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Celtic rock that reels in the kids
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DAILY NEWS MUSiC
Celtic rock that reels in the kids
Jim Farber

It isn’t easy being a whisky-swigging, pub-rock band loved by kids too young to drink. But that’s the ironic predicament of Flogging Molly, a Celtic-punk group of grownups who often draw a very young crowd. “Because they’re underage, a lot of our fans are as sober as they can be,” guitarist Dennis Casey says.

Luckily, the band’s music proves intoxicating enough. For the last eight years, Molly has been selling a new generation the supercharged mix of jigs. Reels and punk rock patented by the Pogues back in the early ‘80s.

Many bands have taken up the mantle since, from Black 47 to the Dropkick Murphys. But Molly seems to have sustained the largest and most loyal fan base, built mainly through its live show. Sunday night, it’ll headline its biggest concert yet in the city, at the 4,000-capacity Hammerstein Ballroom.

The group’s success presaged current trends in the industry, in which careers grow through indie releases and the power of the live show, rather than mainstream radio play or major-label hype. Besides, says Casey, “no label was interested in us when we started. We had to do it ourselves.”

The group formed in the late ‘90s in an unusual way. Unlike many bands, whose members grow up together or at least meet when they’re young, Molly is a ragtag crew of seven, snatched from different social backgrounds and of divergent ages. Only leader Dave King hails from Ireland. The res come from around the U.S. They arrived individually in L.A., seeking success in the music industry. King formed the group based on their taste and abilities, rather than their demographic or look. Small wonder the members make a rather strange picture, ranging in age from 30 to 47. “When one of the guys was 17, another was being born,” Casey laughs.

King’s key idea was to combine players who knew all about tin whistles, fiddles and mandolins with those versed in skateboard culture and slamming electric guitars. They honed the result at an L.A. pub/club called Molly Malone’s, from which they took their name.

A tiny label, Side One Dummy, signed them, releasing their debut CD “Swagger,” in 2000. But they got their biggest boost by appearing for four years running on the Warped Tour, a national festival that caters to teens looking for music that’s superfast all the time. The velocity and punch of the sound helped smooth over the fact that many of the songs dealt with things like Irish workers in the 17th century or U.S. foreign policy.

“We’re all interested in politics,” Casey says. “But Dave writes the lyrics and, having grown up in Ireland, he has a different perspective from an American.” King still writes his lyrics on a typewriter dating from 1916, the year of the great Easter Rising rebellion in Ireland. “He doesn’t know how to use a computer,” Casey says.

Over the course of six studio albums, Molly has gradually garnered more fans closer to the musicians’ own ages. “First, the kids will play our CD, then their parents say, “Finally a band we can agree on,” Casey explains.

The adult presence isn’t without its drawbacks. “They expect you to be completely drunk out of your mind,” the guitarist says. “They always want to give you a shot, which is great. Multiply that by 100, though, and you’ve got a problem.”

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