For many, Celtic Punk is a genre solely regulated to a St Patricks Day playlist at 3am. The inaugural performance by one of the styles' greats Flogging Molly at the Powerstation was not only one hell of a hooley, but it also emphasised the importance of Celtic Punk within the genre as a whole and in these uncertain political times.
Both punk and traditional Celtic music use the medium as a way to fight against oppression and authority. Historically, the relationship between Ireland and England has been one of misrule, deliberate starvation, racism, uprisings, banning religion and mother tongues to wield power and influence. Starting from the 17th century, traditional music was used as a way to counter this suffocation of culture and human life. The rebel songs that stretch back centuries describe the hardships of living under oppressive British rule but also celebrate solidarity, determination, loyalty and despite difficulties, having a bloody good time. By the time punk hit in 1976, the Irish were roughly a decade into Na Trioblóidí (The Troubles) so the marriage between the two genres was not only inevitable, but necessary.
For the last 20 years, Irish-American Celtic Punk band Flogging Molly have made a name for themselves for their live shows brimming with heart and the seven-piece did not put a foot wrong all night. From the moment lead singer Dave King stepped out onstage, he immediately won the crowd over with his warm charisma that felt utterly genuine; like we were sitting in his living room and he was just entertaining us over a few Guinness that he kept handing out to the crowd over the barrier.
King’s remarkable energy did not wane once throughout the hour and a half set. His growl as biting as ever, his humour was jovial and delivered with a twinkle in his eye and his heart on his sleeve as he touched on the deaths of his parents and the Christchurch Terrorist Attacks throughout the course of the evening, making him the consummate frontman.
With such a variety of instruments up on the stage (fiddle, tin whistle, Bodhrán, accordian, banjo, plus your standard punk four-piece, there was a risk of the whole thing turning to nothing but a cacophony. But Flogging Molly skillfully wove the two genres together that celebrated the commonalities and uniqueness of each.
The musical structure of each song relies just as much on traditional reels as they do on a punk snarl. They are songs that make you want to drink, and dance, love and fight, laugh and cry in equal measures and that balance of the light and dark shone through their well thought out set which tempered rollicking numbers that got the crowd spilling their beer in excitement (Drunken Lullabies, Salty Dog) with more pensive fare (Life in Tenement Square, If I Ever Leave This World Alive) that caused the audience to fling their arms around each other and sing along to every word.
This notion of unity, of joy and love that underpinned the evening is something we need now more than ever and it was a real privilege to be a part of; here’s hoping they come back soon.
Go raibh maith agat Flogging Molly.