with Frank Turner, The Architects
House of Blues, Orlando, FL • February 16, 2010
It was ironic that the opening night of Flogging Molly’s two-show stint at the Orlando House of Blues fell on the eve of Lent because the only thing the band and their fans planned on giving up was their inhibitions and, maybe, a good night’s sleep. According to the wisdom of the Irish pub punk band’s jolly front man Dave King, that was perfectly acceptable. “Life’s too short to give up things you enjoy,” he proclaimed.
It’s also too short to waste time listening to bad music, so glory to your chosen God that this year’s Green 17 Tour was of the utmost quality.
Bathing the stage in sweat as if their lives depended on it, The Architects from Kansas City (not to be confused with the UK metalcore band of the same name) played like a bunch of punk kids who just discovered heavy metal. Black Sabbath chords and semi-epic guitar solos snuck up into otherwise straightforward melodic punk songs, and though it doesn’t sound like it should have worked, it came together quite seamlessly.
It was a safe bet to make that when The Architects took the stage, they did so in front of a virgin crowd. Aside from a short run on last year’s Warped Tour, these guys have yet to bust into the majority ruling class of popular music, but it can’t be for lack of intention. Tireless singer/guitarist Brandon Phillips punished his vocal chords as well as his knees from repeated falls to the stage in guitar play ecstasy, while lead guitarist Keenan Nichols threw off a half-dozen jump kicks and even a duck walk or two. Bassist Zach Phillips kept to the shadows but nearly burst a blood vessel in his neck from screaming along as a backing vocalist, and drummer Adam Phillips was the cornerstone of the sound, keeping the punk and the metal mixing fluently. “Bastards at the Gate” and “Pills” had the newbie crowd of listeners all hot and bothered and by set’s end these lowly openers had erected one hot room. Warming up a crowd? No problem for these confident rockers.
Hot on their heels was London’s Frank Turner. When last Turner came through town it was as part of The Revival Tour, the ensemble tour put on annually by Hot Water Music’s Chuck Ragan. He was acoustic, he was largely unknown, and he was brilliant. This time through town Turner had himself backed by a full band and was performing in front of a fun and frisky Flogging Molly crowd. Needless to say, his punk rock spiked lyrics and sing-a-long folk songs about revolution (“Sons of Liberty”), life on the road (“The Road”), and rockstars who are dicks (“Try This at Home”) was like a custom brew for this thirsty crowd. They lapped up every moment of the young songwriter’s set, especially when he invited an audience member up onstage to take a harmonica for a spin on a song.
Turner is a little bit Bruce Springsteen, a little bit Joe Strummer, and – yes – a little bit Flogging Molly. That adds up to one delicious delicacy.
Flogging Molly comes through town at least once a year like clockwork, and yet this band never fails to churn up the Orlando fans into a frothy, frolicking, beautiful mess. Their songs celebrate and commemorate life and all of its luxuries and losses. Their band includes a banjo, a mandolin, a violin, and an accordion (fun fact: played by former pro-skateboarder Matt Hensley), in addition to the usual suspects of guitar, drums, and bass. On paper they don’t exactly scream “MOSH PIT,” but one formed before the welcoming applause had time to die down, and it never let up. Such is the magnetic, genre-defying draw of this band that isn’t anywhere near as street punk as their peers Dropkick Murphys, but is every bit as powerful onstage.
Flame-haired front man Dave King sucked down beers between songs and urged the room to follow suit. His smile loomed bright, and he often became so overwhelmed by the music that he screamed while dancing with his guitar across the stage. His energy should be bottled and sold at the door… maybe it was. It would explain all of the happy faces that never even broke when bodies toppled over top of their heads – happy faces that even found their way onto the mouths of the men in the Security shirts.
As for the set list, it was all playlist worthy. “Requiem For a Dying Song” got the party started early, “The Worst Day Since Yesterday” allowed the room to scream through their life’s frustrations, “You Won’t Make a Fool Out of Me” let them laugh at their problems, and an acoustic performance of “Float” surely must have brought a tear to an eye or two. It was the kind of concert that reminds music fans why they go to shows in the first place. Some forms of music are best when celebrated with a roomful of strangers.