In Bruges – dark comedy sleeper of the year

I saw In Bruges on a whim after it generated considerable buzz early this year. It’s already on DVD after a February release, unfortunate for a well-advertised indie; despite Colin Farrell in the lead, it didn’t have legs. Probably because it’s a brutally dark comedy; it was sold as being like Snatch and other recent screwy U.K. crime comedies, when it really isn’t. It’s a bit deeper, a lot darker; it has colorful characters too, but these are more rooted in reality. The other thing it had against it was no one could pronounce the title. It’s broozh, for the record. I think I called it Brooges, but then again, I mispronounce everything.

Normal beer vs. Gay beer

This is a damn shame, because it is one of the best movies this year, if you have a sick sense of humor. I can’t reveal too much of the story, because watching it unfold is part of the fun. It involves two hit men who have to cool off in the sleepy medieval tourist town of the title after a botched job. The other great part is the characters. I used to think Colin Farrell was useless, but this movie may even make up for King Arthur. Brendan Gleeson, one of my favorite fat Irish actors, plays Ken, who is making the best of the little “vacation,” seeing the sights, playing it cool. Farrell’s Ray is a city boy from Dublin, and finds the town’s glacial pace maddening; he stays in the pub most of the time, ordering “a gay beer for my gay friend and a normal beer for me because I am normal,” poking fun at the snifters of Belgian beer vs. the manly Irish pint of brown.


The movie is directed by Martin McDonagh, his first major film- and it’s an achievement. It deftly unravels it’s little tale, and we learn what happened with the botched job, why the boss sent them to Bruges of all places, and what exactly these guys have on their minds. Ken is more of a brooding old crook, he has no illusions about what they do- kill people. Ray is the young pup, fiery tempered, sardonic gabber.

Me eyebrows’ll snatch the Oscar fer sure!

The botched hit that drives the plot begins as nothing new- he is in the confessional, getting penitence for the crime he is about to commit- but the bullet goes through the priest and hits a young boy who was next in line. In the middle of your chuckle you’re greeted with horror; and the movie progresses from there, with the manic Ray trying to deal with what he has done. Their boss, Harry, whom we only hear over the phone, sends them far away to let the heat cool off; but he has other reasons, and is given depth of his own.

Feckin’ art shite!

Ray can’t stand the town, but finally perks up when he seems a film being shot, and rushes over like a giddy schoolboy. By way of that, he meets Natalie, a pretty girl working with the crew, and Jimmy, a little person acting in the movie. Ray is the kind of guy who makes a bad first impression and then corrects it in your mind, if he likes you; before long he’s doing coke with them and Jimmy’s prostitute in a hotel room, and where it goes from there is anyone’s guess, but McDonagh’s story has its own logic- it goes where it has to go, where it will inevitably go.

Not the Colin Farrell you may be used to.

McDonagh was a playwright first and the film reminded me of Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter, also about two criminals holed up; the story keeps surprising you, but without going on crazy tangents. It deftly distracts you from what you know must come next. I’m sure it will be compared to other crime films from across the pond like Guy Ritchie’s, but it reminded me a little of Layer Cake when there was tension, but the humorous vibe is all it’s own.

I’m not Peter Dinklage, motherfucker.

The humor arises from its characters, and the story they find themselves in; the perfect tone is leavened by McDonagh’s considerable writing talent and the skill of the actors. There’s a surprise appearance of one of my favorite actors, Ralph Fiennes, who’s made a career of playing villains; he makes a new one here as Harry the mob boss, as principled as he is ruthless. And funny in just the right way, reminiscent of Ray Barboni from Get Shorty with an appropriate dry manner. Jordan Prentice plays Jimmy, the little actor with a proclivity for whores and cocaine; I mistook him for Peter Dinklage at first, to my shame. He has a similar acerbity, but he’s good in his own right- hopefully there’s room for two smart-ass little people in Hollywood, because I can’t get enough of Dinklage and would like to see Prentice again, he’s that good. He was the bag of pot in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, and survived the ignominy of playing Howard the Duck, a movie I saw in the theater, to my enduring shame.

