with Strung Out and Larry and His Flask
House of Blues, Orlando, FL • March 7, 2010
Carl F Gauze
Who would have expected a traffic jam on I-4 on a pleasant Sunday evening? Traffic was worse than morning rush hour during bike week, and I arrived at the packed Orlando House of Blues just in time to hear the final chords of opening act Larry and his Flask. I can’t say much about their sound, but the band had a great look. They bounced around the stage with trombones and guitars and maybe even an ocarina, posing like a big band in a Tex Avery cartoon. I met a friend of mine who arrived early; he saw the whole set and was so impressed he bought the T-shirt. Between sets, I noticed that audience hair styles tended toward skinhead buzz cuts with the occasional limp looking mohawk, and nearly everyone had a date. It’s so touching to see couples so in love that she’ll stick with her man to attend the most macho punk rock shows on the road today.
After an amazingly quick equipment change out, Strung Out took the stage with their LA-influenced melodic punk sound. Lead singer Jason Cruz strutted around in tight black jeans, looking like the reincarnation of Jim Morrison. He swung his microphone and tried to climb up on the monitor speakers, but they were too short to allow any real gymnastics. After eight albums, this band is ready to become an overnight sensation. I found their guitar work crisp and refreshing with the technical virtuosity of Eddie Van Halen or Carlos Santana. The crowd listened politely, with only some polite moshing to warm up for the main act. Strung Out played a very tight set, and was offstage by a little after 8. Opening acts can be a mixed bag, but these guys were great and set in motion enough energy to keep the crowd simmering while the roadies were humping speakers and checking cables.
By the time Strung Out had wrapped up, I was lucky enough to grab a spot near the downstairs bar with a decent view of the stage – only a bicep-thick lighting cable interrupted my view. By 8:30 the main event was ready to roll, and the Dropkicks blasted out of the gate with “Do or Die.” Behind them was a full-sized backdrop of what might have been the altar of an Irish country parish – the mix of Christian and pagan imagery proclaimed “We’re Irish, we’ve got heritage, so let’s party!”
So we partied. There were a few breaks between the songs, but most of the evening was spent with a high-energy, high-volume blast that not only kept the crowd on its feet, but made more than a few fans float up on top of the crowd and get passed from hand to hand. There was a blonde in tight shorts and a skimpy T-shirt who everybody got to handle… well, I’m sure that wouldn’t interest you, but she was a mosh pit favorite.
On stage the action was only slightly less involving. Celtic means bagpipes, and Scruffy Wallace began a few songs with the plaintive piping, only to be drowned out as the rest of the band kicked in. Songs were a mix of old and new; I picked out “Black Velvet Band,” “Captain Kelly’s Kitchen,” “Fields of Atheny,”“Dirty Glass,” and “Down in the Mines.” It wasn’t always possible to hear the lyrics, but enough people were singing in the audience to keep you in tune through the loud parts. As the songs rolled along, the backdrop was changed from the church to a cemetery to a pirate skull and crossbones. For a straight ahead rock band, this staging was very impressive.
All things must end, and as the show wrapped up the bouncers allowed a large group of young women on stage to sing along. A few songs remained unplayed as the band escorted the women backstage. Naturally, this left the guys in the pit a little annoyed, not so much over the loss of their dates, but we had yet to hear “Bar Room Heroes.” But the Murphys love their fans, and after we chanted “Let’s go Murphys!” for a while, the band re-appeared. In a particularly trusting move, they now let the guys on stage, and launched into both “Bar Room Heroes” and one of my favorites, “Charlie on the MTA.” At last, it was enough. We were fulfilled, and lost a bit of hearing tonight.
The crowd filtered out, there were no major causalities, and everyone seemed happy and possibly safe to drive. As we crept out of the parking lot, the Murphys mounted their tour bus and headed up to Boston for a five-show run over the St. Paddy’s weekend. I doubt my ears or liver could survive that show.