Backstage at the Knitting Factory in New York, the L.A.-based Irish-punk septet Flogging Molly is getting ready to take the stage. As the players squeeze by us at the foot of the narrow stairwell, singer Dave King takes me into his confidence with an especially poignant remembrance. The Dublin-born King relates the story of a call he got from his wife while on the road.
"She says, 'Something very weird happened. I went to a friend of mine's house and there was this psychic there. She said, "You miss your husband, don't you? His father, he's dead, isn't he? His name was Richard, right? He wants Dave to know to not stop talking to him. The songs that he's writing, he hears."'" Tears welling in the corners of his eyes, King says, "It made me feel so immensely happy and infinitely sad at the same time."
That's Flogging Molly in a nutshell. Boisterous energy and irrepressible spirit pour from their songs like a fountain. Using traditional Irish folk instruments the fiddle, mandolin and accordion the band infuses the songs with a punk rock attitude, coming off somewhere between an earthier Dropkick Murphys and a less sodden version of The Pogues. What truly separates them from other acts is King's ability to work tales both bitter and sweet.
"It's one of the things I love about what we do," King claims. "One night we played, we played 'Life in a Tenement Square,' I remember it so vividly. It was such a hard life. With no water, nothing. British army barracks. And I look down and see people dancing and singing. And I thought, 'I am so glad to see so many people happy from such a miserable fucking song.'"
Originally plucked from home as a teen and made the lead singer of former Motörhead guitarist Fast Eddie Clarke's band Fastway, it took years for King to find his own voice. It was only after hitting bottom (including the requisite drug/alcohol abuse) after Fastway and an abortive major label solo deal when King began pouring his life into this little pick-up band at the local bar that he found what he really wanted to say. That honesty has propelled Flogging Molly to success, but King's never lost track of that initial thread.
"Success to me as a human being and as a musician is writing a song, and I've realized that now. Success is sitting at home at a table with my guitar, maybe having some whiskey and Guinness, and sitting there and pouring out a part of me I never thought I could do, and that to me is success," King says, with a self-conscious chuckle. "Every song that I sit down and write, it's not for you. It's for me."
with Scotch Greens, Rolling Blackout
7:30 pm Friday, Feb. 24
House of Blues