It’s on DVD and definitely worth a rental; dismiss your hatred of Colin Farrell, he’s thrown away the cap and shaved his stubble, and his eyebrows might win an Academy Award here. This is his best role yet. If you won’t take my word for it, Ebert’s review is more detailed and even more gushing.

The trailer.

The Pogues, with Shane, St. Patrick’s Day 2008


When I heard that The Pogues were playing in Manhattan on St. Patrick’s Day this year, I snatched up two tickets quicker than Shane on a bottle of Jameson. I had no idea that Shane MacGowan reunited with the band; I saw his solo effort with the Popes many years back when he toured for the excellent album, The Snake. That was a great and memorable concert at a crammed venue somewhere in the city that I can no longer recall. Could have been CBGBs for all I know, but I doubt it. It was so jammed full of fans that the ceiling was dripping condensation. I found an old friend, Ned Sanyour, on LinkedIn and asked him about the show. Hopefully he’ll drop in.

This time at the Roseland Ballroom there was plenty of space. They did 3 shows there, and we saw the last, on St. Paddy’s Day. To the venue’s enduring shame, the only beer they serve is Bud, Bud Light, and Beck’s. Luckily I filled up on Guinness at the nearby Old Castle Pub on 54th, a decent little place. Had the requisite Corned Beef and Cabbage as well, since the only other Irishman in my family can’t stand the stuff. You can say what you like about boiled Irish food (I much prefer a full breakfast!) but it makes a fine drinking foundation.

The opening band was called Olin and they’re a Mexican Klezmer band as far as I can tell. Lively horn section, accordions and percussion, reminiscent of klezmer and honky town Mex bands like the Texas Tornados. They were good fun and put on a solid set. I wish their album was on sale at the show!

Shane looks a lot better than in ’92 or so!

It took an hour between sets to get Shane liquored up enough to sing, apparently. He was in fine form, though. Much better than when I saw him with the Popes- back then he was hanging on the mike stand for dear life, looked like a bag of bones with a dash of stubble. He’s a big chubbier now and looks healthy enough, if prematurely aged from his hard-drinking life. They began with one of my favorites, “Streams of Whiskey.” I managed to grab video of this one, the bass is rather high but the speaker held up better this time.

One night as I slept, I dreamt I drank with Behan…
Second up was “If I Should Fall from Grace with God” and they played many classics. Only a song or two I didn’t recognized. The audience was quite active but not rowdy. We were right in front of the soundboard so my photos are far and blurry. Shane had a big top hat on, looking like the Artful Dodger after years on the Old Main Drag.

Shane and his Artful Dodger hat.

They didn’t just do their famous rockers, he also sang “Kitty,” one of their most somber. Shane took a few breaks to let other members sing- most notably “Thousands are Sailing,” one of their heartfelt, most trad-sounding songs. There was another song from “a chick flick” as the fellow in the fedora said, but I didn’t recall the title. Another one was “Tuesday Morning, Albert Bridge,” a great song I haven’t heard enough. I forget how good it is.

Sean came back for “Dirty Old Town,” among others. “Dark Streets of London,” was another. Another somber tune, the beloved “A Pair of Brown Eyes,” had us all mourning like only those of Irish blood can. Another favorite, “The Boys from the County Hell” rocked the house. They finished off with “The Irish Rover,” a great send-off for St. Patrick’s Day. “He spun five times around, and the poor old dog was drowned…. I’m the last of the Irish Rover!”

They came back for two encores. I wish I remember all the songs, but I was too excited. “Bottle of Smoke” and “Sally MacLennane” were in one. My all-time fave, “The Sick-Bed of Cuchulainn” ended encore one.

