Irish rock band Flogging Molly performed at the Sylvee on March 3. They were joined by openers Anti-Flag and Skinny Lister. Despite the absence of Flogging Molly violinist Bridget Regan, all bands gave motivating and political performances that energized the audience.
Skinny Lister, a London-based folk group, performed first, demoing some new material. The group’s energy was electric as members danced on stage, enlivening the audience and priming them for the main performance.
While many in the audience were unfamiliar with the band, the audience shared excitement over the announcement that Skinny Lister would be headlining on tour the next time they perform in Madison, in October 2023. While their performance was positive, the band lacked identity as there were clashes between the style and the performance and music.
The next group to perform was Anti-Flag, an anarchist punk band from Pittsburgh. The group emphasized their political stances while simultaneously uniting the audience.
While acknowledging the likely variation in political beliefs among the audience, Anti-Flag got the audience to agree “that politicians fucking lie.” Several times throughout their performance, Chris Barker, bassist, and Justin Sane, lead singer, spoke about “personal freedom” and evil politicians.
Barker increased the energy in the building and started a mosh pit in the center of the Sylvee. The chemistry between Barker and Sane was notable and served as a contrast to some of the discontinuities in style and performance among members of Skinny Lister. Both Barker and Sane encouraged audience members to connect with each other.
The political messaging of Anti-Flag was a theme echoed throughout Flogging Molly’s performance, as guitarist and lead singer Dave King took the audience through the history of Irish liberation through music inspired by Irish freedom and folk tunes while mirroring Anti-Flag’s themes of self-determination and freedom. King connected the themes to modern issues such as the invasion of Ukraine.
While Regan’s violin playing was surely missed during some of Flogging Molly’s classic songs like the opening song “Dear Majesty” or “The Likes of You Again,” it seemed the guitarists in the seven-piece band pivoted to take on some of the violin tunes and melodies.
Highlights of Flogging Molly’s performance included Spencer Swain’s incredible banjo playing and improvisation. Throughout the set, King allowed each band member a special part in the performance, however, Swain’s mastery of the banjo stood out to the audience.
While Flogging Molly did a good job balancing new songs with old classics, audience members seemed to especially enjoy the change of pace offered by more emotional, raw songs like “The Heart of the Sea,” as it allowed King’s vocals to shine.
In all, Flogging Molly and openers offered performances that engaged everyone from the politically minded to Irish history buffs, and from fans of rock to those who prefer more folk and acoustic sounds.
Noe Goldhaber is a staff writer for the Daily Cardinal specializing in campus and state news reporting.