Concert preview: Former punks Larry and His Flask unplug but refuse to mellow

By Columbus Alive
From the October 17, 2013 edition

Folk music has undergone a revival in recent years, driven by the success of likeminded groups like Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers and The Avett Brothers. But forgive the band members in Oregon-based Larry and His Flask for not feeling the embrace.

“We fell into that whole folk movement, I suppose, but we really do try and do our own thing,” said band co-founder Jamin Marshall in a recent phone interview. “We just wanted to make [folk music], and by coincidence at the same time there was this push toward it everywhere else in the mainstream.”

Indeed, Larry and His Flask, a gang of former punk rockers, actually unplugged long before many of the groups they’re so commonly lumped in with. At this point they’ve been bashing out acoustic burners for the better part of five years.

“A lot of people now will say, ‘They’re like Mumford & Sons on crack!’ Before they were popular it was ‘The Avett Brothers on speed!’ And before they were popular it was ‘The Old Crow Medicine Show on tweak!’” he continued. “As we stay where we are there’s always going to be another folk band where people are going to say, ‘Oh, you guys are like such and such on this [drug].’”

While groups like Mumford tend to skim the surface of folk, applying acoustic instrumentation to lukewarm tales of love and longing, Larry and His Flask immerse themselves in the deepest, darkest corners of the genre, penning tales of destitution and death (in one new song a woman is buried with her unborn baby “still tucked in her womb”) and performing them with the same unbridled energy they applied back when they were still wielding electric guitars.

Even now the band’s shows tend to be rowdy affairs, complete with crowd-surfing and moshing — developments that come with their own hazards. While crowd-surfing at one show, for example, Marshall plowed headfirst into an amplifier and knocked himself unconscious, causing his girlfriend to scream “You killed my boyfriend!” at the crowd that circled around his still-breathing body.

“It’s always been our hope to generate a frenzy,” Marshall said. “We appreciate people who stand there with their arms folded and really listen to what we’re doing, but we’ve always tried to really get that energy up and [make the audience] go apeshit.”