They came back and did an instrumental, a rousing long version of “Poor Paddy,” with Shane singing “poor Paddy’s workin on the railway!!” over and over, and the final song was “A Fairy Tale of New York” done in duet with a singer named Ella Finer, since Kirsty MacColl died in a tragic diving accident a few years back. They danced at the end of it, and I managed to sneak some video.

Not too drunk to dance.

The real finisher had Olin come back onstage and they all played in a long instrumental- “Fiesta,” I think. The pipe player was for some reason bashing his head with a pie plate as percussion, but hey, whatever makes you happy. I like think it was a protest against the Roseland Ballroom’s shitty beer selection. Not my favorite venue, but it’s roomy at least. Flogging Molly played the Fillmore and they had Guinness, but I think that was a smaller crowd. It’s been a great month for Irish bands for me. I’ve seen the Dropkick Murphys before, and they’re a little too punk for me these days (I like their first 2 albums best) but they’d have been a good trifecta. Or Black 47! I need to see them one of these days.

The glow of leprechaun magic.

Two Irish Fairy Tales: Once and The Quiet Man

Once


Part of coming from an Irish family means knowing how to appreciate a sad story. Our songs are either about drinking or someone dying. We get a President, and he gets shot. 500 years of oppression, a famine caused by greed, and you’ve sure got something to drink about. Things are looking a lot better in the Emerald Isle these days, so maybe that’s why this year’s Oscar winner for best song was from Ireland, the sweet romantic drama Once.

It’s not a musical per se, since no one breaks into song for no reason, but it’s the story of a busker on the streets of Dublin who meets a woman who walks past him every day as he plays the guitar and sings for tourist’s coins. One night she’s walking home and hears him belting out one of his own songs instead of the standards he plays for the tourist trade, and asks him about it. They talk and he finds out that she plays the piano, and he works at a vacuum repair shop, and she needs her Hoover fixed, and things lead from there.

He’s got a song he’s working on, “Falling Slowly,” that they practice on in the music store since she can’t afford a piano. It’s not your typical romantic film. He’s coming off a bad relationship, and she’s raising her daughter with her mom at home, and while they don’t exactly struggle for pennies the story never escapes the reality of having to work for a living. There’s a bit of movie luck later in the film when they record the song at a studio and need a few grand to pay for it, but it’s all very low-key and the simple story is quite well written, with enough humor to lighten things up between tunes.

It was shot in 17 days for a pittance with two musicians without acting experience as leads. Glen Hasard from The Framers is the Guy, and Markéta Irglová is the Girl. Hasard was in The Commitments, another popular movie about an Irish band trying to break into R&B. So he has acted before, but only plays guitar players. The actors have a naturalism that makes the story utterly believable, without having an improvised or fake-reality feel. The camera is unsteady, but has none of that jerky zoom for a close-up and then pull back a notch crap. It lingers on its subjects and endears them to us. I’m not even a big fan of this kind of music, but when they’re practicing, you can’t look away.

The song deservedly won the Oscar, and it is the only thing known to man that can silence Firecracker’s living room. Both times “Falling Slowly” has played, on Oscar night and when we watched the DVD, we all shut our mouths and listened. And we are not quiet people. Thankfully it hasn’t been overplayed, but I can imagine it getting diluted and becoming one of those songs you can’t stand hearing anymore. I call it the “Runaway Train” effect. Soul Asylum got killed by its own popularity in the 90’s, and I still can’t listen to that song all the way through.

Part of what makes Once so good is that while it tells an old story- two people who aren’t looking for love but happen to find it- it does so without falling back on hackneyed character types. Female musicians and singers are often pigeon-holed as a pretty voice with some emotional flaw that the guy has to overcome, but here she is the strong and sensible one, and we never doubt it for a minute. That’s pretty amazing for an 18-year old who hasn’t acted before. Look out, Ellen Page. There is tension of course, but it’s handled with subtle panache and no one goes stomping off screaming, and there are no annoying misunderstandings that would have been averted if they’d just spoken up.

