For weeks before the show I had multiple friends asking me whether or not I was going to review and photograph Flogging Molly. I’ll be honest, I knew of them and what their sound was like, but never followed them closely. I knew they had a large fan following as well. So, I figured this would be a great opportunity to review a different style of music to provide a very unbiased view. The show was on Sunday, March 26th at the House of Blues in Orlando.
I was just at House of Blues the night before covering Blue October. I arrived around 7 PM when the doors opened, picked up my photo credentials, and headed inside. Now, Blue October fans came out in droves the night before. But that crowd was nothing compared the mass amount of people that were already inside. I was stunned. This crowd was probably as big if not bigger than when Breaking Benjamin came to town. This was indeed a sold out show and it appeared everyone with a ticket showed up. I squeezed my way past people over to the photo pit. By 8 PM, Skinny Lister made their way onto the stage and crowd gave a cheer.
Skinny Lister is a modern day English folk group who’s ballads, folkie idylls, and maybe even a sea shanty or two who wants to get the crowd dancing and smiling. The band members are Dan Heptinstall (vocals, guitar, and stomp box), Max Thomas (melodeon and mandolin), Lorna Thomas (vocals), Thom Mills (drums), Sam Brace (guitar and concertina), and Scott Milsom (double bass). And they wasted no time getting the crowd moving as they opened up with “Wanted” from their most recent album The Devil, The Heart, & The Fight.
The song is very upbeat, very fast, and you definitely pick up the folk sound right away. The crowd was absolutely loving it. Dan and Lorna’s vocals blended smoothly and both have vocals filled with pure joy and heart. Their music reaches out to the crowd to engage them. The followed up with “George’s Glass” from their second album Down on Deptford Broadway. Lorna took over on lead vocals for once again another engaging folk song. The band overall was having a great time engaging the crowd to sing along.
While photographing in the pit the lighting was varied between reds, yellows, and blues. I captured images of the band but found myself focused on Scott Milsom and this massive double bass that he strummed. During the songs he would spin it and dip it all without missing a note. The instrument is amazing to see on stage, but to see someone handle and play it so fluidly was breathtaking. Scott was quite comfortable and from the smile on his face having a great time.
They followed up with “Geordie Lad” also from The Devil, The Heart, & The Fight. This song sounded closer to a pop song than a folk song with Dan taking back over on lead vocals. It was a very catchy tune and I could hear the crowd behind me singing the chorus with the band. Afterwards, I left the pit and headed upstairs to get some more shots of the band.
From upstairs I heard the band continue on with songs such as “Devil In Me”, “Bold As Brass”, and “John Kanaka”. I snapped off some shots of the band and also some of the crowd. I watched and thought that the crowd was moshing. I realized they weren’t moshing, but they were dancing! And I completely understood why. Skinny Lister was feeding them energy and encouraging the crowd to party. I worked my way back downstairs to enjoy the rest of the set.
The band went back to the first full length album ‘Forge & Flagon’ performing “Rollin Over” and “Trouble on Oxford Street” as I made my way back towards the pit stairs. They then started “17 Summers” from their ‘Forty Pound Wedding’ EP. It is a slower melodic song. As they sang it, Lorna stepped down off the stage and went into the crowd. Security was keeping a very close eye on her, but the crowd was well behaved. And the reason Lorna went into the crowd was to dance with people! She took someone by the hands and circled with them for a moment and moved on to someone else. She did this a few times before making her way back into the crowd.
They finished off their set with “This Is War” which sounded like a sea shanty song you’d hear on board a pirate ship. And finally ended with “Forty Pound Wedding” from their ‘Forty Pound Wedding’ EP. When they finished the crowd provided them with a lot of hooting, hollering, and applause in appreciation. Skinny Lister certainly made a great impression on me and they obviously made an impression on the audience.
