The punk rock road show hit the beautiful open air venue on the rooftop of Pier 17 this past week for a show complete with breathtaking views of the city and the Brooklyn Bridge. Energetic Celtic punks, Flogging Molly, co-headlined the show along with the legendary folk punk/alt rockers Violent Femmes, and were joined by a great opening lineup as well.
Hometown favorites Thick kicked things off for the early crowd, bringing their infectious, catchy songs to the stage. They received a warm response and I’m sure made a lot of new fans among the crowd. I remember seeing them just a few short years ago at the beloved (and now sadly gone) DIY space/dive bar, Don Pedro, and being rocked out of my socks, knowing that they were going to be a band that went far even then. It is very cool to see that that assessment was correct and seeing them playing stages like this.
This is their first tour back and in support of their outstanding 2020 debut full length, 5 Years Behind, which was released by Epitaph just days before the first wave of Covid lockdowns hit. So many bands had this happen to them, a great album came out and they were unable to play shows or tour around it, so I was doubly happy to see them back on stage in peak form despite every roadblock the last year and a half has thrown at musicians. I know it’s only going to be a matter of time before they are headlining stages of this size themselves.
Nikki Sisti of Thick
Suave and smarmy punk rock super group/cover extravaganza, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, hit the stage next to bring their “Elvis in Vegas” style cheeky rock n roll to NYC. The membership of the band has changed quite a bit throughout the years and for this tour, the only founding member performing was lead singer Spike Slawson (Swinging’ Utters, Filthy Thieving Bastards and Uke-Hunt). Slawson was joined by plenty of punk legends who all come to the group with extremely impressive resumes: bassist CJ Ramone (Ramones), drummer Andrew “Pinch” Pinching (The Damned, English Dogs), along with rhythm guitarist Jonny “2 Bags” Wickersham (Social Distortion) and lead guitarist John “The Swami” Reis (Rocket From The Crypt, Drive Like Jehu, Hot Snakes). If you’re out of breath from reading that impressive list of bands (which isn’t even exhaustive), it was even more exciting to see all of these guys together on stage.
I’ve been listening to these guys on and off since the 90s but I hadn’t even realized the lineup had changed so much recently. But it was all good and I was particularly happy about the addition of Reis as I really love Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes; I’ve also been known to jam quite a bit of Rocket From The Crypt in my day too. But even having listened to MFATGG for a long time, this was actually my first time seeing them play. Slawson is a commanding presence on stage and he shaked and shimmied all over while the rock solid band held the line behind him. They barreled through a slew of punk versions of everything from Dolly Parton (“Jolene”) to Judy Garland (“Somewhere Over The Rainbow”) along with more contemporary pop and punk numbers. I couldn’t help but chuckle every time someone in the crowd yelled “play a cover!” and had a great time during their set.
Spike Slawson of Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
Violent Femmes are one of those bands that I just never remember a time when I wasn’t familiar with them. Ever since I got into alternative rock/punk (whatever word you want to ascribe really), they have always been there in my consciousness. It of course was first through their big hits, “Gone Daddy Gone,” and the legendary single “Blister In The Sun,” from their 1983 self titled debut that I first knew about them. I’m sure many people who discovered them in the 90s and later had these songs as an entry point too. I later explored deeper into that first record and their overall catalog when an old band did a cover of “Prove My Love,” and I got to know much more of their music.
Founding members Gordon Gano (guitar, lead vocals) and Brian Ritchie (bass, backing vocals) are still going strong as they head into the fifth decade of the band’s existence. They are now joined by newer members of the group, drummer John Sparrow (first drummer I have seen to play a barbecue grill!), and saxophonist/multi instrumentalist Blaise Garza (who over the course of the set played both the largest sax I’ve ever seen and the smallest). They played a wide ranging and really fun mix of songs from across their over 40 year career including the aforementioned hits “Blister In The Sun,” and “Gone Daddy Gone” along with the 1992 hit “American Music,” as well as delving into their newer music from their most recent album, Hotel Last Resort, which came out in 2019. It was a real treat to see these legends in action.
Gordon Gano and Blaise Garza of Violent Femmes
Flogging Molly came to the stage to close out the show and the crowd really picked up to a fever pitch then. This was the band’s first NYC show since 2019 and you could tell they were having the time of their lives being back in the Big Apple, a fact that frontman Dave King remarked on more than once. The fans were rowdy and excited, shouting along to every single song, with no shortage of crowd surfers keeping the folks up front busy along with the security crew.
King and the band worked the crowd and kept things dialed up to 110% intensity from start to finish. They ripped through a set packed with favorites like “Drunken Lullabies,” and “What’s Left of the Flag.” The fans were also treated to their very first single ever “Salty Dog,” as well a brand new as-of-yet unrecorded song “Croppy Boy.” They dedicated another favorite, “Float,” to the fans much to the delight of the crowd. When they played “If I Ever Leave This World Alive,” I couldn’t help but get tears in my eyes having gone through a tough personal loss just a day before the show; yes it was emotional, but it was right what I needed in that moment. And isn’t that really the true magic of punk and just any music in general? For the right song to come to you exactly as you need it? I do really think so.
The weather had started to shift late into Me First and the Gimme Gimmes’ set and held through Violent Femmes, but by time Flogging Molly got on stage, the rain began to appear (it is visible in some of the photos in fact) with King quipping in his delightful brogue “that’s how you know the Irish are here, it’s raining.” Fortunately the stage was completely covered and a heavy duty backdrop was quickly put in place to shield the band and equipment from any adverse affects (aka electrocution!). But the crowd didn’t seem to mind one bit, never losing an ounce of energy even as the rain got significantly heavier halfway through the set. I was up against the barrier so in just the right spot to stay mostly dry as the wind was blowing the rain into the back of the tarped off stage and blocking the first few rows of the crowd from the worst of it, even though we were standing under open sky and it was pouring on the rest of the audience.
Flogging Molly at Pier 17
Flogging Molly absolutely is a band that has worked so hard over the years to get to where they are now, but you can tell they never forgot their roots. They still play as though they are on a smaller stage and want to interact with their fans on a deeper level. King came to the edge of the stage repeatedly to point and interact with fans as best he could in the realm of a large stage with a security pit separating the band from the crowd. That didn’t phase him though and he even asked security guards to hand over guitar picks to young fans up front more than once. At the end of the night, as a recording played in the background, King danced on stage and looked delighted as the rest of the band waved goodbye gratefully to the audience and he again came over to the edge of the stage to connect with fans. A man standing next to me yelled “I got through cancer because of you!” and you could really see and feel how much that touched King to hear that. I always appreciate seeing bigger bands play these shows and still really try so hard to connect with their fans; it really means a lot to me.
And with that, I was off into the still rainy night. For a little while at least, I had not a care in the world as now I really was getting wet as I walked through the late night streets of Manhattan on my way home. This too is the magic of punk, to be able to take you out of whatever it is in the rest of your life that is unhappy or stressful and leave you with a smile on your face. I am forever grateful that I not only get nights like these, but that I get to call this my life.
Scroll down for pics of the show (photos by Kate Hoos)
ME FIRST & THE GIMMIE GIMMIES