The ending is bittersweet but perfect, and actually it’s a beginning. As in that other understated, excellent romance Before Sunrise, these are two people we meet briefly and wish we could get to know better. We know the guy won’t be coming home to fix vacuum cleaners after he takes his single to London. And maybe the girl will be his producer, with her savvy sensibility. It’s a story we’ll have to finish in our heads, and that’s the best place for it. Fairy tales can’t go on too long before we question them.

The Quiet Man
John Wayne in an Irish romantic comedy with fisticuffs.

It is a truth generally accepted that there are two kinds of people in the world, those who like the Duke, and those who don’t. This is a man whose biggest promoter, John Ford, once said, “I didn’t know the big sonofabitch could act!” Much of his career depended on presence alone, but when called upon, he could act with the best of them- it’s just that his best roles are pretty unlikeable. He’s often cast as the old, violent kind of man that was needed to “tame” the west, but is no longer needed, or just another macho loner. Here he gets to play the lead in what’s essentially a romantic comedy, albeit one that plays on quaint Irish customs that were long gone when the movie was made 50 years ago. It has a deep and abiding sense of nostalgic for the Ould Country but knows when to play it tongue in cheek. Like any good Irish film the dialogue is sharp and witty.

The story begins with the Duke as Sean Thornton, a retired boxer returning to the village he grew up in but left in early childhood. He plans to buy his childhood home and settle down. he has a secret and goes to church to pray, where he meets Mary Kate Danaher, a fiery redhead who could only be played by Maureen O’Hara. They have the sort of immediate dislike that is destined to smolder into romance, and movie does not disappoint. When this becomes apparent, old Sean gets his first lesson in Irish etiquette, when her brother “Red Will” doesn’t approve of the courtship and she won’t have anything to do with him. Will is played by one of my favorite character actors, Victor McLaglen, who played alongside John Wayne in many films and won the Oscar back in ’35 for The Informer. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for this film, as well. He’s an irascible force of nature, a hulking Irish brute with a wicked sense of humor, though in this film he leans toward stubborn S.O.B. instead of “lovable galoot.”

Bizarre Love Triangle

Eventually Red gives in and the courtship is allowed to commence. Duke wants to pull up in front of her cottage and honk the buggy horn like he’s back in the States, but he learns that courtship is done with a chaperone, under whose watchful eye, it is assured no “pattyfingers” will ensue.

No patty-fingers, if you please. The proprieties at all times.

Of course they get away and the pattyfingers commence. In one of the film’s most memorable scenes, they get caught in the rain in a graveyard and weather the storm. Thankfully this lets them speed past the other stages of courtship and be married early into the picture, but don’t let that trick you into thinking it’s all sunshine and roses. On their wedding day we learn that her brother was tricked into giving her hand in marriage because the whole town told him that his sweetheart Sarah wanted to marry him. When he arrogantly asks for her hand in marriage at the party, without the proper courtship, he’s spurned and humiliated. He assumes that Sean put the town up to it, so he withholds his sister’s dowry, knocking the coins to the floor. And sucker-punches Sean out cold.

Now here’s where the two cultures clash and the film gets credit for using the “misunderstanding” plot device in a way that actually works. She demands that the dowry be paid for the principle of the thing, and to force Sean to confront her brother and be respected by him. But he, being American, thinks it is shameful to beg for money that they don’t need, and he doesn’t want to fight anymore, because he killed a man in the ring. As each holds stubbornly to their principles, they ignore the wedge in their marriage. She even withholds her “Irish Rose” if you know what I mean.

If you don’t know what I mean, on her wedding night she locks the bedroom door, so he kicks it down and kisses her before retiring to the parlor in his sleeping bag. For a moment I’d thought they’d go the Rhett Butler route, but he’s a gentleman in this picture. He just throws her on the bed and breaks it, to give us the subtle-as-a-hammer “this marriage has a broken bed!” symbolism.

