Flogging Molly on a mission to raise spirits

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Flogging Molly | Richie Smyth photo

Flogging Molly singer Dave King didn’t find much to celebrate in the past year. With the constant flow of news about violence and tragedy, and the divide created by social and political issues in the country, it was challenging to be upbeat.

Flogging Molly When: 6:30 p.m. Dec. 30; 8:30 p.m. Dec. 31 Where: House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn Tickets: $50-$80 Info: www.houseofblues.com

For example, the debate over immigration and the negative stereotypes associated with the issue, hits home with King, who is Irish-American.

As the Celtic punk rocker group from Los Angeles looks ahead to the new year, they wanted to provide fans with a bit of a reprieve from the tough year, King says. This weekend the band will return to Chicago to perform a pair of year-ending shows at the House of Blues, complete with New Year’s Eve countdown.

“Hopefully we can end the year with a bit of a bang,” King says. “Just forget our problems for a few hours and celebrate and have fun and enjoy ourselves.”

Their choice to play Chicago is no accident. It’s where they spent several months recording their first two albums with the help of producer Steve Albini. King also appreciates Chicago’s “off-the-cuff nature” and the fact that the city has a large Irish-American population. (Band member Matt Hensley also used to live here for many years.)The House of Blues also is one of their favorite venues to play when they’re in town (they’ve played the venue five or six times, King estimates).

“It has the atmosphere of an old theater. You can’t beat that,” says King. “There’s a great atmosphere there and you can do two nights there.”

The upbeat vibe of their live shows is similar to that of the band’s latest album, “Life Is Good,” which was released in June. King’s mother, who died two years ago, once told him that even though life can be tough at times it was important to “enjoy yourself.”

“I know how hard of life she had, and it wasn’t always good, but she made the best of it,” he says. “[The album’s] about making the best out of what we’re dealt. My father died when I was about ten. You have to really remember the positives. I’ve never been afraid to enjoy life.”

“We didn’t have a shower or bathtub [growing up in Ireland], but we had a piano,” King added. “Life was geared towards enjoying yourself and I learned that from an early age.”

Several of the album’s cuts focus on the topic of immigration, including “The Hand of John L Sullivan.” Sullivan was an Irish-American boxer that was the first heavyweight champion of gloved boxing. It’s a song about an immigrant’s unwavering will to make it in America.

While King was growing up in Ireland, America was the place to go to fully achieve your dreams. It’s no surprise then that he moved to Los Angeles seeking a career in music. A couple of years later the band he initially put together fizzled out. He had two choices: continue trying to make a living where he was or go back to Ireland. He decided to tough it out and eventually founded Flogging Molly, which is now celebrating its 20th anniversary.

“[America] made me believe that I could do what I wanted to do,” says King. “I think that’s why I sing about [immigration] quite a bit because I’m one of the lucky ones. I want to keep [the topic] fresh because it still means a lot to me.”

For the past 20 years, King and his bandmates have found a way to write songs that tackle serious topics but also have a fun mentality sonically.

“People realize that, and it turns into a celebration,” he says. “Basically, at the end of the day it’s about [enjoying] life.”

Joshua Miller is a local freelance writer.

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