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Flogging Molly, Andrew WK – Thursday 10.17.2002

Dave King – vocal/acoustic guitar
Bridget Regan – fiddle/tin whistle/violin
Dennis Casey – guitar
Matt Hensley – accordian
Nathen Maxwell – bass
Bob Schmidt – mandolin, banjo
George Schwindt – drums

“A Guinness soaked musical body blow.” I snagged this from the Flogging Molly web site, but what better way to describe this band of merry men and woman who pack enough vim and vigor to destroy any existence of gloom and doom. Ripping tunes from their new album, Drunken Lullabies, Flogging Molly definitely packs a punch with their Irish tradition of taking any topic, good or bad, and rallying everyone into celebrating the gift of life…and liquor.

This recipe for musical madness has been carried from city to city across the U.S., and most recently at the Warped Tour this past summer, where they were met with huge enthusiasm from a group of kids that just minutes before, had crowd surfed to punk rock. The seven members overflowed the stage with a Celtic rock explosion, each touting their skill at taking traditional instruments – mandolin, banjo, accordion, and fiddle – and crashing them together with fierce guitars, drums and bass, intoxicating their jolly fans with a huge serving of Irish punk ale.

Now they are returning to Denver to play two nights at the Ogden, a favorite venue for them. “Denver was one of the first places we went to where people had heard some of our stuff. It was amazing the way things just started to catch on in Denver, ya know?” says Flogging Molly singer/guitarist Dave King. “The last time we played the Ogden, the place was just packed with people.”

It was a few years ago when I first witnessed Flogging Molly packing another venue, the Catalyst, a club tucked into the California coastal town of Santa Cruz. In the midst of their performance, Dave decided to share his myriad of immigration problems that had kept him from returning to his country of Ireland. “I couldn’t get home or see my mother for eight years. It was really awful. And it really wasn’t my fault,” he explains.

He had been in the U.S. thorough an artist visa, “so you’re not taking anybody’s job. When I went to my lawyer, he said it didn’t matter if it expired.” According to his lawyer, he didn’t need to worry about renewing his visa to stay here legally in the U.S. if he was applying for a green card. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case at all. “I swear to God Kim, about two months later I went in to start the paperwork for my green card, [my lawyer] said they changed the law, and that I now was illegal.”

If King were to leave the U.S. and go back home to Ireland, he wouldn’t have been able to return here for another ten years, putting a huge wrench in both his personal and professional life, no matter what. “Even on the Warped Tour, we couldn’t go to Canada.”

This meant that King had to stay here to keep his band alive, which led to significant personal sacrifices, “I had aunts and uncles that died and I couldn’t attend their funerals. It felt like being in a prison without bars. But I got it all sorted out, and this year I’ve been back to Ireland twice.”

One of the hardest things Dave had to deal with was not seeing his mother for that entire time, especially since she had a stroke and he wasn’t able to be by her side. He dedicated “The Son Never Shines (On Closed Doors)” off of Drunken Lullabies to that experience of returning home after all that time.

“That’s why I called it “The Son Never Shines,” ’cause I wasn’t able to knock on her door anymore. It was so weird Kim, that when I did go back for Christmas and I knocked on her door…she didn’t know who I was.” The combination of his mother’s stroke and his long absence affected her ability to recognize her son, and it was heartbreaking for both of them.

Getting through a crisis of that level, or any other obstacles life throws in our path, is what makes us stronger, drives us to drink, or all of the above. For Flogging Molly, taking life’s perils and putting them into song is therapeutic for the band.”It’s the people that I sing about, like my father and situations that we were talking about,” he reflects, “that’s what life is about really…for me. That’s the Irish in me. We dwell a lot in…I wouldn’t say negativity. But when it comes to death, we celebrate life in that way. I think back…Jesus…one of the best parties I was ever at was when my father died.”

At the same level, Flogging Molly’s music has provided a healing quality for fans who attend their shows, swinging to and fro while singing along to their joyous sounds, arm in arm with a pint in their hands. “A lot of people tell me that, and it blows my mind away. When I sing a song about a man, who all he did in life was pour petrol. He had his opinions in life, and was born under a British rule…and he didn’t really have a chance in life, ya know? And now through the power of songs and music…there’s this 14-year old or 70-year old people singin’…about him! It incredible. They didn’t know my father, but they get a glimpse of who he was just by hearing what I had to say about him.”

