Flogging Molly is an interesting band. Musically, their style pulls from celt-punk pioneers The Pogues, as well as punk legends like The Clash. They also seem to ride the coattails of more hardcore-leaning peers Dropkick Murphys. In the course of their 15-year career, the band has released four albums (number five is due shortly), two live albums and a DVD.
In the last half few years, Flogging Molly has fallen into an extremely comfortable rut. As their fan base has shifted, the band now finds themselves safely removed from the “punk ghetto”. Ten years ago, FM concerts were strictly punk affairs: the music was punk, the fans were punk, the atmosphere was punk. The band toured like a punk band, playing smaller clubs and bringing fellow punks along with them on the road. Now, every thing about FM is very predictable. They treat themselves like a novelty band instead of embracing their genuine musical talent. Their tours all begin in the weeks leading up to St. Patrick’s Day and their album release dates are similarly planned.
Growth for a band is both natural and positive, but in the case of FM, their fan base shifted, rather than grew. While I could write a witty blog just about the crowd at last Thursdays FM show at the Egyptian Room but I will restrain myself. I will say this though; 90% of the crowd that night fell into one of four charming groups (or a lovely combination thereof): Hillbillies, Fratboys, Gamers or Parents. It was like a alternate universe where The Brickyard 400 and GenCon were combined into one magnificent mess. I also heard the word “fag” used with uncomfortable frequency.
Enough about the crowd. The show opened up with the poorly received yet musically impressive Drowning Men. The Californian indie rock band combined the brooding drive of golden-era Interpol with the grinding synth of The Killers (I mean that in the best way possible). Next up was Swedish genius MoneyBrother, who, with his excellent backing band, commanded the stage like a ring-leader. The first notes from Moneybrother’s mouth immediately called to mind the soulful rasp of Joe Strummer. Along with capturing the vocal stylings of The Clash, the Swedish six-piece captured the aggressive dance-punk and reggae from The Clash’s breakthrough album, Combat Rock, and intertwined it with the muscular poetry of Bruce Springsteen. Flogging Molly is a tough band to open for, especially considering the tunnel vision of their fan base but Moneybrother excited the crowd enough to elicit some dancing and fist-pumping. I truly hope that they return to Indianapolis for a headlining show in the near future.
Flogging Molly slowly slinked on the stage as the darkened Egyptian Room filled with the piped-in tunes of some mournful Irish tenor. Frontman Dave King briefly acknowledged the crowd before bursting into song. Since many FM songs tend to sound alike, the crowd burst into a frenzy as the fiddle and accordion added an Irish melody over the punk foundation. Less than a thirty seconds into the song, the crowd realized that it was an unfamiliar one and stopped dancing and mouthing along to the lyrics they didn’t know. The opening song, as it turned out, was the title track from the upcoming fifth FM album, The Speed of Darkness. After joking about tricking the crowd by opening with a new song, King ripped into the fist-pumping “Selfish Man” from 2000’s Swagger.
The rest of the set, as promised by King, was a perfect combination of songs from every album, as well as a few new ones. At one point, King made a crack at the Old National Center’s “No Moshing/ Crowd Surfing” policy and explained that when he was a teenager during the first wave of punk in Dublin, similar dancing restrictions were put in place and that the “pogo” dance was invented to circumvent those restrictions.
The rest of the band handled their musical duties quite well, but it was King that charmed the crowd with his banter. I’m sure he delivered the same lines to every crowd in every city on that tour, but the Indianapolis crowd ate it up nevertheless.
Throughout the rest of the night, the crowd seemed to respond most energetically to tracks off of 2008’s Float. Considering that it was their most successful album to date, it is no surprise that many in attendance Thursday night were turned onto the band because of it. Like any good punks though, FM dug deep into their back catalogue for the rest of the night and kept the set exciting.
At the end of the night, the crowd exited the Egyptian Room feeling satisfied and excited. Sadly, many in the punk scene today would shy away from a FM show due to perceptions about the new fan base. I, however, can attest to the fact that Flogging Molly is just as inspired and as energetic as they were ten years ago. The only thing that’s changed is the crowd.