An Old St. Patrick’s Day Tradition Returns

Flogging Molly spent about one third of my life playing St. Patrick’s Day in Phoenix. They spoiled Phoenix with the best way to celebrate the holiday. A couple of those years they came through with their regular tour on top. Then after a long stint living in Los Angeles, they relocated the band to Detroit. This meant a harder trek than just four to five hours every year, and so the Phoenix tradition came to an end. In its ashes, they started doing the Salty Dog Cruise, which for some people here left them simply salty. This year brought them back, even if just a day after, for another St. Patrick’s Day celebration with the Pot of Gold Festival that Luckyman continues to put on for the holiday.

Let’s start with the positives for the Pot of Gold festival and its location. First, using the Rawhide Event Center for tents and the local stage was great. It gave people a cooler place, with what I think was a swamp cooler, to hang out. Another good thing was the awesome thing that I wish Warped Tour would. They had a free cold water refilling station. Once I had a bottle, I took advantage of that multiple times through the day and saved money. Third, the lineup was probably the best I’ve seen in support of a Flogging Molly show in all those years. Plus cool to see the local stage there for people to catch some of the great offerings from our scene.

Now for the things that just don’t work for the Pot of Gold festival. The biggest issue likely because of the host location being Rawhide is that they put down hay over the dirt. Perhaps not an issue for everyone, but despite having a bandana to keep dust out of my nose and lungs this year, the hay made the dust cloud a mix of it and dirt. Once in the eyes, it became the itchiest thing. I withstood it through NOFX, but by halfway through Flogging Molly it got bad enough that I moved behind the crowd to watch the rest. Next up, seeming crazy to pay more than the high asking price of a regular ticket, there was the disruptive the VIP section barricade. They blocked off a section about ten feet from the barrier, for half of the stage. Let the fans that want to move get closer to the bands. One of the best examples for calling it disruptive was when Less than Jake wanted the pizza slice mascot to be crowd surfed and once he hit that barrier no one lifted an arm from their drinks to move him forward. I give kudos to Chris giving the VIP section some shit through their set.

Regardless of the pluses and minuses, the show itself was a blast with mine kicking off with the Bouncing Souls. They haven’t visited Phoenix in a little while. The last time I saw them was out of town at It’s Not Dead. Though by comparison, the microphones worked the entire set here. They came out with a great energy. They mixed songs from across their long catalog through the set ending on, of course, “True Believer.” Greg has always been great at moving around the stage and getting the crowd paying attention. One cool moment of character for Greg came the moment the set ended. He ran off stage to keep security from kicking a dude out that security thought he threw a fist at.

I followed that up by my first visit to the local stage for the Rundown Roommates. I’m still surprised this is only the second time I’ve seen them play. They are fantastic, full of energy, and all over the stage. They have fun up there playing music. You can tell by how they talk to the audience and move around the entire set. There was always cheering through it. Both times I’ve seen Rundown Roommates, they covered my favorite Rancid song too, “Fall Back Down.” I don’t know how I have seen them only twice, but I like watching them play.

Then I jumped back outside in the heat for Less than Jake, the first of two bands I have inked on my arm playing Pot of Gold. Thinking about the day, I think this was my favorite set. The jumping around stage, Buddy back and forth with the horn, and the jokes from Chris and Roger made it so fun.I don’t know if there was any point of this set that I didn’t have a giant grin on my face.

At one point they saw the giant pizza slice mascot, and got the crowd to crowd surf him. At least, per above, he was until they hit the barrier to the VIP section. The set included some old and some new, including “Bomb Drop.” I was bouncing around, jumping around, and just skanking in the circle the entire set. Watching them play makes me so excited every time. There’s a reason they are tattooed on my arm, I love everything Less than Jake does.

I then made my one trek over to the West stage, to catch Fitz and the Tantrums. In the time I did catch them, they played a great set. They like to move to the music as they perform it which was cool. Although, coming off of a high energy ska punk band, where people are running around, it just felt like I hit the brakes. People stood in place at this stage, appropriately no circle pit to dance around in. The heat probably contributed to only hanging on that stage for more than twenty to thirty minutes. I listened to the rest of the set from the East stage while getting the remedy I needed, food. They played some of the tracks I’m familiar with, like “The Walker.” Perhaps in a different setting I will catch them again.

Now back at the East stage for the other band with their name inked on my arm, and sit atop as my favorite band, NOFX. Tonight was kind of a culminating of two of my favorite bands, slightly joining forces, as Roger Lima was filling in for Eric Melvin. Melvin is expecting twins any day now, which he was told right before the Salty Dog Cruise. Certainly a good choice with Roger, who is one of the best singers I’ve watched. You know he is good when Chris joked it was contractual why the best singer in Less than Jake stands to his side instead of center. There was no drop off in the quality of him doing all of Melvin’s vocals in songs like “Linoleum.”

Though the funnier time was how much Mike seemed to be bringing up how hard it is to play a full 75 minute slot. Plus, the regular par for the course banter I’ve come to expect from NOFX. The biggest pit of the day opened up, two small pits joined to become one big one. This gave me the weirdest moment of the day, where some dude grabbed my junk for a second while going around the pit. I turn around and the guy behind me asked if I knew him. That adds to one of the many crazy concert stories I have over the years. No damper on my night, and the set was awesome.

I headed back inside following that to catch one of my top local favorites, Harper and the Moths. This was the day that I finally figured out how I knew Chan. I had watched him play years ago in Redfield. The last time I saw him may have been with Oktober, for their album release show at Minder Binders. It had been so long I didn’t place it until it was brought up to me. Tonight their set was the high energy, dancing around and grooving set I come to expect .They had added Madison to back up vocals tonight too. It would have been the perfect complement of sound if the schedule had lined them up before or after Fitz and the Tantrums. Really cool is that the couple people I know who saw them for the first time tonight thought they were great. Another excellent set that helped them grow the fan base further.

Closing out the Pot of Gold festival was the band that puts the Irish in St. Patrick’s Day for many Phoenicians, Flogging Molly. The last time I saw them was at Punk Rock Bowling 2015, and it has been a little since they last visited Phoenix. They are another band I have issues standing still for, so of course, I was back in the pit for them, singing along most of the way. Unfortunately, due to the gaining itchy eyes from the hay filled dust, midway through their set I had to get away from the dust cloud. I took in the rest of the set a little further back, still singing along. A day after was still close enough to St. Patrick’s Day to make it feel like for one more year, we got our old tradition back of seeing the amazing Flogging Molly for the holiday.

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