I've been in San Francisco all of 2 and half days as of the writing of this review. I got here at around 11pm on the night of the 12th, crashing on a friend's couch. While some may not enjoy the details of someone's life, it sets the stage for the concert quite well. While wandering downtown to get a new Social Security card, we walked past the Warfield and saw that Flogging Molly, The Street Dogs and the Briggs were going to be playing. This was kind of a breath of fresh air, because as someone who had previously only been as far west as Chicago, these two bands were nice and familiar. Old friends with whom you could relax and imagine you were sitting in the Newport Music Hall or the Axis.
Due to the newness in the city, we totally missed The Briggs. Completely. We got in as the conductor was alerting us that we had indeed reached the Savin Hill stop, just to see Mike and the rest of the 'Dogs burst into the title track of their first album. For those who aren't in the know on the Street Dogs, they are original Dropkick Murphy's singer Mike McColgan's return to music, sounding more like Do or Die than DKM has in ages. They played through a set of tracks mostly from Savin Hill, including a couple songs from their upcoming disc, Tale of Mass Deception, the title track and "In Defense of Dorchester," an ode to Mike's hometown. While this was the first time I had seen them, the feel of the Boston rock and roll is an old groove that feels good to relax in. Mike was jumping everywhere, Joe Sirois was tending to the skins with great care, and the rest of the band was top notch. They whipped out an "old boston hardcore" song according to Mike, as well as their rendition of "Boston (Borstal) Breakout" to close the set. It was a great set, punctuated by Mike's advice to the crowd that he wasn't going to tell us how to vote, what to think or do, but only that we all needed to get involved. It was as sincere as a plea against apathy that I've ever seen.
Next up we got a nice message from Jello Biafra and the folks at Punkvoter.com. A screen descended to play a video of the Dead Kennedys frontman telling us the evils of our President, a short cut of the Will Ferrell skit on the Rock Against Bush Vol. 2 DVD, and a compilation showing the waffling position of the Bush administration in regards to WMD, Iraq, and the war. It was good stuff, fairly short, and tastefully done.
This year at the Warped Tour, my brother and I were lamenting that while we loved Flogging Molly, after you've seen them more times than you have fingers, their set becomes less than new and exciting. While they are still amazing, I've passed up watching them at least 6 times in the last two years just because I wasn't in the mood. This being the first time I stayed still to watch them in two years, I was impressed at how much was the same, but also at how much is different. Gone are the duct-taped accordions, mandolins and guitars. Brand new are Dave's distinguished facial hair, shiny new instruments, and crowds big enough to fill a huge venue.
However, none of this has changed how hard they play. Flogging Molly consistently play their songs perfectly in my experience. You can't honestly ask for a stronger live band. Because this show was on the same day as the release of their new record, I expected quite a few new songs to be in the set. The opened with "Screaming at the Wailing Wall" from this album, followed by two tracks from their previous two cds. Their set was actually well balanced, relying on classics from Swagger and Drunken Lullabies to keep everyone happy, adding in sparse amounts of tracks from the new CD. Dave and company were on, hitting everything perfectly, keeping the crowd entertained and the set moving. All in all, it was one of the better performances I've seen by them, if not a bit polished.
It's odd to see how far the 'Molly has come since I first saw them. Bridget used to never speak, shying away at the back of the stage. Gone are the days when Dave would get so shitfaced drunk he would forget where he was. I'll probably never be able to see them in a club like Little Brother's in Columbus, OH where the band hangs out with the crowd afterwards, hugging and shaking hands with everyone possible. Times changes, bands get bigger, and you move from coast to coast. But the songs stay the same, and while the selection and the presentation can be altered slightly, Flogging Molly will always put on a show that makes me smile and makes me feel at home.