Group brings Irish punk to Whitman

by Alex Frank 

Last fall’s big-deal, school-sponsored show undoubtedly had a surfeit of star power – it certainly marked the first appearance of a band who only months before taking the stage of Cordiner rocked a fictional little joint called the Bait Shop. But while Death Cab for Cutie may’ve gotten Seth Cohen and Co. dancing on “The O.C.,” their Whitman performance was pretty much akin to listening to their record in a really big room while four nerdy-looking dudes stood around onstage. Though it was a coup in terms of booking – Walla Walla stood out considerably on a tour itinerary otherwise comprised of Denvers, Chicagos and the like – as far as a live rock ‘n’ roll show goes, well, it wasn’t exactly “Live at Leeds.”

Perhaps that was ASWC’s mindset, then, when they booked Irish folk-punks Flogging Molly, whose live show is to Death Cab’s what a 30-second Guinness keg stand is to a nice glass of merlot. The seven-person outfit prides itself on being equally adept at igniting a Warped Tour pit full of pre-pubescent punks as it is converting middle-aged moms at folk festivals to their inspired blend of high-octane punk fury and traditional Irish balladry. The group’s September 22nd date at Whitman ought to be a case study in how to whip a ballroom full of jam-band-loving college kids into a drunken step-dancing frenzy – surely, a sight not to be missed.

The group – named for the Los Angeles club Molly Malone’s, where the group spent their early days – prove beyond a doubt their aptitude for pleasing crowds on Whiskey on a Sunday, a feature-length DVD chronicling the group’s worldwide tours, as well as the recording of their latest album Within a Mile of Home. Equally competent at hyper-speed late-night singalongs (“Drunken Lullabies”) as they are at surprisingly tender ballads (“Don’t Let Me Die Still Wondering”), expect an unabashed party when a tour bus smelling suspiciously of Jameson rolls up to campus next week.

Though they do the sound considerable justice, Flogging Molly aren’t the first group to integrate balls-out punk rock and tried-and-true Irish folk. Crook-toothed, eternally hammered Shane MacGowan brought the genre mish-mash to prominence in the ‘80s with his band the Pogues; their 1985 album Rum, Sodomy and the Lash, a fascinating amalgam of Irish tradition and punk attitude, is widely considered to be one of the finest albums of the decade. Boston’s venerable Dropkick Murphys took a different route, adding bagpipes and tin-whistles to a gruff, decidedly working-class brand of punk.

Still, Flogging Molly are one of the best, and easily the most well-known, bands currently playing Irish-influenced punk rock. With three albums under their collective belts and showing no signs of stopping, their Whitman appearance will, if nothing else, be the sweaty, all-campus party those big houses on Isaacs only wish they could throw.

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