The three groups have a lot of similarities:
- a sizable line up of musicians
- a violin/fiddle player
- a good chance of having an accordion player
- a female musician who plays more than just a tambourine
- ethnic roots
- punk approach
- a good beat you can drink to
- rabid followings
- music that just won’t allow you to stand still
Months ago, I got tickets for my whole family to see this show, with Gogol Bordello as the main draw. Since my son and partner have not ranged the rock-and-roll show circuit as much as my daughter and I, I prepped them by taking them through as many contingencies as I could think of. “Bring a jacket. Use bug spray. Get some earplugs. Charge your phones. Be ready to wait in traffic longer than you spent watching the show. Watch out for knuckleheads who want to crowd surf.” It was like I sending them to Rock Band Day Camp. I did everything but write their names in their t-shirts.
At present, my partner is recovering from a total hip replacement. While we had pavilion seating at the Meadowbrook Music Theater, it’s a good half mile from the parking lot to the amphitheater, and it was supposed to rain (because it always rains at outdoor rock music events). Thankfully she was able to score a handicap parking permit. We were whisked to a small lot next to the bathrooms (!), the beer distributor (!!) and the seats (!!!). With all the time saved in getting onto the property, we even had enough time to hobble up the hill to the merchandise shed before the first note was played.
(While I hope you never have to obtain a handicap sticker, if you do, I highly recommend buying concert tickets shortly thereafter.)
I saw Mariachi El Bronx four years ago as an opening act for the Foo Fighters at the Palace in Auburn Hills and was blown away by how they embrace the traditional style completely. It was a surprise because these Angelinos (many of them non-Latinos) also perform as The Bronx, a hardcore punk act. Yet they play brilliantly and respect the form – the galloping waltz time, the tempos that can go from languid to rapid-fire, the glorious trumpets.
Their brief set wasn’t all it could be, sadly. Before they got on stage, a bizarre pulse filled the venue like a strobe light made of sound waves. It was a cool effect for about 30 seconds, but it went on and on until it was way too annoying and disorienting. Then, once the sound stunt stopped and the band began, the bass and percussion levels were set way too high so they overwhelmed the rest of the musicians. It was too bad that my family had a poor first impression; I still bought their t-shirt.
Then on to the band we were waiting for: the gypsy punk troubadours, Gogol Bordello. After seeing them last year in an indoor venue, I hoped an open-air environment wouldn’t diffuse their magic. Not to fear: Eugene Hutz and the rest of the international gang were in fine form. My daughter and I had a bet that Eugene wouldn’t be wearing a shirt: while I lost the bet when he entered, I won it about 15 minutes later when he’d worked up enough of a lather to toss it into the wings. They’re the kind of band that will get you singing along, even if you don’t know the words – since they could be singing in any number of languages, it doesn’t matter what comes out of your mouth as long as it’s in tempo.
Given how many green t-shirts – and men in kilts – there were in the audience, it was clear the bulk of the crowd was there for Flogging Molly. I had never heard any of their music. I assumed they were direct competitors with the Boston-based Dropkick Murphys, but their brand of Celtic punk is less screamy and and more folky, with fiddle/flute/banjo instrumentation and songs that could be heard closing down a pub at 2 a.m. This was a bit of a hometown gig for the LA-based band, as the fiddle/flute player Bridget Regan is from Michigan. (Her Irish husband, lead singer and guitarist Dave King, made a point of extolling the beauty of his mother-in-law from the stage.)
King is a charming showman: bearded, goofy, bounding around the stage barely time for a breath and a swig before starting the next number. My daughter described him as looking like a great dad. The guys in the audience who had been amping up their anticipation with the help of a few tall beers sang along to every song at the top of their lungs. We, the uninitiated, had our fill after an hour and left before the encore, slipping out of the handicap parking lot without having to hit the brakes once.
I talk about tribalism a lot when it comes to rock music. You go to a show to be with those like you, fellow fans who love a bunch of musicians enough to pay the ridiculous Ticketmaster fees and put up with the knuckleheads just so you can breathe the same air, sing the same lyrics and throb to the same beat. Putting these three tribes together was not only brilliant cross-promotion. It opened our ears and widened our circle to include even more like minds and hearts.
See you on the flip side at the next Concertpalooza gigs: the Violent Femmes on June 20, and the Heartless Bastards on June 21