CELTIC PUNK- FASHION OR PASSION?

or probably the closest we’ll ever get to interviewing Flogging Molly!
By Mark Matthews
Flogging Molly vs Dropkick Murphys

I’m pretty sure I can place the exact moment when Monday’s Dropkick Murphy’s show stomped into my Top Five List of Kick-Arse Concerts.

The ever-popular ballad “Boys on the Dock” had just finished and the crowd — fueled by pints and punk — decided to storm the stage like a bunch of World War I soldiers attacking a bunker. Two minutes later, band members were in the air and the stage seemed more crowded than the floor.

It was wonderful, beautiful chaos.

But the charge didn’t surprise me. Punk shows, Irish punk shows in particular, always spiral into rowdy, beer-soaked affairs — usually before the first band gets off the stage.

What got me was the number of people — never had I seen the House of Blues so packed. Which got me to thinking — has Irish punk, my favorite niche genre of music, completely lost its niche status?

To answer my question, I decided to look at the twin towers of Irish punk: Dropkick Murphys, a bagpipe band with harder punk leanings, and Flogging Molly, a lighter, seven-member group with more traditional Irish instruments.

And I turned to America’s premier expert on Irish punk — University of Colorado sociologist Carolyn Matthews.

In addition to being my little sister, “C” has an extensive knowledge of Irish punk supplemented by a recent interview with Flogging Molly.

Ring. Ring.

M: OK, Ms. Matthews, a little background: Where’d you grow up?

C: Umm, right down the hall from you, idiot. In the same bloody Irish Catholic home you did.

M: OK, let’s say I like the music on the radio. What’s the broad appeal in going to a concert like the Dropkick Murphys or Flogging Molly?

C: Basically, like all punk, it’s the release. And Irish punk rockers are a little different. They’re more lighthearted and more out there to have a good time. And look at the lyrics: it’s drinking, barroom heroes and drinking.

M: So, then, has mainstream culture taken hold of it?

C: Well, I was at a show in Denver and saw two drunk college girls whose only piercing probably was their belly button. And they were next to punk fans who were obviously upset about it. They didn’t have the same appreciation for the music.

M: We talking sell-out then?

C: I wouldn’t dare say that Flogging Molly has sold out. It’s just become more appreciated by more people. And I wouldn’t argue that it’s gone mainstream although I do see a lot more Flogging Molly T-shirts around campus.

M: Like how everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day? Or like that one article in The Onion that talked about the dude who was proud of his, like, 1/16 Irish heritage.

C: I think I asked Dave King [the frontman for Flogging Molly] about the popularity and stuff and how they keep getting bigger. He was on The Jimmy Kimmel Show recently and he had “No War” taped to his guitar. And they got a lot of hate mail for it. He said, `I don’t want those people at my shows. I want people who want to embrace everybody.’

M: Sounds more hippie than punk. When I talked to Ken Casey from Dropkick Murphy’s, he mentioned something about being “just a punk band” that oftentimes tries to ignore the celtic angle and just be hard-core. And I seem to remember a shout-out to the troops during Monday’s concert too.

C: Maybe it has the do with the roots of South Boston.

M: Yeah, the working-class roots.

C: Or maybe it’s just the maturity factor of the bands.

M: So then, with the increased popularity of Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphy’s has Irish punk lost its niche status?

C: Hmm. Is the specialty no longer special? I guess because of the diversity of instruments — modern and traditional — the sound is going to always sound fresh.

M: And think Ken Casey had it right. The Pogues started it out, but there are a lot of bands that try to do it but don’t do it well. So maybe quality Irish punk is still a niche.

So there you have it. Most definitely celtic-punk is about passion but gotta say that flat caps do look cool as feck!! 

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8 thoughts on “CELTIC PUNK- FASHION OR PASSION?

  1. Yosh Robert August 9, 2014 at 9:52 am Reply

    It’s a passion. Fond lover of the pogues, molly, DKM, the dubliners, the tossers, the young dubliners.

  2. Ryan 'Corleone' Adhyatma August 9, 2014 at 10:36 am Reply

    Well, just my opinion.. as like as Ken’s saying about “just punk band”, I agree that Celtic-punk (about music and passion) so different in each other place… Punk can be seen where was roots born…
    as well as Indonesian Celtic-punk style, is very different…. And the album a little Wind From The Foreign (compilation) is the present of Indonesian Celtic-Punk… and we pride 🙂
    cheers matey

  3. Thomas Moran August 9, 2014 at 12:46 pm Reply

    It’s a passion I do love the Murphy’s, Molly, Pogues, Tossers and the Mahones

  4. Steph O'Piztt August 10, 2014 at 9:22 am Reply

    ah! Interesting! salute ! 😀
    well, my opinion .. about fashion, or passion, or about whether a band sold out or not … I personally feel it is a classic conversation (or sometimes even become heated debate), not only at this time, when I was in celtic punk scene, but far back, in mid 2000, when I first got into punk .. and people always have different opinions in this regard. Sometimes I also think, if a band that a lot of people call it “sold out”, if they really want to be “sold out”? not necessarily … they may also be great because there are many people who really like their music, and of course after they become “great band”, there will be a lot of things will change … even maybe they not have a desire to be “sold out “.. haha that’s just my opinion anyway, because I’ve never been faced with a situation of” being great ” like that. 🙂
    yep, sometimes I feel “tired” when arguing about it. ( why we don’t just sit and drink together and listen to the music ) hahaha
    and about Celtic punk, when I first went into it, which I feel is.. I’m really interested !! :). of course, the first is due to the music., and for other matters related to this, I’m just trying to keep learning,
    Well .. Flogging Molly or Dropkick Murphys , no doubt, they are the first one I listen to., before I knew, that there are a lot of great bands out there 🙂

  5. Renato Sandino August 10, 2014 at 7:55 pm Reply

    I remember Ken Casey saying they’re against the war, but they were going to support their American fellows anywhere they go, so there’s that. Other than that, nice article, man. Here in Brazil Irish Punk is still a very small niche, though.

  6. Prenna August 10, 2014 at 10:20 pm Reply

    I don’t think lots of people being into Flogging Molly or Dropkicks is the same as lots of people being into “Celtic” punk. It’s not “Celtic” punk most of them are into I suspect, it’s just those two bands…….and booze.

  7. Gabriel Leao August 11, 2014 at 2:35 am Reply

    Growing quickly, though. There’s some kind of a social demand for Irish stuff in Brazil, possibly because lots of brazilians have been living and studying in Ireland since 2007/8. Also, films like “The Departed” and a few others have influenced a lot lately. I think in Brazil there is some kind of eurocentric fashion. To be really fair, I don’t expect that it will go too far from now, although I really hope it does. I’ve been listening to it since 99, and I always thought we should have our own bands and material here. Now that we do, I’m pleased with the quality the bands have been showing. RATS, Lugh, McMiners, Mate Na’Marra, among others, we’re keeping the style alive and trying to make it a solid ground for others to come, and fans to enjoy!

  8. Beverly Hilton August 14, 2014 at 7:04 am Reply

    Definitely Passion!. I like both FM and DKM but Pogues will always be #1 and Tossers next on my list – original lyrics and never too busy to hang with their friends and fans before and after a show..

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