“There’ll be no locks or bolts between us, Mary Kate…
except those in your own mercenary little heart!”

In typical Roman Catholic fashion, Mary Kate goes to Father Lonergan for help, but he’s more interested in catching salmon than helping her and her husband spawn. So, unable to comprehend his stubbornness, she leaves home to take the train out of town one day. This leads to the infamous “Where’s my tay!” when he wakes up and finds the teapot empty. He hasn’t been getting any “tay” since the wedding night, either. His fiery redhead wife finally found a way to get him to look past his own customs and follow hers. In a particularly delightful scene for us men, he grabs her off the train and drags her to her brother, to throw her back unless he gives up her dowry. The whole town is excited that the American finally gets it, and follow them on their way.


“Here’s a fine stick to beat the lovely lady with!”

Oh, those Irish and their strange ways! By tossing her back at his feet, he gains her brother’s respect. He gives them the dowry, which they immediately toss in a nearby fire to show him it was the principle of the thing. Will tries for another sucker-punch, but the Duke socks him in the gut. Satisfied that her husband is not a pussy, Mary Kate heads home to put supper on the table. And we assume, to fix that bed.

If you are a pussy, you do not get pussy.

Unlike Maureen O’Hara, we know the Duke is no pussy. He fights her brother all across town and into and out of the local pub, bets are placed, the excitement rouses a codger from his deathbed, even the priests come to watch. Then he drags him home to dinner so he has to accept their marriage. All’s well that ends well, and the dopey big galoot ends up on the chaperone’s wagon with his sweetheart so he won’t be lonely without his sister to cook for him.

I love this movie beyond all reason, probably because John Wayne kicks Maureen O’Hara in the ass and drags her across a field. Even though it’s played for laughs, the first time you see it you can’t believe it. Then a little old lady comes up and offers him a stick to “beat the lovely lady with.” John Ford was a movie-making genius and knows when to go over the top, and he does so here. This is like the Irish version of “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka” in some ways, where only an Irish-American director could get away with the jokes he makes here. Michaleen the chaperone is a sly wee leprechaun of a fellow with the immortal line, “when I drink whiskey, I drink whiskey. And when I drink water, I drink water!” when asked if he wants whiskey and water. And when he chases the lovers in his horsecart, the steed halts in front of the pub, since it knows that’s the only place its master would hurry to.

Technicolor was made for Maureen O’Hara and this is no exception.

The “gift of gab” isn’t given short shrift here, and everyone gets in on the act. Even Red Will, in his nearly thankless role as the ornery brother, says “he’ll regret to his dying day. If he lives that long!” So while you might watch Darby O’Gill and the Little People on St. Paddy’s day, or perhaps The Secret of Roan Inish, or The Wind That Shakes the Barley or My Left Foot if you’re in an arty and somber mood, I highly recommend you reach for this classic and give the Duke a chance whether you like him or not. He wasn’t always the stolid drawling tough guy, and this is one of his best roles.

The Crane Bar in Galway

A random gathering of folks playing traditional instruments.
In honor of the St. Patrick’s Day weekend I’m going to share some videos and photos of my visit to Galway last year. Despite being a tourist town it ended up being a very nice place. The area is stunningly beautiful, nestled between the wilds of Connemara and the rocky Burren area to the south. Close to Shannon airport, it makes for the perfect tourist destination and gets a lot of visitors, and it can be hard to find a seat at the pubs some nights. The Lonely Planet guide sent me out to the Salthill section for a bed & breakfast and also a pub called The Crane Bar that has traditional (aka trad) and modern bands playing nightly. What I liked best was that people would just show up with instruments and join in. Very friendly and cozy.

The beautiful coast near Galway.

