Aftermath tuned up for Flogging Molly Wednesday night with a Jameson on the rocks and Steve Earle's "The Galway Girl" on our iPod. One of those should be obvious. As for the other, we needed the whiskey because it was kind of a long day at the office.
A few weeks back, Earle mentioned on his "Hardcore Troubador"
Sirius/XM show that "Galway" is one of the few songs written by a Yank that Irish musicians (Sharon Shannon, for example)
have adopted as their own. Flogging Molly, meanwhile, is an L.A. band that's become popular by dressing up music born in both the U.S. and UK, i.e. punk rock, in shamrocks and shillelaghs.
In front of a rafter-packed House of Blues crowd that made most Mardi Gras gatherings look tame, Molly hit all its marks Tuesday night. In fact, the band hit them so well that at times they came across more as puppeteers than punk rockers. Luckily Dave King, Dublin expat and former heavy-metal singer, is an excellent ringleader behind either mask.
Aftermath is not calling Molly's credentials into question here. Far from it. The raw energy King and his companions radiated could have stopped a runaway Toyota Prius. But the set gave off the nagging, vaguely unsettling impression that Molly was pushing the crowd's buttons as expertly as accordion player Matthew Hensley was pushing his.
The audience, personified by a young gentleman in a backwards green baseball cap, was only too happy to play its part. It resembled a game of Twister - Molly spins the song wheel, if the arrow comes up red, clap along. Blue, throw another plastic cup towards the stage. Yellow, punch your brah on the shoulder; green, go get another drink from the bar.
The music was larded with cues to provoke these reactions: Sad, countryish melodies driven (hard) by acoustic guitar and the electric fiddle of King's wife, Bridget Regan; electrified punk throwdowns that one-upped the Pogues, or at least threatened to; genuinely moving passages that conjured thoughts of quitting your job, leaving your girl, hitting the road and following the gypsy accordion and fiddle until they either led you down the road to paradise or stole all your money and abandoned you on the side of the highway.