics ever since I can remember listening to rock and roll – but seeing them live is an experience unlike any other. It’s about the music, for sure. But the whole thing is much more than just listening to some songs and dancing a jig in the mosh pit to “Devil’s Dance Floor.”
Like any great live concert, Flogging Molly is an experience ubiquitous completely to itself. Known in the world that is the music culture as one of the truly unparalleled acts of our day, King and company have gathered a following of the most unlikely disparates, which, for me, puts the icing on the cake – or, to be a little more original – the shamrock on the Guinness.
Two years ago, I was standing in line at the Bogart’s bar waiting for the show. To my right was a guy who looked like he belonged in an action movie. He was tattooed down both of his unnecessarily huge forearms, was wearing combat boots, and...a kilt. He looked like he could’ve killed Samson. To my immediate left stood the juxtaposition: a forty-something year-old man in John Lennon-esque spectacles. And he was wearing a collar. No, not a punker dog collar – I mean he was a Catholic Priest, in his right garb. I almost laughed out loud. But it didn’t stop there. I glanced over my shoulder and the guy behind me was a full head and beard full of gray. He was wearing a denim button-up and a hat that told me that he’d served in the Navy in the Vietnam War.
All of us standing in line at that moment – and the hundreds of others packing into the Clifton, Cincinnati club on that cold night in winter – are exactly the reason that Flogging Molly is, and has been, one of my unashamedly favorite musical acts. It’s not just that they’re different, and kind of punk-rock, and kind of Irish and kind of cool, and drink Guinness on stage and say things to the crowd like: “Is that Foster’s beer??...Yeah, Foster’s – Australian for shit!” (That was lead singer Dave King calling some poor guy out). It’s not even just that they play great music, and play it even better live – which they certainly do. Flogging Molly continues to hold an almost dreamlike sway over me, because I’ve found that wherever the band goes, the world seems to somehow come crashing in beautifully along with them.
This Sunday is the rare chance to catch a glimpse of world colliding over Irish rock and a few hundred pints of Guinness. If you’re going to the show, be sure to brush up not just on the classics like “Drunken Lullabies” and “Salty Dog.” Mind the new tunes as well. From the latest album, Speed of Darkness, check out the pounding and cracking anti-establishment anthem, “Revolution.” And if you’re looking for something brand new and perfectly different, check out the bands’ electrified version of Bob Dylan’s classic, “The Times They are Changing.” I used to think that Dylan’s music couldn’t get any better. I was wrong.
Grab a Guinness – I'll see you at the show.
Watch the Bob Dylan cover HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NV51gU00oqc