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Courtesy Side One Dummy RecordsDaveKinghasasorethroat.That'snoshock to anyone who's heard Flogging Molly's lead singer, whose gravelly howl could crack a pint glass. It's a shot of whiskey hitting the back of your throat, a match head scratching but never igniting. But this time, it's not the strain of fronting the world's best punk-infused Irish band that's made King hoarser than usual: he can't shake a flu bug. So midway through the first leg of a world tour that finds him on America's East Coast, he stops in New York City to see a world-renowned throat specialist who treats everyone from Jagger to Springsteen. One problem: "I couldn't fucking afford him," says King. "But he must have felt sorry for me because he said just pay me what you can."
Good thing, because this weekend, King and bandmates return home to Southern California. And King isn't the kind of performer—and Flogging Molly isn't the kind of band—who does anything half-assed. Or half-throated.
Though Flogging Molly comprises people from both sides of the Atlantic, it coalesced in the small clubs and dive bars of Southern California. One of those venues was Anaheim's own Doll Hut, where Flogging Molly played every Monday for a month while hammering out its boisterous mix of Irish folk, American country and anthemic punk rock (its latest record is dedicated to the memories of Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer).
"We loved [the Doll Hut]," says King. "A band like us needed places like that to help create an energy and really get comfortable with a live sound and a following. When we started out, we'd draw a halfway decent crowd, but by the time we did the last show there was no way in hell you could get in the door. Our last gig one guy got thrown clear through the roof. Fucking brilliant."
Flogging Molly plays much bigger houses these days, like its two headlining gigs this weekend at the Anaheim House of Blues. But its roots are planted firmly in the punk aesthetic. Whether it's straight guitar, bass and drums, or augmented with mandolins, fiddles, Irish whistles and washboard, Flogging Molly is raw, uncompromising and visceral. What elevates the band from a Pogues knock-off is the diversity of its songwriting—which is primarily King's domain.
He's an Irish national, who, like all great Irish wordsmiths, writes with a sob in his throat and a curse on his lips. He draws on the eternal dichotomy of a people born to one of the world's most beautifully spiritual—albeit damp—pieces of real estate but oppressed for centuries by English greed and Catholic guilt. Few shed a more bitter tear than an Irishman; and few more eloquently raise a middle finger in glorious defiance.
Those tears of rage saturate Molly's fourth album, WithinaMileofHome.From the strident pulse of "To Youth" and "Light of a Fading Star" to the beautifully rendered terror of "With a Wonder and a Wild Desire," it's an examination of wars waged—and wounds endured—on battlegrounds emotional and physical.
"I write from all aspects of life but, unfortunately, this album was written during wartime," says King, who grew up in Dublin during the angriest of Ireland's inter-sectional and international conflicts. "I remember when I was growing up, my mother went out shopping, and a huge bomb went off in the street, and for four hours I didn't know if she was coming home or not. I remember feeling that I would not like any man, woman or child to ever experience that.
"I'm not a big thinker and I don't want to come off as ignorant, but the thing for me is that I come from a country that's been ravaged by war and when I see the president of the entire free world say that he got his full command from God to attack Iraq? Well, that's just something else. I've seen people killed in the name of God and I don't want to see anymore. It's a terrible thing to think that the god you believe or I believe is really backing this kind of thing. It's like going back to the bleeding Spanish Inquisition, for crissakes."
He continues, "Don't get me wrong: I love this country. It may sound tired, but I felt when I first came here that it was a country where people could get their dreams fulfilled. It had a beautiful air about it and you always felt there was hope. And I think that's still there if you work hard for it, but I'm still perturbed by the present predicament and that will always cast a little cloud. The silver lining I guess is that in three years there'll be an end. But what's he going to leave? It's kind of terrifying."
Seems like there's not much to do but hang on and see what shakes out. Oh, and party your ass off with a band like Flogging Molly, which particularly enjoys playing on and around March 17 every year.
"Sure it's a drink fest—and we don't mind that—but it's also about celebrating another culture," King says. "And when people work as hard as they do, they deserve every fucking party they can get."
FLOGGING MOLLY WITH HOT WATER MUSIC AND THE RIVERBOAT GAMBLERS AT THE HOUSE OF BLUES, 1530 S. DISNEYLAND DR., ANAHEIM, (714) 778-BLUE; WWW.HOB.COM. FRI.-SAT., 8 P.M. (FRI. SOLD OUT). $20-$22. 18+.