Have you ever seen a concert lineup announced and thought, “I would have never thought of these guys together. But it actually makes sense.” This is how I felt when I saw that Flogging Molly and Violent Femmes would be co-headlining a tour together. Now throw in Me First & the Gimme Gimmies and Thick and it was a lineup and a concert never to be forgotten!
With so many talented bands on the docket, the showtime was announced for 5:30 PM. That is so early for a concert to start! I did my best to get there in time. I truly did! But unfortunately, because well, that’s really early for a concert to start, I didn’t make it in time to give Logan (photographer) his photo pass. So we weren’t able to get any photos of Thick. Totally my fault. Sorry, Thick.
Thick’s set wasn’t very long but they made the most of the time they had on stage. Nikki Sisti (Vocals, Guitar), Shari Page (Drums, Vocals), and Kate Black (Bass Vocals) are a proper New York based punk rock band. From what I understand this is their first nationwide tour. Salt Lake City gave them a warm welcome. They got things going with songs like “Your Mom”, “5 Years Behind” and “Mansplain”. As the audience filed in people were quick to respond to the ferocious power coming from the stage. I immediately regretted not making it to the show on time. I hope they make it back to Utah on their own next time. It would be fun to see them do a full headlining set.
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
The Complex was about half full when Me First and The Gimme Gimmies took the stage. Lead singer Spike Slawson, dressed in a red suit with a shiny white shirt, took the stage by himself and addressed the audience. “Just because we happen to be in the zombie apocalypse doesn’t mean you have to act like f**cking zombies”. He pulled out a ukelele and began “Don’t You Worry ‘bout a Thing” by Stevie Wonder. Spike was joined by his bandmates halfway through the song. The rest of the band were wearing all white with red ties.
In case you don’t know, Me First and The Gimme Gimmies are a punk supergroup. This particular lineup consisting of members of Strung Out, The Damned, and The Ramones. They perform covers of popular hits but rearrange the tunes to become punk rock songs. It’s pretty great. The band followed with an amazing cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” then Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again”.
The Complex was filling up and people were loving the band. Slawson not only sounded great on vocals, but he was so entertaining. So funny. He asked the audience to share where the weirdest place they had sex. He then made eye contact with one fan in particular. It seemed the fan was reluctant to share. Spike kept prodding him to answer saying, “Come on, we can handle it.” Suspecting that it must be somewhere pretty crazy if he didn’t want to tell. He told the fan he’d come back to him, as other fans told him their craziest locations. We got places like the zoo, the cemetery, and the vent at a high school. Um, what? It was a funny exchange.
Spike Slawson would tell the crowd that the next song was a cover, or “We ruthlessly plagiarized this song” The amazing thing is they can make any style of music a punk song. They did Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up”, “Gloria Gainer’s, “I Will Survive” and even a cover of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” from the movie The Wizard of Oz.
It was a really fun set. Me First and The Gimme Gimmes were the perfect band to keep the momentum going for the night. I’ve heard their albums over the years and always hoped I’d get to see them live. Seeing them in this lineup was probably the most ideal situation.
Me First & The Gimme Gimmes Setlist:
Don’t You Worry ’bout a Thing
On the Road Again
Science Fiction/ Double Feature
Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard
Sloop John B
I Will Survive
Have You Never Been Mellow
Over the Rainbow
Leaving on a Jet Plane
Who Put the Bomp (in the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)
I can’t tell you how excited I was to see Violent Femmes. I can still remember when “American Music” was released. Yours truly was a Junior in high school (I know, I’m not young) and in the depths of Alternative Music. I remember when this song would play on someone’s mixtape, or when listening to KROQ in L.A. it was impossible to not sing along. So standing there in The Complex watching them walk on stage was a real thrill for me.
At the end of the night, I walked back to the soundboard to see if I might get a copy or at least a look at Violent Femmes setlist. Much to my surprise, the soundboard tech told me “They don’t have on. They do everything off the cuff.” So thinking back on their set, you would have thought this was a well thought out setlist. Especially when Gordan Gano walked up to the mic and sang, “Daaaaaay after daaaaaay”. They opened with Add It Up! The now totally packed Rockwell room in The Complex went nuts!
Everybody sang along and I saw some people shocked and surprised that they performed this song so early. It was an awesome starter. And don’t get me wrong, I’m sure they know most of the songs they’re going to do, and generally what order. But it was cool to think of the show being performed somewhat spontaneously.
Speaking of “American Music”. They performed that second. The second that song begins people know what it is. And again they jump right into a singalong. People of all ages were dancing next to each other. It was hard to keep my thoughts in the moment and not fall into a nostalgic daydream. I thought of my friends from back in the day and how happy they would be to be hearing this song live. I couldn’t believe we were only two songs into the set.
