I can not express to you the excitement I felt when walking into The Armory on Friday night. I was about to see a line-up that I had only seen in my dreams before. Sure, I have seen Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys on many occasions but never together. That changed last night and being able to see the two leading Irish-punk bands on the same stage at the same show was truly everything I could have asked for and more.
Kicking off the night was Jake Burns– the singer of Stiff Little Fingers from Northern Ireland (yeah, because the lineup wasn’t already freaking amazing– this was just the icing on the cake). Stiff Little Fingers is a band that, although I don’t listen to them on the daily, there’s no denying their influence and power in the scene. Since 1977, SLF have been putting out music that is so distinctively theirs. With a break for a couple of years and only a couple releases here and there, I had come to terms that SLF was one of those bands that I was just never going to catch live. Enter- singer Jake Burns to the enormous stage at the Armory and, although the rest of the crowd seemed a little surprised to see the Irishman and an acoustic guitar take the stage, the excitement bubbled up in me and exploded in the form of shouting lyrics to some of the most influential lyrics that truly kicked off the Irish-punk sound that many in the crowd currently worship. It must have been tough for Jake to be the soloist before the two heaving hitting punk bands to come but he made the best of it with cute little anecdotes between songs. Claiming to be the “Dollar Store Ed Sheeran”, Jake’s set was short and sweet and full of laughs and iconic songs. Sure, majority of the crowd seemed a bit more interested in their ongoing conversations but I’m sure everyone in the sold out venue spent at least a couple of moments marveling at Jake’s voice, music, and passion.
After a quick change-over it was time for the first of the two heavy-hitting headliners- Flogging Molly. As soon as the seven piece took the stage the audience turned into a sweaty mess as they pushed and shoved their way through the extensive set of up beat jigs and almost punk-like vibes. Although based in Los Angeles, Flogging Molly has a very authentic Irish sound to them. Maybe that’s due to the fact that singer Dave King is from Dublin or it’s the jaw-dropping musicianship of all of the members as they play on traditional instruments such as the accordion, tin whistle, mandolin, etc. Regardless of what it was, throughout their set it was hard to remember that it was June, not March and St. Patrick’s Day. Hell, the only thing that St Patrick’s Day has that last night didn’t was green beer (and that may be a blessing).
With a fifteen song set, Flogging Molly did a great job of playing some songs that I never thought I would hear them perform live and songs that are tried and true favorites of people who may not be super into the band. Playing their hit song ‘Drunken Lullabies’ third really seemed to set the audience off on a track of chaos that would last throughout the night. Even with the excitement, drunkness, and smiles that took over everyone’s faces, there were moments of pure beauty including when Dave dedicated ‘If I Ever Leave This World Alive’ to famed chef (and honestly a freaking rockstar) Anthony Bourdain who passed away earlier in the day. It was those brief moments of sensitivity mixed with the pure insanity that a Flogging Molly concert typically turns into that made last night’s set absolutely freaking perfect.
The crowd was already beyond sweaty and drunk by the time Dropkick Murphys took the stage but I wouldn’t have wanted to any other way. Much like Flogging Molly, Dropkick has a very Irish feel to them but where Flogging Molly tends to go the more traditional sounding route, Dropkick goes more the way of the punk scene. With nearly (or over, I honestly lost count) a twenty song set, Dropkick had the audience in a fury the entire time. With beers being spilled all around me and strangers hugging and singing along to the words while holding each other– the headlining set was nothing short of a dream. Since 1996, this band has been making bagpipes cool and, as a bagpipe played myself, it’s something that I fell head over heels for with my first listen. Beyond my bagpipe obsession, Dropkick’s music is just as iconic as that of Stiff Little Fingers and Flogging Molly. Each of the three band brought something to the table when it came to Friday night’s show and that made the show feel like it just flew by and, when it was all said and done, I was left with a sore face from smiling and screaming along to the lyrics so much.
With a new tattoo on my arm, I found myself trying to stand off to the side and towards the back a little bit due to the fact that every bump felt like daggers. Because of that I wasn’t able to see the crowd all that well (or even the stage) but I could feel the energy and see the carnage as people stumbled off of the floor and up towards the bar to get another drink that they clearly didn’t need. Typically shows where there are this many drunk people annoy me but there was something different about last night. Everyone was just having the time of their life and it was clear that majority of the crowd was like me and just honored to be able to see such a killer line-up.
As mentioned, being able to see Dropkick and Flogging Molly on the same bill was something I had only ever dreamed of and the thousands of people around me seemed to share that sentiment. I had played through what a show would be like with both Flogging Molly and Dropkick on the same bill. I knew what songs I wanted to hear and knew what I wanted the crowd to be like. That dream came to life last night and to say it was perfect would be an understatement.