NEW YORK, NY—I would say it is pretty rare to be able to judge the quality of a show based on the people standing in line outside of it. Sure, you could probably guess the genre, the vibe, maybe how much energy there will be once inside the venue, but you can not determine how good or bad the show will be simply based on whoever happens to be waiting on line behind you.
When I went to see Flogging Molly at the Hammerstein Ballroom on Feb. 15, I figured out just how good of a show I was in for before I even got patted down. On line behind me, there was a group of about 10 guys, all beyond the usual state of drunkenness generally acceptable for pre-gaming for a concert. And, as you probably guessed once I used the words “drunk” and “Flogging Molly” in the same paragraph, they were repeatedly belting the same British drinking song at the top of their lungs, oftentimes forgetting lyrics and slurring through any unsure passages or melodies.
After entering the building and losing contact with the drunk horde, I proceeded to look for a spot to watch while Flogging Molly’s crew started sound checking the venue (Note: Hammerstein Ballroom has an excellent sound system that can send pulsating bass notes from the stage all the way to the very back of the balcony).
In a matter of about 30 minutes, Flogging Molly took the stage and, let me say, never before have I seen such a giant group of people all jumping around and dancing ludicrously at once. I’ve been to a fair amount of shows and I’ve seen (and participated in) a fair amount of dance pits but, my God, there was literally not a single person at this show standing still. Every single body was being thrown about in a maniacal, uncontrollable cross between an Irish Jig and the skanking normally seen at American punk/ska concerts.
Flogging Molly ripped through a slew of regular crowd-pleasers from “Drunken Lullabies” to “What’s Left Of The Flag” to “Salty Dog,” but of course every now and then, they were kind enough to play a slow one such as “Float” and “Far Away Boys” and let the audience have a moment to catch its breath before resuming the riot.
One thing that I feel should not be left unmentioned is the absolutely stellar drum skills of George Schwindt. On Flogging Molly’s studio albums you can tell Schwindt is a stellar drummer, but live on stage the man is the atomic bomb of percussion. In a live setting, he is the band’s engine, propelling the music (and the dancing) farther and further with every single snare roll and four-to-the-floor kick drum bounce. Even though he was staged behind the rest of the band for most of the show, his playing shined through the mix, giving the rest of the group a solid foundation upon which to build the songs and send the audience deeper into a Guinness-drenched frenzy.