The White Buffalo
Sat, May 27, 2017
Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm
This event is all ages
Buy tickets in person at the Port City Music Hall box office (504 Congress Street) Wednesday-Friday 10AM-5PM, charge by phone at 800-745-3000, or online right here. State Theatre box office will open one hour before doors night of show.
Special offer! A digital download of Flogging Molly’s forthcoming album, Life Is Good, is included with every ticket you order for this show. You will receive an email with instructions on how to receive your download following your ticket purchase.http://www.portcitymusichall.com/event/1452536/
Nothing has mattered more to Flogging Molly than their new record, Speed of Darkness. "It wasn't the album we set out to write," vocalist/guitarist Dave King says. "It became the album we had to write." Musically and lyrically, Flogging Molly has never sounded so mature or rousing, nor have the messages of alienation and hope behind their songs ever been so relevant. Speed of Darkness was written over several months when the band would descend into the basement of King's Detroit home—a home he shares with his wife, Flogging Molly fiddler, Bridget Regan (they maintain dual residences in Ireland and Detroit, where Bridget was born and raised). As the country struggled to stay afloat, the songs evolved into odes to the working man and battle cries against the elite establishment that so quickly and callously cast him aside. "I write from my surroundings," King says. "I wanted people who've lost their jobs to know I was paying attention. We're singing for them, all of these good people brought to their knees." Nowhere is this more apparent than on the charging and bluesy track "The Power's Out." ("The power's out, there's fuck all to see/The power's out, like this economy/The power's out, guess it's par for the course/Unless you're a bloodsucking leech CEO").
With Speed of Darkness, the band went into unchartered territory. The album was recorded at Echo Mountain Recording Studio, which is housed in a converted church in Asheville, North Carolina. The setting underscored a record that continually asks hard questions of faith and suffering, of belief and deliverance. "We liked making music in a building that had been a voice for the community," King says. "We just wanted to sing a little louder than they had before." And sing louder they did. Songs like "A Prayer for Me in Silence" and "The Cradle of Humankind" are journeys through hardship and heartache, through besieged homelands and losses that open like chasms. Other tracks like "This Present State of Grace" and "Oliver Boy" are songs of searching, of country and democracy, songs that bear witness to the glory and terror of being human. Speed of Darkness also marks the debut of Flogging Molly's own record label Borstal Beat, which they founded after a great run with SideOneDummy, their home for the last decade. The new chapter in the band's life also makes perfect sense: they're more independent than ever, more themselves than ever. "We're more serious now and we're taking risks. It's who Flogging Molly is," King says. Flogging Molly has never conformed to industry tastes; they've always been the outcasts who put their fans before commercial success, and they've always put their music before marketability. The rewards of such independence and integrity are undeniable on Speed of Darkness. You feel it from the first note to the last, the pathos and the passion, the sweeping and rollicking electricity of inspiration.
Founded in Los Angeles in 1997, Flogging Molly has always defied categorization. The infectious originality of their songs is a badge of honor and key to the band's creativity, their urgency. They infuse punk rock with Celtic instruments—violin, mandolin and the accordion—and they merge blues progressions with grinding guitars and traditional Irish music, the music of King's youth. "We're not a traditional band," explains Dublin-born King. "We are influenced by traditional music and inspired by it, but without question we put our own twist on it." Theirs is music of exile and rebellion, of struggle and history and protest. It's music of a country torn down the middle, a deeply beautiful and wounded country that knows no quit, and Flogging Molly pays homage to that resolve in every note. Whether it's a driving anthem like "Black Friday Rule" or the upbeat duet with Lucinda Williams, "Factory Girls", the band's only criteria for its music is simple and bone-deep: that it matter.
Flogging Molly's fans have always appreciated the social and political awareness driving the music. Swagger, the band's first album, transcended everyone's expectations in 2000, and the track "The Worst Day Since Yesterday" was included in the film Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Drunken Lullabies was released in 2002 and certified Gold. In 2004, the band released Within a Mile of Home, and in 2008, Flogging Molly put out Float, a deeply stirring and personal album recorded in King's native Ireland. No surprise that Float found the band's widest audience yet. Through all of this, Flogging Molly—first, last, and always a live band—was touring, playing raucous and adrenaline-fueled shows in bars, pubs, and nearly every major rock festival in North America, Europe, and Japan. "In Ireland," King says, "you go to the pub to have a conversation. That's what we do every night on stage, go to the pub and trade stories." In 2010, to showcase their unparalleled and limitless energy on stage, the band released Flogging Molly: Live at the Greek Theatre, a three disc set chronicling their legendary sold out shows at one of LA's most famous music venues.
