by Caitlin Tortorici
On Friday, Sept. 22, the Reid Campus Center Ballroom had a truly new experience. After thousands of dollars and hours of labor by ASWC (among other orange-shirted assistants), Whitman was prepared to take on Flogging Molly, a seven-piece Irish American Celtic punk band famous for its unique sound and ability to make any audience member feel like a drunken Irishman (or woman).
Why did we choose to flog?
ASWC Social Chair Stefan Ducich said, “Elizabeth Dannon, a really good friend of mine, was the public events chair last year, and she liked having lots of smaller independent rock-esque concerts; as much as I really liked her taste in music, I wanted something people could get hyped about in a bigger, like, name-catching kind of way. I didn’t want to go for the standard, ‘Oh, we’ve heard of this band, they’re okay’; I wanted something that was going to be catchy and different that people would really grasp onto and enjoy.”
According to Ducich, ASWC had initially hoped to host the Decemberists, who were unable to come last year. However, the band was forced to cancel yet again for alleged personal reasons.
To the luck of many celtic folk fans, the ASWC Social Chair did some research and managed to book Flogging Molly through an intermediary agency in the midst of their SideOneDummy national college tour.
And there are many such fans. “We sold out 600 tickets in two days, which really means 600 tickets in a little over two hours,” said Ducich. “I feel that we have a pretty wide appeal for this concert.”
With a wide array of songs as well as instruments—electric and acoustic guitars, banjos, fiddles, mandolins, accordions and spoons, to name a few, not to mention a female member—most students had little difficulty finding an excuse to buy a ticket.
While Ducich was pleased to see so many Whitman students in the ticket line, he regrets not being able to open the show to the outside community. “I really hope to open future concerts to the rest of Walla Walla,” said Ducich.
Nevertheless, the ASWC social chair was glad to have the band playing in our (comparatively) humble ballroom.
“Flogging Molly wanted a small venue—although small to them is huge to us,” said Ducich. (Flogging Molly’s last “small” venue included up to 2,500 people.)
“We chose Reid because we wanted people to be able to dance. I didn’t want it to be in a huge room; I didn’t want it to be in a huge seated arena where people would have to save seats and watch a show. It’s not as much fun, especially for a band like Flogging Molly, where it’s a rowdy show; it’s a much more get up and be crazy type of show.”
That it was.
Not to say the opening band Bedouin Soundclash didn’t put on a great show. Based out of Toronto, vocalist and guitarist Jay Malinowski, bassist Eon Sinclair and drummer Pat Pengelly played a thoroughly danceable set of original songs and covers that mixed together all of punk, reggae, rock and soul.
“They were great. I must have burned at least a couple hundred calories,” said junior Brian Abelson, who danced all through the performance.
However, the true chaos ensued when the final act took the stage.
Beneath a sequence of crazy lights, hundreds of sweaty, smiling audience members hopped around to Flogging Molly’s livelier numbers and lovingly swayed to the band’s slower tunes.
The severe chaos took place in the front.
“The whole concert, ‘til Flogging Molly, all the people who don’t go to school here were just not rocking out at all, and then, all of a sudden, I’m being smashed onto the front of the stage, and I’m like, ‘I can’t breathe!’” exclaimed overwhelmed sophomore Helen Lummis. “It was insane!”
The insanity didn’t end with the floor routine. Before long, shirts were discarded and crowd-surfers politely escorted out of the ballroom and branded with permanent marker.
First-year and ballroom exile Alex Miller had a very disorienting experience. “I was crowd surfing—they picked me up and lifted me in the air, and then some guy grabbed me and pulled me out. I don’t know if I’ll ever get back in. They drew an ‘X’ on my arm.”
While several witnesses found Miller’s experience displeasing, junior Alec Sugar chose to emulate it. “I realized that Flogging Molly is about rising up, it’s about lifting up the human spirit, so I decided I’d represent that physically by getting up on top of the crowd, supported by my fellow Whitman students,” said Sugar.
And of course, those who kept a lower profile still ended up having a good time. “I’m having a great time. I like them. They have a lot of different stuff. I like their political stuff. They’re also really funny; I really like the song about his mom,” said senior Mariama Loos-Diallo.
The band truly did have a range. They played a number of songs from their 2004 album, “Within a Mile of Home,” as well as old favorites from “Drunken Lullabies” (2002) and earlier albums.
“Drunken Lullabies was amazing!” said junior Kaitlin Phillips. “I loved it.”
All in all the night was a success. The turnout was tremendous and the respect some felt was lost by the Guitar Hero II stand (“DDR, but with guitar,” said Brian Abelson) was regained with the inexpensive array of soft t-shirts for sale.
Everyone seemed to have a good time, too. Said sophomore Wes Price,“I really liked these guys. They flogged my Molly.”