Gano navigated through a few technical issues during “Country Death Song” by playing air fiddle while techs worked out the issue. Bassist, Brian Ritchie told the crowd, “We have always loved playing Salt Lake City. It’s a real punk rock town.” He later took the vocals on “Dance, Motherf**cker, Dance”.
Violent Femmes moved from song to song with very little dialogue. I felt like their set flew by. But when it came down to it, they still played 15 songs. “I’m Nothing”, “Gone Baby Gone” and I’m sure it comes as no surprise, “Blister In the Sun” were huge highlights for me. “Blister In the Sun” was a huge highlight for everyone there. It’s such a massive song. It’s so strange that a Folk Punk Alternative band from Wisconsin could have such a huge hit like this. I wonder if it hits them like that. Or if they’re just so used to people loving it by now.
The night ended with “Kiss Off”. I want to say this song was another huge hit for them, but I don’t think it was even released as a single. But it’s such a huge fan favorite. It has this almost happy melody, but the lyrics are filled with rage. There’s a point in the song where everyone just shouts, “Everything, everything, everything!”. It’s this huge release of rage and passion that so many people seemed to identify with. What a way to end the set. I absolutely loved seeing Violent Femmes!
Violent Femmes Setlist:
Add It Up
Country Death Song
Jesus Walking on the Water
I Held Her in My Arms
Prove My Love
Dance, Motherf**cker, Dance
Gone Daddy Gone
It’s Gonna Rain
Blister in the Sun
Whenever the headliner is about to go on there is an almost palpable uptick in excitement throughout the venue. The kilts, long beards, and tweed hats were out in abundance, and all of a sudden I had to start reminding myself that it was still October and not March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. The great Flogging Molly was about to take the stage.
“Baba O’Reily” from The Who played on the PA and as soon as it was over, the backdrop fell revealing the Flogging Molly banner. Frontman, Dave King, led the band on stage and they didn’t waste much time taking the evening to a whole new level. The tin whistle cut through the air and heads began bobbing before a drum was even heard. The rest of the band jumped in after Bridget Regan’s intro to break into “Devil’s Dance Floor”. It was impossible to simply stand still.
“You have no idea how beautiful it is to see all of you tonight!” King emphatically told the crowd. It was invigorating to see how happy the band was to be on that stage. There was such a long break for musicians. I’m sure it must feel so good to be able to go back to what they know. Dave King pointed out some fans in the crowd drinking Bud Light. He said that meant they wouldn’t have a hangover. After that comment I immediately noticed the Guinness scattered about the stage.
After playing “The Worst Day Since Yesterday”, one of my favorite Flogging Molly songs, King pointed out some redheads in the audience. Ge then dedicated “Black Friday Rule” to them. King was in prime form. His voice was strong and he covered the stage acknowledging as many audience members as possible. He shared that he and the band would be playing a song they have never played in Salt Lake City. In fact, “Croppy Boy” hasn’t even been recorded yet. It fit right in with the other Celtic Punk songs on the setlist. This song had an extra touch of traditional Irish in it. It was announced that the band would be finishing their tour on Saturday and jumping into the studio to record their next album. Let’s hope “Croppy Boy” is on it.
My favorite stretch in the show was when Flogging Molly played “Float”, “Crushed (Hostile Nations), and “Salty Dog”. Dave King shared that we’ve had ups and downs this last stretch and that it’s important that we remain positive. The band then played, “Float”.
I love watching Bridget Regan and Dave King together on stage. The juxtaposition between them is incredible. King is all over the stage and extremely animated while Regan is expressionless and stoic. It’s great. When introducing Bridget, Dave gushed that he “Gets to wake up to this beautiful lady.” Calling Regan his “Darling wife.” She brings so much to this band with her tin whistle and Fiddle. It’s cool that they can write, perform, and tour together.
As I looked throughout the crowd I noticed up against the front railing a group of young men with long hair headbanging literally the entire concert. It was unbelievable. I don’t know they did it. Standing to the left side of the stage, not far from the front I saw these guys. Bassist, Nathan Maxwell notice them. He got this huge smile on his face and then proceeded to get into the music even more. He was into it. These guys were giving it their all to this incredible music. After the show, he gave these guys a setlist and a thumbs up for being so into it.
“If I Ever Leave This World Alive”, “What’s Left of the Flag”, and “Seven Deadly Sins” finished out the set. What a way to end the night. Keep in mind this show started at 5:30. It was not after 10 PM. When “Seven Deadly Sins” was played, you would have thought it was the first song of the night. People were going nuts! The pit was swirling, the headbangers were headbanging even harder, and people were jumping as high as they had all night. It was amazing to see what impact this music had on people.
Celtic Punk is not on everyone’s radar. But it’s a really exciting style of music and in my opinion, Flogging Molly is the greatest of this genre. The electricity this band pumps into the veins of its fans is incomparable. The best word I can think of to describe this evening is, Fun. The whole thing was so much fun. I’m not sure if this lineup will ever tour again together. So to see them all in one night was a notable experience.