Flogging Molly with special guests Violent Femmes, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes and Thick bring punk rock at its finest to Rochester’s Main Street Armory

Show Review by Kelly Besaw

The all-female punk band, Thick, kicked off the evening right at 7 o’clock. The band had a ’90s punk feel to it and fit right in with the rest of the night’s lineup. Thick is on tour in support of their current EP release 5 Years Behind. The album confronts “the countless disappointments and injustices the band deals with every day, “the reckless hypocrisy of people in power, social media’s erosion of genuine connection, dudes who feel inexplicably entitled to share their most loathsome opinions.” With songs titles like “Mansplain,” “Bumming Me Out,” and “Fake News,” the message is pretty clear. My friend who attended the show with me described Thick as a band that could be on the Empire Records movie soundtrack. I couldn’t agree more.

Up next was punk cover band legends, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. The band took the stage donned in their finest light purple silk shirts. Lead singer Spike Slawson wore a shiny gold suit jacket over his. It’s a pretty distinct look. The Gimme Gimmes kicked things off with “Don’t You Worry ‘bout a Thing” (Stevie Wonder cover) and went right into their cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” The band is notorious for constantly rotating lineups and has included greats like Fat Mike (NOFX), Chris Shiflett (Foo Fighters), Jay Bentley (Bad Religion), and Brian Baker (Bad Religion and Minor Threat). The current touring lineup consists of Spike Slawson (lead vocals), CJ Ramone (bass), John “The Swami” Reis from Rocket from the Crypt (guitar), Andrew “Pinch” Pinching of the Damned (drums), and Jonny “2 Bags” Wickersham of Social Distortion (guitar). Not too shabby!

Frontman Spike Slawson was hilarious. Think Andy Kaufman’s alter ego Tony Clifton but less vulgar. Me First entertained the audience with sing-along covers of “Straight Up” (Paula Abdul), “Sweet Caroline” (Neil Diamond), and “Over the Rainbow” (Harold Arlen). Spike paused to joke with the audience and the running gag became, “this next song’s a cover.” They ended their set with three wild versions of sing-along favorites, “Who Put the Bomp (in the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)” (Barry Mann), “Summertime” (George Gershwin), and “End of the Road” (Boyz II Men). Me First is without a doubt the most talented and fun cover band I have ever seen!

I was super excited to see the next band. I admit that even though I am a huge fan of the Violent Femmes, I had never seen them live. As their instruments filled the stage, it was clear that it was going to be an interesting performance. The setup included a giant horned instrument (not sure what it was) and a barbeque grill, the small round charcoal type. Gordon Gano (lead vocals, guitar, violin, banjo), Brian Ritchie (bass, backup vocals, guitars, xylophone), and John Sparrow (drums, percussion, backup vocals) took the stage and the Femmes kicked off their set with “Add It Up” followed by “American Music.” They sounded amazing. John Sparrow ran around the stage playing various percussion instruments throughout their set. Brian Ritchie didn’t stop smiling the entire time and Gordon Gano showcased his unique vocal range and musical abilities playing both guitar and violin.

The Femmes played a nice mix of songs from their catalog including an awesome version of “Color Me Once” from The Crow soundtrack. Fans sang along loudly to the last four well-known tunes, “I Held Her in My Arms,” “Gone Daddy Gone,” “Blister in the Sun,” and “Kiss Off.” This was one of my bucket list bands and I was not disappointed. I cannot wait to see them again.

Set list: Add It Up, American Music, Breakin’ Up, Prove My Love, Promise, Memory, Jesus Walking on the Water, Good Feeling, Never Tell, Freak Magnet, Color Me Once, I Held Her in My Arms, Gone Daddy Gone, Blister in the Sun, Kiss Off

The crowd pressed closer to the stage as the crew set up for Flogging Molly. Dave King waltzed to center stage and the band started things off with the high energy “Devil’s Dance Floor.” It was an appropriate song as I forgot to mention that it was hot as hell in the Main Street Armory. There was zero air circulation. The seemingly uncaring diehard fans started a massive dance circle regardless of the heat. Dave King joked that it was straight Guinness sweating from his pores.

Guitarist, Dennis Casey is a Rochester native. It Is always nice to see him play his hometown. I feel like we get a few more smiles and guitar kicks. Dave King paused after their second song to say, “You may have noticed that one of us is missing from the stage tonight. Our thoughts are with Scobie Hensley. He will be back with us soon. This song goes out to him.” The band dedicated “The Worst Day Since Yesterday” to Matt Hensley. I hope everything is okay and that he is back soon.

I sometimes forget how expansive Flogging Molly’s catalog is. They played a variety of older tunes to which Dave King joked again about the temperature of the venue, “we’re sweating with the oldies.” One of the reasons I decided to check out Flogging Molly many, many years ago was Bridget Regan’s violin playing. I played the violin in high school. She is incredibly talented and brings Irish punk to a whole new level. I could watch her play all day.

The crowd loved “Black Friday Rule” a song Dave King Said they hadn’t played in many years. Newcomer, Spencer Swain (mandolin, banjo, guitar), fits right in and rocked it during “The Likes of You Again.” Flogging Molly continued with more hits “Swagger,” “Float,” and “Salty Dog.” I love watching Nathan Maxwell. He always looks happy and does a great job connecting with the fans. Mike Alonso (drums) kept the rhythm perfectly during “What’s Left of the Flag.”

Although their set seemed short, probably because there are so many songs I wanted to hear, it was a long night of music, and it was hot and sweaty, and I was looking forward to some fresh air as Flogging Molly bid farewell and closed with “The Seven Deadly Sins.”

Set list: Devil’s Dance Floor, The Hand of John L. Sullivan, Drunken Lullabies, The Worst Day Since Yesterday, Black Friday Rule, Croppy Boy, The Likes of You Again, Swagger, Float, Crushed (Hostile Nations), Salty Dog, If I Ever Leave This World Alive, What’s Left of the Flag, The Seven Deadly Sins

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