Using Google Maps on my phone I walked there from the B&B one night, along the Salthill shore with its amusement park and typical seaside eateries, eerily reminiscent of the Jersey shore despite swapping chip shops for funnel cake. My friend Sonny from Denmark was arriving that night, so the Crane Bar was a landmark he could put in his GPS and drive to, and I could sit and ingest Guinness.
The locals were friendly and a fellow named Brent bought me a drink and we talked about what I planned to see and atuff. The second question out of everyone’s mouth is always “why the hell did you guys elect that idiot?”

Roundstone’s Bodhran maker.

When Sonny showed up the place was closing, but I managed to nab us some bacon pizza (Irish bacon is more like thinly sliced pork loin). The next night after a long day of seeing Galway’s sights and driving up the coast to Roundstone to see a bodhran (drum) maker, we returned to the bar.

The hanging wall in Galway.

We sat with a group of folks from Dublin and talked about the country, why we elected Bush, and thankfully books. We had a love of detective novels in common and we talked about what authors we liked. They liked a Swedish fellow whose name I can’t recall. They told us of their favorite spots to visit along the coast, which would eventually send us to some of the most beautiful spots in Ireland that I remember. The Beara peninsula, a remote finger of land south of Kerry, was their favorite. They told us of a pub called O’Neil’s that they loved, and we eventually found it days later. Ireland is so small that even a remote spot like that is only a few hours away, but we made so many stops along the way- visiting the Skellig Islands where monastery villages from the 5th century remain, the Cliffs of Moher, caves, the Aran Islands, and Kilkenny, which is more modern than Galway but still has much to see.

The players.

Sonny is a much more seasoned drinker than I am. Those Danes know how to hold their ale. In fact when he lived in Cambridge, the Brits there were amazed at his capacity for ale and called him “Horny Helmet” in honor of his Viking heritage, and gave him a horned Viking helmet when he left… myself, I’m a cheap date and you’ll see from the cheerful, red-faced photo at the end that I’m no match for him in a drinking contest.

A man singing a capella in honor of a patron’s birthday.

And by the end of the night I looked like this!

We only managed to explore perhaps a quarter of the Irish coastline and I’m eager to go back and see more of the country, like the Giant’s Causeway, and of course Dublin. We got close to Dublin when I visited the old family home in Bray, but the traffic getting into to town was so bad we just hauled back toward Shannon. I’ll blog about the rest of the trip over the weekend if I have time. In the meanwhile, the photos are all at here in my Ireland album, which is rather neurotically ordered by County.

In Which Molly is Soundly Flogged


I haven’t seen Flogging Molly for about a decade, when I saw them in L.A. before they hit it big. Yeah, that’s right, I knew them before they were popular. That’s also the motto of Demorama, the music site I once again write for, run by my friend Deneen Gannon. More about The Neener and Demorama later, this is a concert review. Flogging Molly is an Irish rock band, with influences ranging from the Pogues to Stiff Little Fingers. Their songs range from ballads to balls-out rockers and sea-shanty inspired pirate punk tunes like “Salty Dog,” one of my favorites. They’re on iTunes (and therefore iLike on Facebook) if you want to sample their wares.

Sarah bought us tickets as my Valentine’s Day present, and since I sat through Rufus Wainwright, she had to sit through a few hours of Irish mayhem. The opening bands, two from Molly’s label Side One Dummy and one local, were uniformly excellent. They had to be, to stand up to Molly’s energy.

The first opener was the Dusty Rhodes River Band, from Orange County, California. They’re a folk-rock band with a violinist, and have a great, full, raucous sound. They reminded me a little of The Black Keys. I took a video of them playing, probably the best one of the night.

I picked up their CD but left it at Sarah’s, but if it’s half as good as their set, it’ll be worth it. The myspace link of their name above has some songs, including “Street Fighter” which they played. They also covered “The Weight” by The Band, who their sound resembles quite a bit. They also covered “Midnight Rider” and did a fine job.

