Article and Photos By L. Paul Mann
Driving up to the tiny California mountain town of Santa Ynez on Friday, March 22nd, the landscape looked much like the rolling green hills of Ireland, after near-record rainfalls ended a seven-year drought all across the state. The bucolic scenery was a fitting backdrop for a Flogging Molly concert at the Chumash Casino Resort in the heart of the Santa Ynez mountains.
It may have been nearly a week after St Patrick’s day when the Irish American rockers exploded onstage at the Samala showroom, but it sure felt like the spirit of that uniquely Irish holiday was engulfing the sold-out crowd at the Friday concert. Much of the audience bolted to their feet hoisting cups of beer and Irish whiskey as the band tore into their opening song, “(No More) Paddy’s Lament.” The veteran musicians merged traditional Celtic folk music and punk rock in the vein of The Clash, into their own rich tapestry of sounds during an 18 song set.
The Los Angeles based band has been churning out their unique brand of beer drinking music since 1997, releasing six studio albums along the way. But the group fronted by charismatic Irishman Dave King is most well known for their boisterous live performances. King brought his stellar showmanship to the Santa Ynez crowd singing, playing guitar and storytelling, seeming to channel the spirit one of his heroes Joe Strummer. The audience reacted emphatically, singing and dancing along, much like they were in a large Irish pub on a Saturday night. The seven-piece band also included King’s wife Bridget singing and playing violin and a mean tin whistle. The veteran performers mesh perfectly together in a tightly layered sound that belies the seemingly chaotic punk rock sound.
Much to the delight of loyal fans in the crowd who were fueled by the recent addition of a full bar to the venue, the band played many of their classic drinking songs. “Drunken Lullabies” and “Devil’s Dance Flour” were two of the crowd favorites, eliciting raucous sing-alongs. The group also played songs from their newest album Life is Good released in 2017. The band continues to play with the energy of teen punk rockers, but also continues to write more and more complex songs like the seasoned musicians they have become. When Flogging Molly comes to town, everyone can feel like they are Irish for a wee bit of frolicking fun for a day.