Here’s the thing about Stubb’s: the main venue is outdoors. Inside, it’s a decent BBQ joint. Inside, it has a couple of intimate-ish performance areas with air-con. Indoors, it has a ceiling.
But outdoors is a 2,200 person standing-room only “amphitheater” (I feel they’re using that term rather loosely). The problem with this is threefold. First, in summer (which stretches from April through October), it’s HOT AS FUCK. Like, come on guys, it’s so hot. HOT. I have been to shows at Stubb’s where people have passed out because of the heat and then the fence guys at the front of the venue have to crawl over people and pull limp bodies to the side. They have to pass cups of water in a chain to people because everyone is closely packed and drop like flies. This is made no better by the fact that the audience area is somewhat long and narrow for a venue, so people are inclined to crowd as closely as possible to the stage (totally understandable) because if you don’t do that, you’re like, 300 meters from the stage. It’s just strange. And lastly: rain. Just torrential buckets of rain. Because if it’s not hot as fuck, it’s raining, and then you’re just a person standing in rain that is either icy cold, or weirdly warm so feels like someone is peeing on you. So you can’t see, it’s too crowded, it’s hot, someone’s blowing smoke in your face, people are pushing to get closer, it rains and you’re instantly covered head to toe in mud, no parking — basically all the complaints that old people have about those darn kids and their darn music. Honestly, every show I’ve ever seen there I’ve left thinking, “Great show. But never again at Stubb’s.”
I’ve learned through trial and error about my limitations for Stubb’s: for example, no shows that fall after May 15 (too hot). No punk shows on Saturday night (too rowdy). Do not attend during SXSW (insane people). No shows during tornado season (self-explanatory). But still, I’ve been to Stubb’s a lot, like any person who lives in Austin, because they book great people. Superb acts, and a great mix of local, national and international bands of all genres, with some really interesting choices sometimes. And since you can technically fit more than 2,000 people in the back it makes a good choice for a lot of mid-sized artists. So no surprise that this is where Flogging Molly, an amazing Irish-American Celtic punk band, were playing on their most recent swing through ATX, and I was SO READY to see them.
Flogging Molly is phenomenal. So phenomenal, in fact, that they make a trip to Stubb’s seem worthwhile.
But oh, Stubb’s, you wicked tease, as soon as I got there I started doubting myself. First of all, it was supposed to rain. So when I arrived, I made my way through the crowd till I was positioned under the weird awning that comes out from the stage — basically front and center. But at least I figured the ground would stay dry-ish. The Potato Pirates were the openers, a super-nice surprise because I remember them from Denver back in the day (like, five years ago) and it’s always nice to see a “local” band on tour. And then Flogging Molly came on and they were glorious. Lead singer and guitarist Dave King is bawdily witty, and their performance was tight. High-energy and fun and loud and great, just like their albums. The moment they started playing I was promptly shoved to the ground by an instantaneous mosh pit that formed, because I forgot that Flogging Molly is a punk band. Someone else promptly helped me up and out of the mosh pit because that is just not my thing. But there actually were several women up in that mess because Flogging Molly promotes moshing among all sexes.
Then it started to rain. But still, it was kind of okay. Everyone was pretty wet, yeah (ironically, the only dry people were the moshers front and center, and I think they would’ve enjoyed the rain and mud the most), but it was fun! Flogging Molly was still killing it! People were laughing and singing along and having a good ol’ time and somehow being soaked kind of added to that.
Then it started to rain more. And heavier. And more. And then…it wasn’t so fun anymore. It was the kind of late spring storm rain that absolutely beats you. And then the lighting started. And then the wind. And then, about 45 minutes in, they called the show. At first they were just going to take a break to see what developed, but I think someone at Stubb’s looked at their weather app and realized there was a massive thunderstorm over Austin and safety-wise, it was unwise to continue. So the show ended and people were understandably pissed, because many of them had been standing around since 6 waiting for the main act. But weather is weather. The show was disbanded and they made us all seek cover.
Where does one seek cover after a canceled Stubb’s show where the streets are now too flooded to drive home? Cheer Up, Charlies, obviously, where I had a drink with other shelter-seekers where we talked about other shows where the weather had bested us and other Flogging Molly shows. So all in all, not a bad night, really. Eventually the rain let up enough to get to my car, and I was able to make my way home in one piece. My phone continued to function even after being soaked for a few hours, so it was all good.
But seriously, I’m done with Stubb’s! Come one, Stubb’s. You don’t get a refund; you don’t get a make up show; you don’t even get a coupon for some of their delicious BBQ. It’s disappointing to be at the whim of the elements sometimes. And this was my last trip there, forever.
Until September, of course, to see Beirut there.
Flogging Molly is basically on tour all the time, everywhere, and right now they’re playing with Frank Turner, another one of my favorite artists. Check out dates here.
Flogging Molly performed at Stubb’s Outdoors on May 26th, 2016.