Flogging Molly at Tempe Beach Park 3/17/12

Flogging Molly Tempe Beach Park Saturday, March 17, 2012


St. Patrick's Day is the one day a year where we confuse the warm fuzzies we have for our fellow man for outright hostility. It's also the one day a year we get to punish our bodies for being Irish. At least that's what it felt like I was doing last night.

If you live in the Valley, it's also a magical time when weekend warriors take to Tempe Beach Park to show off faded eyes and their treasure trove of shamrock goodies. Oh, and one of the biggest Celtic rock bands plays every year.

See our full Flogging Molly slideshow.

2012 marks the 8th year Flogging Molly has visited Tempe Beach Park. I once interviewed bassist Nathen Maxwell and asked just why in the hell a band of their stature would play Phoenix every year of all places. Basically, he said, Phoenix gave them a great start. Back when alternative radio was still on the FM, The Edge 103.9 gave them a boost that raised their stature from Los Angeles bar-rockers to the official Tempe St. Patrick's Day band.

And yes, the show was every bit the beautiful, tackily Celtic clusterfuck you'd imagine.

Sometime between getting the runaround at the ticket office and getting beer knocked all over me, Flogging Molly took the stage and went right into one of their biggest hits, "Drunken Lullabies." Of course, being that nine other bands, including Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, had been playing since 1 p.m., people were starting to feel a bit loopy on their $7 beers. It's tough not to be distracted by the crowd if you actually just came for the music.

I'm always impressed by the amount of energy lead singer Dave King brings to the table each year. Maybe it's the fact the he's Irish, but the Guinness he drinks on stage seems to fuel his performance, rather than weigh him down. With wife Bridget Regan by his side on fiddle and tin whistle, the band essentially gave the same performance I've seen for the past three years. When there's nothing but utter chaos around you, it's nice to have that sort of consistency.

I have no doubt that if I decided to go to Flogging Molly next year, I'd see a group of hard working, slightly buzzed musicians that are ready to give Tempe the best future hangover ever.

Flogging Molly has a knack for getting songs stuck in your head. Even as I was trying to fall asleep last night, "Float" was stuck in my head, thanks to Regan's infectious fiddle lines and the uplifting lyrics of 2011's Speed of Darkness. The band wanted to uplift Detroit in the height of the recession, and even if you have a thousand drunks around you, lyrics like "Tomorrow smells of less decay/The flowers, quick, just bloom and fray/Be thankful, that's all you can" still hit home, packed with sincerity.

The band capped the night with an impressive cover of Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are a-Changin." American folk, of course, has its roots in Celtic music, so you wouldn't expect anything other than a seamless transition between the two.

Even drunk, it's easy to see that Flogging Molly isn't just another piece of St. Patrick's Day kitsch.

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night:Flogging Molly at Tempe Beach Park.

Overheard in the crowd: Too many explanations about the conditions of the port-o-lets.

Personal bias: I'm a sucker for anything that sounds Celtic... annnnd I was also pretty drunk.

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Christina Caldwell