— Sean Patrick Murphy (@seanmurphy2012) August 20, 2016
Each country across the world has musical roots that go back generations. The typical term for these traditional tunes is folk music. Last weekend at the Ford Amphitheater on the Coney Island boardwalk, musicians from the United States, England, and Ireland gave a new spin to their countries’ folk music by adding distortion and speed — a flavor of music known as punk rock.
The Friday night started with a light drizzle, and a soulful performance by the bearded Chuck Ragan, a born and bred Texan. He strummed an acoustic guitar while someone next to him played a peddle steel guitar. Ragan, who once was the headman of the punk band Hot Water Music, sang, and often shouted, songs about coal mining and riding freight trains across the vast plains of middle America with songs like “Dream Of A Miner’s Child,” and “God Deciding.”
Ragan’s set was a relaxed set for the crowd. People sat while bobbing their heads with their eyes closed, focusing on his words. As he played his last song, the sun started to set and the seats began to fill up for the next two performances.
After Ragan came the co-headlining Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls. Turner and his band are from England, and the singer of Flogging Molly later described them as a “rowdy bunch of pirates.”
Turner made a point early on to get the party started by demanding the crowd dance, and even guided them in jazz hands and sing-alongs. Turner’s band, The Sleeping Souls, are a talented group comprising of drums, bass, guitar, piano, mandolin, and the occasional harmonica.
At one point, Turner made friends with a man in the front row holding a Costa Rican flag. Turner invited him on stage to determine where a signed drum skin should be thrown into the crowd. Turner explained how folk and punk music is about lifting each other up and supporting your friends. After that he instructed the Costa Rican man, Mark, to dive into the crowd during the next song and crowd surf in an arc across the whole congregation to arrive on the opposite side of the stage. At that point, Turner said, Mark will know who in the crowd deserves the autographed souvenir.
There were points where it was just Turner on stage with an acoustic guitar playing “sad songs, in the minor keys” about suicide, addiction, and heartbreak. At other points he was merrily dancing across the stage singing about hope and redemption. His latest album is titled “Positive Songs For Negative People,” and it is very fitting for the theme of the music.
After Turner came the main headliner, Flogging Molly, a tenured Irish punk/folk band from Dublin whose repertoire also includes songs about addiction, patriotism, family, and missing their home country.
The lead singer, Dave King, introduced his wife, Bridget Regan, who plays the violin and the tin whistle, as his best friend before playing the song, “Drunken Lullabies.”
Regan later left the stage with breathing problems. King was clearly worried throughout the set, looking back periodically to catch a glimpse of what was going on, and even dropped his guitar to quickly run behind stage to check on his wife. He later told the crowd that she was alright and hooked up to oxygen.
Flogging Molly played many classics like, “What’s Left of The Flag,” “Seven Deadly Sins,” and “If I Ever Leave This World Alive.” The crowd was in full swing and danced like the drunken sailors in the songs that were being played.
Once the band left the stage the crowd chanted at them to play one more song, but unfortunately the house lights came up and the crowd took to the boardwalk for the end of the night.
It was a wonderful display of camaraderie among people from different countries and cultures to enjoy each others folk music.