Speed Of Darkness is music to play after you've lost your job or your love, and music to listen to as you dream of better things for your family and country. It's the music you hear as you fight a bigger man, and it's the music you hear as you help him from the floor and buy him a pint at the bar. The album, like Flogging Molly itself, is a testament to youth and resilience, to growing old and the wisdom of scars, and yet for all of the record's darkness and the speed with which it descends, the ultimate theme is one of light: We can persevere. We must and we will persevere.
Smith didn't set out to write a concept album as he laid the groundwork for what would become Shadows, Greys and Evil Ways (Unison Music Group, Sept. 10). It's just that the songs that were coming out of him—or through him, as the case may be—led him to that revelation. As the narrative arc began to coalesce, Smith went with it, shaping the universal story in modern dress of Joe and Jolene, a pair of youngsters thrust together by chance, forging a deep, emotionally hotwired relationship that would at once haunt and sustain them throughout their lives. The narrative in turn led Smith to tackle the big themes of human existence—sin and redemption, faith and doubt, mortality and the possibility of an afterlife—that have obsessed artists and philosophers alike from time immemorial. But here, these universal themes have led Smith to take on charged modern-day issues including post-war trauma, the economic plight of American families and the gun-control debate with evenhandedness and a refreshing absence of judgment. All of these thematic vectors exist in the service of a gripping story told uncompromisingly and compassionately, each of its linked songs coming across with the ring of truth.
"I look at the whole thing as a love story," says Smith. "The beginning is their meeting, and because of his need and want to support her, he goes off to war, which starts his downward spiral. But he later realizes that his only chance for redemption and hope is the love of this woman, who has always stood by him regardless of the crazy shit he keeps pulling and the bad choices he keeps making."
In the story, Smith poses a dual vision of salvation: romantic love on the one side, the pearly gates on the other. "And it goes unanswered," he acknowledges. "I know a lot of the questions in life, but I don't know the answers. At points on the album, it's evident that, if Joey doesn't denounce God, he doubts that he exists. In 'Redemption #2,' he says, 'I don't believe that there's a heaven to go/But I must get this evil out of my bones and my soul.' But then, at the end of his life, as many people probably do, he starts to think about these questions and the possibility of salvation, and if there is a heaven, does he have any right to be there?"
Throughout the process of writing the material for the album, Smith found himself straddling the archetypal and the particular. "It could be any man in any war at any time," he says. "Because it's a universal story of young men going off to war, for the right reasons or the wrong reasons, and things not going as planned and coming back. But then, I found myself putting in some details that allude to the fact that it's a desert war, like the wars I grew up with. So I think of him as an American serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, because that's what I've seen through my lifetime." Although Smith says he's not at all political, he's acutely aware of what's going on around him. "I feel like I'm a patriot, but at the same time I'm disillusioned by a lot of what's going on in this country—you have to be completely blind not to see that it's fucked up. But I still love it."
One of the most striking aspects of Shadows, Greys and Evil Ways is Smith's nuanced portrayal of Joe's progressive transformation through the stages of his life. "Initially, he's this excited boy," Smith notes, "and then, when he goes into his dark path, my vocal delivery changes. As he gets older, it changes again, to a sort of croon, almost. And I don't know whether I did it consciously or not, really. Sometimes it's first-person, sometimes it's third person and other times it's a blend of the two. It gets super-heavy in the three-song sequence of 'Joey White', '30 Days Back', and 'The Whistler', and hopefully the listener will get some of the chaos and insanity of what he goes through."
Another defining element of the album is its juxtaposition of immense power and strength on the one hand—not surprising considering Smith's looming presence—and surprising sensitivity on the other. "I definitely commit to whatever ideas and emotions are in any given song," he acknowledges, "and try to make every word count—I want to take the listener somewhere. What makes this album significant for me is that it works as a whole, but the individual songs stand up as well. I'm very proud of it."
