Celtic music, ska, skate punk and reggae were all in attendance last Saturday at Irvine’s FivePoint Amphitheatre, as Flogging Molly and The Interrupters traveling tour began its end journey in the SoCal City. On the warm evening, the party vibes were strong in the audience of OC ska families and punk rockers.
Opening the show was London’s The Skints, a group that mines the deep bass-heavy roots of ska, reggae and dub for a bumping, throwback sound that was perfect for the golden hour. Opening songs “Rubadub (Done Know)” and “Ratatat/No No No” showed off the group’s vocal and lyrical dexterity as they spat out mile-a-minute toasts over mellow grooves. “Tazer Beam”, an anti-police abuse reggae anthem, was a strong reminder of political edge the genre has always had, while they brought a dose of sex appeal with “Lay You Down”. Frontwoman Marcia Richards nimbly moved from her spot on the keys and beat pad to playing saxophone, melodica and even the flute. With features on new tracks by The Interrupters and Bedouin Soundclash, the group is making headway in North America and deservedly so.
While most shows on the tour have been graced by psychobilly group Tiger Army, Irvine had a special guest band with OC legends The Vandals joining to bring their comical brand of catchy, juvenile punk rock to the tour. I wouldn’t be surprised if a large portion of the pit crowd were there just for the old school group, as after running through “Cafe 405” and “Pirate’s Life”, they were bombarded by requests (most of which they couldn’t take as they simply didn’t remember how to play them). They did throw in the bouncy “Pizza Tran” into their setlist, and then got the circle pit revved up with “And Now We Dance”. The band had no problem making fun of themselves, with their self-effacing humor being one of their enduring and endearing qualities. After “Live Fast Diarrhea”, they commented about how old a band should be before they stop playing songs about diarrhea. No answer was agreed upon. They started the holidays early with “Oi to the World”, and closed out their set with their classic single “My Girlfriend’s Dead” and a cover of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” with Warren on vocals that was gloriously rough.
A huge part of the crowd (especially the younger members of the audience) were in attendance for The Interrupters. Girls as young as eight were in the crowd, rocking Interrupters t-shirts and excitedly dancing to the band, while members old enough to be their grandparents were also dressed in checkered shirts with band shirts underneath. The band’s relatively wholesome, positive songwriting has made them a cross-generational success, and their stage presence was joyous as usual.
They got the crowded riled up from the start with their 2014 anthem “Take Back the Power”, and kept the fighting energy going with “Title Holder”. Another factor of the band’s success has been that their songs are great in a live setting and easy for the audience to shout back to the band. After going back in their catalogue to two other oldies (“Judge Not” and “On a Turntable”), the band broke out their first new songs of the night; the very personal singles “In the Mirror” and “Raised by Wolves”. The former, which dissects frontwoman Aimee Interrupter‘s battles with anxiety and depression, carries notes of Madness and The English Beat in its chorus, while the latter is a break-out banger that has been getting stuck in my head since hearing it (see the video of the performance in full above).
Aside from these, and the tour debut of “Worst For Me” later, the setlist stayed mostly with the band’s first three albums. Older, pop-ska numbers like the narrative “She Got Arrested” and singalong “By My Side” were favorites of the older fans, who also would likely not even know Billie Eilish‘s “Bad Guy” if not for the band’s hit cover of it. “Gave You Everything” still carries power whenever the band performs it, and while “Family” felt a little emptier without the usual Tim Armstrong cameo, nothing was needed to fire up the audience for “She’s Kerosene”.
By this time of the night, a good portion of the crowd had clearly filled the coffers of the beer and booze vendors at the amphitheatre. Flogging Molly are a group that inspire good, drunken times, so it was no surprise. Some of it was amusing, with a drunken guy telling a girl sitting behind me “you can’t dress like that and be single”, with him inviting her to get a drink with him. After some hesitation, she agreed, and we would see them still talking fifteen minutes later. Then there was someone who had clearly drank so much that they passed out and had to be taken away by paramedics. So a note to everyone who imbibes at concerts – look out for your fellow concert goers and don’t be afraid to tell them to stop drinking if things are looking bad.
Flogging Molly are one of those bands I tent to only listen to around St. Patrick’s day. Not that I don’t enjoy their rambunctious brand of punk-infused Celtic and Irish folk music, but it’s the type of music that soundtracks a festive celebration so well, that everyday listening to it doesn’t always feel right. Thankfully last night felt immensely festive, so when the band came on went right into their hit “Drunken Lullabies”, I was certainly in the right mood for it. One of the ultimate pub songs, the pit crowd wasted no time in getting their jigs on. People were dancing in the outdoor aisles (as there wasn’t enough room in the seats for the kind of movement these songs required).
The group’s underground punk roots, from the days when they were just coming up playing at Molly Malone’s on Fairfax, came through on early, ragged track “Selfish Man”. Like The Interrupters, Flogging Molly also had a new album to promote, and the first track from that release played was the pandemic-inspired “These Times Have Got Me Drinking/Tripping Up the Stairs”. I know what you’re thinking – a song about drinking from an Irish band; who’d a thunk. But it should be noted that songs like this one aren’t about the reverie of drinking, but about surviving tough times. This may be a reason why they were such good tour mates for The Interrupters; both bands pulse with positivity in their songs and outlook. That can certainly be heard in “Float”, which they played next.
While the entire night was fairly non-political, singer Dave King did take a moment to equate the Irish’s fight for liberty with the current battle the Ukraine is facing against Russia, and dedicated “A Song of Liberty” to their fight for freedom (along with an arena-full of middle fingers directed at Putin). I’ll admit to not being too familiar with the next four songs the band played – all of them had the same peppy swing to them, and showed off the elevated musicianship of the band members (including King’s wife Bridget Regan on the piccolo). It wasn’t until “If I Ever Leave This World Alive”, the sublime and hopeful song from Drunken Lullabies, that my focus returned. The band closed out the night with a rowdy “What’s Left of the Flag”, and an energetic “Seven Deadly Sins”.
All in all, a fun night of good music. Be sure to listen to The Interrupter‘s new album In the Wild and Flogging Molly‘s new album Anthem, and find music from The Skints and The Vandals in those links!