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Up and down with Flogging Molly.

Byline: Scott McLennan

COLUMN: SCOTT MCLENNAN

When Flogging Molly is cranking full-bore with a gale of guitar, fiddle, mandolin, accordion, bass and drum moving fast over a crowd, it is just about impossible to resist getting swept up in the pure thrill of the music.

And that energetic joy has fueled a nice ride for Flogging Molly, a seven-piece Irish-American band that fuses Celtic folk and rootsy rock 'n' roll for a sound that has found a home among punk rockers. Flogging Molly sells lots of records, plays lots of shows, and crept from the shadow cast by Dropkick Murphys much like Dropkick Murphys crept from the shadow of The Pogues.

And while there's value in being the band that puts a pint into punk rock (just ask the Murphys or Pogues), Flogging Molly front- man Dave King sometimes wonders if people miss the darker aspects of the band. Over the course of an album or concert, Flogging Molly strikes a balance; for every uplifted glass, there is a downtrodden soul, or for every boisterous cheer there is a spot of bleak despair.

"I think in Europe they entirely miss that about this band. We do interviews over there and the darker stuff never comes up," King said. "But it's a very Irish thing to mix downtrodden times and a sense of humor. It's an incredible mix to work with."

"Float" is the next batch of Flogging Molly tunes and due out March 4, and just as King described, there are songs about being up, songs about being down and an attitude of never being out. The band is already on the road in support of "Float" and will be at The Palladium, 261 Main St., Worcester, on Wednesday. The wild and wooly bill also features the swampy country folk of Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band (a trio no less), and gritty Irish rocker The Mighty Stef. The tour marks Flogging Molly's fourth installment of Green 17, a devious way to spread St. Patrick's Day-style reverie over a 17-city road trip that culminate on March 17, which is St. Paddy's traditional day of observance.

And don't worry about not being able to have a copy of "Float" in hand prior to Flogging Molly's show here. King said that all of the band's albums are handy road maps for the shows, but the concerts inevitably take the songs to different places each night. So familiarity is by no means a requirement for enjoyment. Which explains how this band could build such a strong following through

being an opener for bigger bands and a frequent participant in the summer Warped Tour. The band simply knows how to work a crowd and make even the newest of songs feel like something that's been in the air for years.

Conversely, the decade-plus of concert experience among Flogging Molly's members has turned the band into a proficient and gutsy recording combo.

"You know right away if something is an idea that can work," King said. "It's gratifying, and lucky, to have seven people who can be on the same page. It's quite a feat."

King, a Dublin native, settled into Los Angeles, kicking around with a few rock acts before pulling together the band that would become Flogging Molly in 1997. Using traditional folk instruments and playing styles of music that King heard growing up in Ireland and the rock 'n' roll he absorbed here, the band developed a distinct sound, one honed at a nightspot called Molly Malone's. The band played so often at the pub that members felt they were flogging Molly's.

The band consists of King singing and playing guitar, Bridget Regan playing fiddle, pipes and whistles, Dennis Casey playing guitar, Matt Hensley playing accordion, Nathan Maxwell playing bass, Bob Schmidt playing mandolin, banjo and other instruments and George Schmidt on the drums.

Flogging Molly released the album "Swagger" in 2000, and tunes such as "Black Friday Rule" demonstrated in fast fashion the band's dynamic style. The band raised its game with "Drunken Lullabies," proving its popularity was neither fluke nor passing fancy. From that record, "Rebels of the Sacred Heart" remains a mosh-pit-inducing anthem wherever it is played.

The band has also released the album "Within a Mile of Home" and the DVD "Whiskey on a Sunday."

Flogging Molly recorded "Float" in Ireland. King called the sessions a great time and a positive time.

Such spirit transferred to the frenetic "Float" and songs seemingly leap from the disc. "Requiem for a Dying Song" is the sort of fighting-spirt song that Flogging Molly excels at, and here excels with no thought to braking.

The melancholy title track and "On the Back of a Broken Dream" get at the duality of Flogging Molly's songs. The band's folk influences are felt in the lyrics, which are consistently well-tailored.

There is a well-meaning chaos at play on "Float," and King said he hopes that kind of spirit likewise emanates from the Green 17 Tour, an underground democracy of sorts.

"There's a lot of great music going on, and a lot of different stuff that the industry has no idea about, or understands how positive it is," King said. "We may be punk rock, but it's not all fist-in-the-air stuff. It's all just really good music."

Flogging Molly and others

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday

Where: The Palladium, 261 Main St., Worcester

How much: $22 in advance, $25 at the door

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: Flogging Molly, from left: Nathen Maxwell, George Schmidt, Dennis Casey, Bob Schmidt, Dave King, Bridget Regan and Matt Hensley.
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Title Annotation:ETC.
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Feb 17, 2008
Words:927
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