Chicago celebrates St. Patrick’s Day a bit early. The city partook in its traditional Dyeing of the Chicago River, followed by a boisterous post-downtown Irish parade afternoon. The events draw thousands, most seeming to be decked out in various formed of green plastic, t-shirts slightly updated, often vulgarity or cheesy wise, from the classic of bygone years “Kiss Me I’m Irish,” and silly hats. More than a few people remarked that the only thing seemingly missing were actual Irish people. The accuracy of that last part I do not know.
However, after a day accented by a few celebrants puking up green beer on the “L,” Reggie’s acted as a sort of refuge from the shenanigans (yes, I use that word sans apologies). The pride of Southside Chicago Celtic punk, Flatfoot 56, as it often does at this time of the year, stormed the stage. The band had hearty support from The Rumjacks, The Drowns, and another of Chicago’s own, Criminal Kids.
To say that a Flatfoot 56 show is always a good time is an understatement. Led by the affable founding members the brothers Bawinkel, Tobin and Kyle, the band roars through its set. Tobin Bawinkel, the towering lead singer, exudes the energy of a preacher leading an old-time revival under a big tent, the charm of your favorite high school teacher, (he actually is a high school social studies teacher in the Chicago Public school system), and the requisite charisma of a veteran frontman. Kyle Bawinkel, with a good-natured, but slightly mischievous grin, slams on bass, Drummer Dan Alfonsi, aka singer of another windy city band “Still Alive,” works in tight conjunction with Kyle for a sturdy backbeat. Original Flatfoot 56 Pipes player Josh Robieson rejoined the band a few years back, much to the delight of the Ollie Mob.
The band is well-known as a Christian group. But during the secular shows, you won’t witness proselytizing. However, you will hear stories of forgiveness, redemption, unity, and faith laid bare in FF56 lyrics. Two of the band’s most popular songs played live are actually covers of
Christian hymnals. Tobin regularly encouraged, pre-pandemic, fans to hold the
hands of their neighbors at the show, as they slowly build then burst into a very up-tempo rendition of “Amazing Grace.” Tobin still encourages fans to take a moment to introduce themselves to those around them they do not yet know.
On this particular night, however, the hymnal of choice, was the joyously rowdy version of “I’ll Fly Away.” And whether fans describe themselves as believers, atheists, agnostics, or by any other religion-related description, the crowd joins in, triumphantly singing the chorus.
“I’ll fly away, oh, Glory
I’ll fly away
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by
I’ll fly away.”
It’s quite a moving moment. Decency is a word you will often hear associated with this band. It fits, in part, because it requests one thing of its fans, to bear cathartic witness to our shared humanity. But a FF56 show is no solemn affair, Its reliable strength is neither generic nor boring.
This was demonstrated as the members of Flatfoot 56 blasted through the set, also including “Brotherhood,” “Knuckles Up,” “Winter In Chicago,” a terrific cover version of “The Wild Rover,” “Courage,” and “We Grow Stronger.
Flatfoot 56 shows, simply put, are the very definition of a rip-roaring good time free of judgment, full of joy.
Celtic punk band The Rumjacks, was founded in Sydney, Australia but now its members are based in Europe.
Lead singer Mike Rivkees, who is actually from the United States, spent most of this time on stage in perpetual motion, springing lightly on the front of his shoes. Also playing tin whistle throughout the set, Rivkees commanded the crowd with his strong vocals. He led the bandmates, including his Mickey Rickshaw bandmate Kyle Goyette on accordion, through a rollicking set proper for a modern-day St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the USA. The Rumjacks easily satisfied the fans as it tore through “One for the Road,” ”Kirkintilloch,” “Bloodsoaked in Chorus,” ”A Fistful O’ Roses,” “Sainted Millions,” and “An Irish Pub Song.”
Hopefully we will not have to wait until the next St. Patrick’s Day celebration to welcome The Rumjacks back to Chicago.
The Drowns, out of the Emerald State helped celebrate the Emerald Isle with a spirited performance. The Seattle band has a stacked festival year. Among the upcoming highlights are Punk Rock Bowling, Punk in Drublic, and Rebellion Festival, as well as Sjock Festival. So it was a treat for those who can’t travel to a big festival to be able to see them at Reggie’s. The boisterous set included “Black Lung,” “Lost Boys Of Suburbia,” “One More Pint,” “Wolves on The Throne,” and ”Hold Fast.”
Band members felt compelled to point out one of their tour highlights or perhaps lowlights. The band hit White Castle pre-show. For at least one of its crew it was the first taste of the iconic fast-food joint. There is a White Castle right around the corner from the venue. Unsurprisingly (at least to me, as I am not a White Castle fan), the band expressed more than a little regret at that dinner choice.
The Drowns also played a barn-burning cover of Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz.” Of course, that classic song was featured in the classic comedy “Wayne’s World,” which has several keys scenes set in the Windy City area. The crowd was absolutely all for it.
Regret is something you may experience if you don’t catch this The Drowns live at your first chance. Whether it is at a huge festival or in a more intimate setting, the crucial thing is to catch them. You will be glad you did.
I am always delighted to see Southside Chicago’s own Criminal Kids on the bill. The band fired up the hometown crowd to kick off the party.
The rough and tumble but sweet attitude befitting a band with this name was demonstrated as Criminal Kids blasted through “Little Bitch,” “Night,” “Outcast,” “Vanity,” and “Life.”
The band’s rambunctious cover of The Undertones classic from 1978, “Teenage Kicks,” was a notch above terrific.
Is this where I say it’d be a crime to miss Criminal Kids? Ok, I will apologize for that groaner. The manner of expressing this idea might be dorky. But the sentiment is not.
See below for more photos!