At the Adam’s County Warped Tour performance, Dave took the opportunity during “Rebel of the Sacred Heart”, to take a jab at an institution that’s overshadowed him and his fellow countrymen and women, “Bless me father for I have sinned, but then, so have you!” This was around the time when the Catholic Church was getting a lot of bad press for illegal practices that had been covered up since Christ (I’m going to hell for that reference, I’m sure). And it’s obvious that Dave was effected personally,”I used to be an alter boy. Nothing happened to me sexually, but I had some guys there that were downright mean. It was so non-Christian.”

Dave points to the lyrics in that song, which tell the story of how the church’s rule have imposed many limits on the freedom of the Irish people, to the point that in 2002, abortion is still illegal UNLESS it endangers a woman’s life. “When I was growing up in Ireland there was a dark, black cloak. And that was the Church,” he recalls. So when Americans went through the terrorist attacks, we were faced with situations that citizens in other countries have been experiencing for decades, if not longer. “People in America take their freedom for granted. Even though Ireland is not the Taliban or anything like that, we have the Catholic Church watching our every move. Not only do women not have a choice on whether they’re going to have a baby or not, they can’t even use contraception.”

With Flogging Molly, King’s found his artistic and personal freedom by creating his own music and collaborating with a group of talented musicians who have become his family away from home, “I’ve never been in a band before where it was so easy to do what we do. People ask how we mix the fiddles or the crashing guitars. Really Kim, it just sort of sprouted out. Bridget is a pure, traditional fiddle player, and then she goes home and listens to the Clash. That’s the people in this band. You think you know them, but there are so many different qualities that they have. To me, it makes it very intriguing,” he expresses with a level of gratitude and conviction.

As the main songwriter for the group, King’s passion for everything that surrounds him comes through loud and clear when thoughts and feelings are put onto paper, and when the collaboration begins, to then create sounds to surround those life experiences. “I can write about whatever the hell I write and it’s still in the context of being in a band. I sit here at my typewriter and write a song. But when I bring it into the band, that’s when it becomes Flogging Molly. What I give them, they add to. Or if someone else has an idea, it works the same way. That’s how we work.”

That passion, pain, joy and delight that King had – when he was sitting behind his typewriter, when he presented the idea to his band mates and they created that song – it all comes flowing back around when they perform. Dave agrees, “Exactly. And it’s different every night. Not because it’s a different crowd. I’m sure that helps. It’s a different energy level every night. It’s a celebration of hardship and strife…and just making ends meet, ya know? I am so fortunate to be doing what I’m doing.”

King was able to bond with Flogging Molly and pave a road for himself, but only after he got past some trials and tribulations that are not unique to any musician working within the music business engine, “I had all these stupid, fucking records deals that broke the spine of my back almost. I decided just to pick up an acoustic guitar and start playing. Shortly after that I met Bridget and then George, and all the other members of the band individually. But before that, I was singing in a band, but wasn’t really fulfilling myself. I have to play for myself. I can’t play for other people.”

In King’s mind, working with an indie, such as their current label SideOneDummy, was the only way they could have gone. The only time he sees a major label working for a band is, “and this is really sad to say but, if you’ve done all the ground work. They can come in and give you that extra kick. But if you’re banking on a major record label to break you, forget about it.”

Floggy Molly’s formula for success is simple – get out on the road, a lot. That basic philosophy has grown their eclectic fan base from one city to the next, starting at small clubs years ago and today, performing with nationwide tours and two nights at the Ogden when they come to Denver. “If you’re in a band, don’t strive to get a big record deal. Strive to play as much as you can. That’s all we had – just us, our instruments, and the stage. When we did our first Warped Tour, we’ve got fiddles, accordions, mandolins, and banjos. And the kids would like us? We had no idea! But we believed in ourselves and we’re a fucking rock-n-roll band at the end of the day. And we’re gonna go out there and play. That’s the way to do it.”

Flogging Molly plays with Andrew WK, who blew away people that attended his last show at the 15th Street Tavern, and hung out and chatted with fans aferwards. So the show is packed with two great performances, which take place this Saturday and Sunday, October 19 and 20 at the Ogden.


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