The crowd was definitely ready for more and Flogging Molly did not keep them waiting too long. It seemed they were just as anxious to get on stage as the crowd. I headed back down into the pit as Flogging Molly made it’s onto the stage. The band currently consists of Dave King (lead vocals, acoustic guitar, bodhran), Bridget Regan (violin, tin whistle, backing and lead vocals), Dennis Casey (guitar, vocals), Matt Hensley (accordion, concertina, vocals), Nathen Maxwell (bass guitar, vocals), Bob Schmidt (mandolin, banjo, vocals), and Mike Alonso (drums) took their places on stage and started off with “Salty Dog” from ‘Swagger’.
Right away it’s upbeat pace had the crowd dancing as Dave sang and Matt pumped out notes on the accordion. The band was immediately in a groove as they played. Dave was fiery and inciting the crowd to dance and jump with his hands. And the more they did, the fiercer he got. He was definitely feeding off the crowd’s energy and he seemed quite pleased with the response they provided. They followed up with “The Hand of John L. Sullivan” another fast paced song to keep the crowd moving along.
Their music, if you’ve never heard them before, sounds Celtic, though is infused with a little bit punk and a little bit of rock. And the one thing that is clear, it provides them with their own unique sound. Their songs, much like folk music, are stories they want to tell. And if you listen to the lyrics you can hear there are strong messages behind their music and it has to have meaning and heart. Their fans hear it and I think it’s part of the reason why their fan base is so strong. Other than the fact that they make it fun and exciting to both see and hear.
The lighting for their sets were primarily yellows or reds or blues, mixed in with white. And all of the band members were so animated on stage, moving around, standing next to each other while they sang backup vocals, and all around having fun. And as if Flogging Molly didn’t think the crowd was pumped enough they played “Swagger” from ‘Drunken Lullabies’. Even faster than the first two the crowd bounced and danced and sang along. And then people started bodysurfing. Me and the two other photographers dodged and weaved as people made their way into the pit and security quickly ushered them out. And suddenly the song was over and I made my way out of the pit.
I immediately headed upstairs to get some shots of Mike since I couldn’t see the drums from the pit. The view from the balcony was great seeing a jubilant crowd experiencing Flogging Molly. It was my first time experiencing them and I was having a great time. As I took more pictures from both sides of the balcony some of the songs they played included “The Worst Day Since Yesterday”, “Saints & Sinners”, and “Life In Tenement Square”.
I made my way back downstairs to try to get to the soundboard. But, since it was so crowded it was difficult to find a spot. By chance or fate, I happen to find a spot only to realize I was standing next to my friends Joel and Tabbitha! They happily made a little room for me so I could get some more shots from right behind the soundboard. Some other songs they played included “Float”, “Laura”, and “Rebels of a Sacred Heart”. During their set that evening, Dave sadly announced to the crowd one of their roadies and close friend, Badger, would be retiring after the tour was over. Dave said they would miss him and asked the crowd give him a big middle finger for leaving, which they happily obliged.
Through all of their set I was amazed. Dave and Bridget provide amazing vocals and vocal harmony. Also, Bridget’s violin and tin whistle playing is great. I only thought Blue October was the only rock band that used violins. Matt’s accordion work was great and I truly loved that I could hear them clearly within their music. Dennis, Nathan, and Bob all did spectacular work and I truly enjoyed seeing their camaraderie on stage. And Mike on the drums did stellar work. I found myself smiling and singing along to their songs.
After completing their set with “What’s Left of the Flag”, the band waved and stepped off stage. They came back quickly enough not to leave the audience waiting too long. Dave announced that the band would be releasing a new album soon and they wanted to play a song from it. They performed “Guns of Jericho” which is a song they’ve had an prior tours but is finally being realized on the new album. And lastly finished with “The Seven Deadly Sins”. Dave and the band thanked the Orlando crowd for their support as they said goodbye. The band waved to crowd, hugged each other on stage, and shared a drink before walking off stage.
Flogging Molly live is a memorable and unique musical experience no one should miss. Between the well written songs, a very jovial crowd, and an band that’s fun and musically talented, I’d highly recommend for anyone to see this show. Even if you’ve never seen Flogging Molly before, you’ll walk out as a fan when the night is done. I’m certainly looking forward for their return visit to Orlando.