Hot Irish stew
Irish punks Flogging Molly commence butt-kicking at Chico State
Telling the members of Flogging Molly they have time for only one more song is like telling a pub full of Irishman that it’s last call. Molly’s über-hyper front man, Dave King, absolutely refuses to wrap up a set with a single-song salutation. Of course, there was no argument from the cheering throng of revelers at Chico State, so many intoxicated Irish wannabes who bounced up and down even before the music began.
But, hold the phone, let’s back up to the start of the evening, when we found Southern California psychobilly rockers Throw Rag on stage. Carnies and college students alike unite when the partially naked and heavily tattooed Throw Rag captures a crowd with its unique “sailor rock” style, boisterous stage presence and a singer whose voice is reminiscent of both Elvises, Presley and Costello. The vocals belong to Captain Tae-Bo, who sported a Flock of Seagulls hair wave and shared the stage with a washboard scratcher, rocking bugle, couple guitars, drums and a bass, producing a satisfying high-energy grind that can’t be found in any run-of-the-mill mainstream music heard on MTV.
Next onstage: They declare themselves the “greatest rock-'n'-roll band of all time,” and they’re certainly cocky enough. Front man for the Supersuckers is the female-friendly Eddie Spaghetti, who was wearing shades, a cowboy hat and head-to-toe black. Loyal fans of the 15-year-old band spread out, filling empty crop circles with moshing madness as Spaghetti opened his mouth, revealing an appropriately husky voice as scratchy as the edge of an open tin can. Simple, audible lyrics and references to the devil fit the band’s bluesy, hard-rock roots.
“Coattail Riders” was a particularly robust little ditty, but despite the boys’ talent many songs lacked variety and didn’t convince me enough to grab a copy of their upcoming April 22 release, Motherfuckers Be Trippin'.
As for the headliners: Yes, they really are from Ireland, and after a small sip of Flogging Molly’s Guinness-soaked “jig punk,” it became apparent that this band is not disappearing anytime soon. Thursday night’s show found the group in an unusually sober environment. King could not believe that Chico State was a dry campus. “How can you be a student when you can’t have a drink?” he asked.
The well-dressed clan formed in Southern California roughly six years ago and has created its own niche in the widespread punk rock scene there. Irish culture plays a large part in lyric writing and the band’s choice of instruments, which include mandolin, banjo, accordion, violin and a pennywhistle played by the crew’s only female member, Bridget Regan. Fist-pumping, mohawked fans loved the hearty guitar riffs but might also be found wiping a tear when leading man King crooned in memory of his dear, dead father.
The chemistry between band members was undeniable, in both their connection with each other and their ability to capture an audience. When King instructed the tightly packed crowd to join him in a knee raising jig, they complied, smiling while obediently kicking the person in front of them. Thursday night’s performance was hotter than a steaming bowl of cornbeef and cabbage.
This sort of diversity never allows for boredom. King was a classic showman who often lovingly referred to his audience as “you bastards” in addition to making jabs at his ex-wife and congratulating students on moving away from home ("those who had the balls to leave their mommy’s bosom").
With its fierce melodies, sophisticated fiddle playing and airy flute in the service of such themes as freedom, family, life and death, Flogging Molly is one of a kind. It would be hard to find a similar sound or more eclectic fan base at any other punk rock show.