Sunday was the first nice, sunny day we have had in the lower mainland for a few weeks. I tried to take advantage of it as best as I could; mowed the lawn, went for a walk by the water, and just absorbed as much of those warm rays as I could.
To top off the perfect day, I was ecstatic to be heading to the downtown core to take in Irish-American seven-piece Celtic punk band Flogging Molly. They don’t come through Vancouver too often, so this was a special occasion. I was smiling before I walked through the venue doors, so as I walked up the stairs I was felt ready to take on the world.
The Irish singer-songwriter took the stage and quickly sat down on a modest chair before the crowd. He was a happy soul, eager to share his music. As he pulled up his acoustic guitar, I noticed he had a harmonica mounted to a holder on his neck and that his feet were placed purposefully; one on a box with a cable running to it and the other on a tambourine. Walshe jumped into his set and, although he was by himself, he produced multi-instrumental pieces on his own. He had a rhythmic high-hat sound from the tambourine under his left foot as he tapped it in time and the bumping bass line came from the box under his right foot. His vocals were equal amounts guttural and sweet. From delicate notes held trembling in the air to powerful growls that sent shivers down my spine. I knew nothing about this musician before I watched his set but after I was impressed and frantically searched my phone to follow his socials. Check out one of his more recent tracks, “Lady Lee”.
This American musician, Jake Smith aka The White Buffalo, travels with a band but on this night, we were lucky to get a solo show. The burly man with the grizzled beard and tattered blonde locks stepped on stage. Three rear spot lights lit him from the roof. He picked up his well-loved, dark sunburst Taylor acoustic and pulled the strap around his body. After a few pleasantries, he leaned into his set. I was awestruck by his vocals. I had heard him compared to Eddie Vedder before, and you could hear the similarities in his vibrato and cadence but there was so much more to it. His voice was more like Vedder and the Macho Man Randy Savage had a love child and only let him express his emotions through song. Like I said, I was awestruck. His tender heart poured out from song to song. From tender, passionate guitar to vocal harmonies to visceral, explosions of raspy howling.
In listening to the crowd around me, I had heard more than a few say they had come to this show just to see The White Buffalo. It was easy to see why.
Let me preface this by saying I have never seen this Irish-American seven-piece Celtic punk band live. I had always been told, by many faithful Floggers, they are a must see act but those type of claims are thrown around way to frivolously these days. The stage filled with theatrical smoke and then the band quickly walked out, standing before the eager audience. They introduced themselves and then started the night with “The Hand Of John L. Sullivan”, the first song from the band’s upcoming sixth studio album, 2017’s “Life Is Good”. The stage, and the crowd, instantly exploded into a chaotic energy. Lead singer, Dave King, hopped and danced around the stage with fervor. I was in love. My eyes couldn’t pick a place to stay focused. King was the most active but that energy was coming from each member of the group.
On the right side of the stage we had Bob Schmidt, on Banjo/Mandolin, and Dennis Casey, on guitar, frantically plucking and strumming and sharing a mic.
On the left side of the stage we had Nathen Maxwell, on bass, and Matt Hensley, on accordion, working hard and bouncing in time.
Down the middle, with singer Dave King, we had Bridget Regan, on violin, and Mike Alonso, on Drums, with a calm cool about them.
Each song was a party, a sing along with everyone under that roof. It felt like a family all just having a great time. No one was self-confident or afraid to just be crazy. There was no judgement.
As the set rolled on, the floor area turned into a huge mosh pit and the streams of crowd surfers started pouring across the outstretched fingers of the audience like salmon on a conveyor belt, flopping about.
By mid-set, I found my way to the balcony overlooking the show from the back of the venue. You could visibly see the sweat and beer evaporating off the hardworking mosh pit members in the form of steam.
All the claims I had heard about this band were true. They deliver one of the best live shows you can see. Even if you didn’t love the music, which I did, you couldn’t help but be captivated by the energy and comradery and just awesomeness.
I walked away from this show wanting more. I truly hope they return to our fair city more often, this needs to be a yearly ritual, at least.
To all three bands, I would like to say thank you for the music and the emotion and the work ethic. You have earned a lifelong fan in me.