Next up was my favorite band of the night, The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. Two Indiana maniacs on slide guitar and a washboard, and a psycho drummer. They call themselves “roots blues” and they’re somewhere between shockabilly and old Delta blues, reminding me of one of my favorite underrated albums of all time, Elmo Williams & Hezekiah Early. Hell, everyone’s on myspace these days. I only go there to listen to bands. Every page is like a money shot of adware at your face in a candy-colored web porno.

My video of Peyton & co. sucks, but they are all over youtube. Here’s a good tune that lets you experience his slide guitar sound and her washboard mania. He does rhythm on it too- a glass slide on his thumb provides rhythm, like on banjo, while he plays with his other hand on the fretboard.

My video is sneaky because security was nearby, but you can hear them playing “Your Cousin’s on Cops.” I got my picture taken with them after the show. His beard puts mine to shame, and she makes those faces on stage too.

I was later plied with corn liquor and rolled for my wallet.

Next up was Jesse Malin, a local alt rocker. He was good and energetic, sang from the mosh pit, and had that typical sound you will probably hear on the radio soon. My fave were his faster-paced songs, like “In the Modern World,” available on the myspace link.

After many Guinness imbibed, we were all ready to hear the main act. Doors opened at 7:30 and now it was 10:30, the natives had begun to grow restless. Having been to Ireland, I must say they handle their drink much better than us Irish-Americans. In the ticket line I nearly got into fisticuffs with a trio of drunken boys who were yelling about not being let in. They practically yelled right in Sarah’s ear. I gave them a stern talking to. They questioned my ancestry and I told them about my trip to the mother country, that distracted them a while.
Another thing I like better about Ireland- they don’t care how “Irish” you are, whether you’re “pure Irish” or whatever. Sorry, I’m an American first. Though I am eligible for Irish citizenship and hope to retire there someday, I get tired of how us Americans just can’t be frigging Americans.

Despite the Kim Jong Il haircut, Dave rocks like nobody’s business.

But enough of that shit, Flogging Molly! They blasted on stage with “Selfish Man” and “The Likes of You Again,” two powerful rockers from Swagger, still my favorite album of theirs. I saw them for the first time right before it was released, and still think it’s one of the best Irish rock albums ever recorded. They have an accordion player, a tin whistle, banjo and mandolin player and a spate of guitars. They really have a full sound and overpowered the mike on my little camera. So here’s someone else’s video of “Drunken Lullabies.”

Dave King looks a bit older than I remember him ten years back at that venue in Los Angeles, but he is a perpetual motion machine for turning Guinness into pure musical enjoyment. His banter in between songs was as delightful as usual, though he doesn’t talk to the crowd as much as he used to. He gave a can of Guinness to a girl who got a bloody nose in the mosh pit, and consistently thanked the security crew for keeping the crowd under control. Their fanbase has changed a lot since the early days, I remember people dancing Irish jigs back then, now the punk foundation of their music has really brought in a lot of people from the Dropkick Murphys Boston Punk scene. We were right behind the soundboard, and the Fillmore has a “strick” 115db limit. They touched 117 a few times according to their meter. They also have a golden monkey’s paw as a luck charm.
They did a few of their lighter tunes like “Whistles the Wind” and “The Worst Day Since Yesterday,” always encouraging the crowd to join in. The songs off their new album, Float, were quite good, and I’ll be picking it up soon. He finished the set with one of my favorites, “Salty Dog,” and teased us a bit before coming back for an encore.

Dave broke out a bodhran drum for one of the encores.

The encores included “Black Friday Rule” with Dave going solo, and their house shaking pirate punk tune “The Seven Deadly Sins” finished the night. I was hoping they’d sing “Delilah,” because they do such a great crowd-rousing cover of it, and that’s what they ended with the last time I saw them, but it was not to be. It was a great show, they played for nearly 2 hours, and the floor was as littered with beer cans and plastic cups as the streets of Mardi Gras. Sarah grabbed me a concert poster, too. Gotta love the gal.

I managed to snag the playlist.
I was kind enough to let the guy who asked seconds after I did to photograph it.