Shadows, Greys and Evil Ways, like its predecessor, 2012's Once Upon a Time in the West, was produced by Unison Music co-owners Bruce Witkin & Ryan Dorn. It features Smith's longtime rhythm section of drummer Matt Lynott and bass player Tommy Andrews, with a supporting cast that includes Rick Shea (Dave Alvin) on pedal steel, Mike Thompson (Eagles, Rod Stewart) on keyboards and legendary drummer Jim Keltner on "Don't You Want It." Also playing key roles are Jessy Greene, whose violin and cello are meant to represent the character of Jolene, while Joe's darker moods are deepened by the baritone guitar of Witkin (who plays a variety of instruments on the record).
Born in Oregon and raised in Huntington Beach, California, Smith spent his childhood years listening to the country music his parents loved. As a teenager, he naturally gravitated to the aggressive sounds emanating from that punk-rock mecca before getting turned on to Bob Dylan and John Prine and picking up a guitar for the first time at age 19, whereupon he immediately began to write his own songs. All of these elements helped shape, and continue to coexist, in his music—the storytelling impulse of classic country, the aggressiveness of punk, the visionary singularity of the definitive singer/songwriters. As The White Buffalo, he stands as a true original, presenting his singular vision with conviction and immediacy, and leaving an ever-bigger footprint on the American roots-music landscape.
THE NARRATIVE ARC OF SHADOWS, GREYS AND EVIL WAYS
The story begins with "Shall We Go On," which introduces the male and female protagonists, Joe and Jolene, who meet by chance and fall desperately in love. In the first test of their connection, both sets of parents disapprove, in large part because of their differing religious beliefs, setting the stage for both an enduring love story and a lifetime of conflict and struggle. The young lovers escape their small-town existence and the judgments of their parents and community in "The Get Away." "Behind us the damage is done, no one can erase," they admit to each other. "Love has no ending, just a resting place." But Joey carries a huge chip on his shoulder, and he swaggers defiantly through the course of the first-person "When I'm Gone," impetuous and irresponsible, before reality intrudes—he has no means of providing for his new family. That need, along with the desire to prove his worth to his parents and himself, leads to a fateful decision, as he enlists and goes off to fight in a war halfway around the world.
The following "Joey White" fast-forwards through Joe's military experience: enlistment, boot camp, the chaos of combat, taking a bullet and being sent home a radically changed man, with "demons in his head, for life." "30 Days Back" finds Joe back home, confused and disillusioned, struggling to adjust to civilian life. "They built me strong, made me numb and mean," he tells himself ruefully, "Shipped me on home, one killin' machine." Battling his demons through the harrowing course of "The Whistler," he kills again in a moment of bloodlust. He's devastated by his murderous act, vowing for the second time never to take the life of another man. In "Set My Body Free," Joey begins his long search for redemption in all the wrong places—before it hits him in a fleeting moment of clarity that the answer may lie in grasping at something pure and unsullied.
Still searching for some glimpse of light in the lingering shadows of his life, Joey seeks forgiveness and a way to cope during the course of "Redemption #2." Telling himself, "I must flush away what I done, what I seen," he realizes his only hope for redemption is the love of his woman. "This Year" follows Joe through the seasons of a calendar year. As spring turns to summer, he experiences a growing sense of normalcy and light, but as the natural cycle continues and fall darkens into winter, his anxiety and doubt return, and he reverts once again to the increasingly faint hope that "Maybe I'll get better, maybe I'll be different/Next year." "Fire Don't Know" addresses the concept that people have an irrational tendency to blame inanimate objects for their own actions and problems. "Bullets and steel, they don't think they don't feel," Joey reflects. "Well they ain't got no plans to shoot down a man… Money don't know I got mouths to feed/But I do."
In "Joe & Jolene," the protagonist loses his job and starts drinking and Jolene leaves him. But when he makes a final plea—"Joey rolls up his sleeve, I still got your name tattooed/The ink's faded and grey, but it's still serenading you"—she's moved by the depth of his need for her and returns home to him. Years pass before we encounter Joe, older and reflective, in "Don't You Want It," asking himself, "Where the hell did I go wrong?" but realizing he has a chance at redemption by way of his enduring love of Jolene. Following the instrumental "#13," we find Joe near the end of his life in the concluding "Pray to You Now," looking back on his "shadows, greys and evil ways" and pondering the possibility of an afterlife. "I'd pray to you now, but I don't know how," he offers up into the Great Unknown. "It ain't in my heart, is it too late to start?" Joe's story, and his life, end with these questions tantalizingly unresolved.
609 Congress St
Portland, ME, 04101