Written and Photographed by Eric Sperrazza
I will never forget hearing Flogging Molly for the first time. I went to see my Dad for Saint Patrick’s Day, who, although he is only half Irish, bleeds all green one day a year. After a few whiskeys, I described this band I had heard called Dropkick Murphys and how much he would get a kick out of the Celtic Rock scene. So, I went to his computer desk, pulled up Pandora, and began to let the algorithm do its thing. A song called Drunken Lullabies came past the offerings of Dropkick and The Pogues. Our ears perked up, smiles swooped across our collective faces, and we became Flogging Molly fans from that moment on. They stay in rotation when my father and I get together for a drink and some story-telling.
This year, Flogging Molly hit the road with Hellcat Records’ own, The Interrupters, in a Boston-To-Berkley style tour. Along the way, they would be stopping at The Mann Music Center’s Summer Skyline Stage in Philadelphia, and, conveniently enough, I have a 12-year-old daughter. She thinks singer, Aimee “Interrupter” Allen, is just the coolest. So, the two of us headed out to brave the Friday traffic on Route I-76 to see what this show had to offer.
First, let me say that I enjoy the Skyline Stage at The Mann on those warm summer days. There’s never a bad vantage point, the view of Center City is breathtaking, and the sound is always excellent, and this time was no different. If you have not seen a show there before, make this the summer you rectify. We settled in at a “perfect spot,” right in front of the stage, and we were excited to see the opening band, The Skints. A London-based reggae fusion ska-punk band, I found myself surfing through vibes of The Specials and The Clash throughout their eight-song setlist. Beyond that, it was gobsmacking to see how talented 32-year-old musical wunderkind, Marcia Richards, is on stage. Through songs like “Come to You,” “Lay You Down,” and “Learning How to Swim,” I watched Marcia sing and play a keyboard, a saxophone, a melodica, a flute, and a guitar! The Skints famously do not have long-term record contracts. Instead, they choose to keep creative control of their music by signing one-album deals with indy labels. Their entire fanbase results from a rigorous tour ethic, but what they lacked in worldwide notoriety, they made up for in live entertainment mastery.
The Interrupters were next to take the stage, and they wasted no time in showcasing the black powder explosion that each member brought to the stage. Brothers Justin & Kevin Bivona were flying off of prop boxes while thrashing their subsequent bass or guitar at a rate that would put Crossfit Olympians to shame. Aimee was effortlessly challenging, endearing, fun, and genuinely excited every time she got a pop from the audience. They opened with their rally cry, “Take Back the Power,” and proceeded to go down a set list that made me wonder if the band found fourteen of their songs perfect enough to make a summer stage feel like the party of the year or is their discography just that damn good. Fans jumped and sang without a single enunciation to the band’s hits like “Easy on You,” “She Got Arrested,” and their new single, “In The Mirror.” They even covered Bad Religion‘s Sorrow. And after over an hour of non-stop movement and energy pouring off the stage into the crowd, the band closed with “She’s Kerosene” and vanished off to the side as quickly as they arrived.
The crescendo of the evening was Flogging Molly walking out before the crowd with singer, Dave King, looking immensely grateful and humbled to be where he was at that moment. Ripping right into “Drunken Lullabies,” King and his wife and fellow band member, Bridget Regan, began owning the stage they stood on while drummer Mike Alonso mercilessly stomped his bass pedal to the floor. The party had officially started! Through a thirteen-song tour of songs, it was evident they are now marksmen in pulling a crowd in, while making any size audience feel like they are at an intimate celebration with some close friends. With newer songs like “These Times Have Got Me Drinking,” classics like “If I Ever Leave This World Alive,” and even punk bangers like “Crushed” and “The Seven Deadly Sins,” the night was rife with dancing, singing, and camaraderie on that lawn.
There are so many styles of Punk music, whether it’s Ska capturing the essence of the political critiques of Reggae, Pop that made defiance palatable to the masses on the radio, or even sub-genres like Celtic, which taps into the glorious story-telling that lives in traditional Irish folk music. This show allowed you to move about freely amongst them, getting single-serving samples of the eclectic styles of the raw sound of counter-culture. That’s what Punk Music was about -It’s always been a social response to conformity. It’s always been the proverbial fist in the air at tyranny. More importantly, it has always been the glue that has held together the misfits that refused to fall in line, go with the flow and blindly obey; the free thinkers, the question-askers, and the ones brave enough to self-express. This show reflected how different we all are as fans and united us in how similar we are in the heart.
As diverse as the music performed was, so was the audience. But, rest assured, if you were there, you were with your people, on stage and off.