This time of year in New England, you’ll find a countless number of parades, festivals, and shows. However, in the Celtic Punk scene, the most anticipated event is when the Dropkick Murphys come back to their hometown of Boston for a St. Patrick’s Day weekend full of shows. This past weekend, all but one of the shows was at the House of Blues. One special intimate show was held down the street at the Landsdowne Pub. These locations are both significant, located directly across the street from Fenway Park, the subject of at least one of their hit songs, Tessie, an anthem for the Boston Red Sox.
I was lucky to get into the Friday night show, 3/14. Unfortunately, I got there late and completely missed the first opening band, The Rival Mob, a local hardcore group. I hope to be able to catch them at another show sometime soon.
The second band up, Skinny Lister, traveled here all the way here from the UK. I only caught a couple of their last songs, but this British folk-punk act definitely impressed. They had so much energy and spunk, they never stopped moving as they played their songs. The bass player twirled and lifted the huge stand-up bass over his head a number of times, never missing a beat. They then ended their set with the rambunctious but petite lead singer in little red heels jumping up onto his bass. She finished the song standing tall on top of the bass, triumphantly throwing her hands up in the air and smiling from ear to ear.
The final opening band to take the stage was Lucero, a country-rock band from Memphis. They describe themselves and their music as coming from a “bohemian place.” This non-traditional and unconventional band is not easy to classify: their music is unique. They have a definite southern sound, but one that fits in with the louder rock scene. They played every song with a sincere emotion that was felt by everyone in the room.
After all these awesome performances by the opening acts, it was time for the Dropkick Murphys to show us why these shows always sell out. Now celebrating 18 years, the Murphys have collected a large fan base from all over the U.S. and around the world. Though the band travels the world on tour for much of the year, these fans make sure to come to Boston for the ultimate show experience. I met several of these fans at the show that night, one from Virginia Beach, another from Oregon, and several from as far away as Norway. They all said that they try to make the trip every year to Boston; no one wants to miss a show. They even have their favorite spots to stand, up against the metal barricade, right up front of course.
After the stage had been cleared for a while, the audience started their chant. Every Dropkick show starts with the audience yelling, “Murphys, Murphys, Murphys!” Then the soft melodic tones of Sinead O’Connor’s Foggy Dew start to seep into the room. This is a signal to everyone that the show is about to begin. As the song gets louder the Murphys barrel onstage to begin their first song and the audience goes nuts. I have been to many shows over the years, but it is always a thrill—first the anticipation for the show to begin, then once it starts you never want it to end.
Al Barr (lead singer) always dressed in black, with a cap pulled low over his face, is a commanding presence on stage. I don’t know how he does it; his voice is so powerful, lasting the entire night without fail. He saunters around the stage, yells full-force into the mic, and interacts with the audience through the whole show.
The Dropkicks know their fan base and appreciate the loyalty of all these people. Ken Casey (bass player + co-lead singer) mentioned this at the show, thanking everyone. He also said that they were going to mix-up the songs each night since they knew that many people were going to multiple shows. They were going to do 27 songs every night, but only repeat 7. They never disappoint!
Midway through the show, Ken announced that he would call out the raffle numbers. Most shows have a raffle of different items, often signed memorabilia from the Dropkicks, Red Sox, or Bruins. This is all part of the charitable foundation, the Claddagh Fund, that Ken put together to help out people and other charities in the community. That’s just another thing that makes this band totally unique and connects them with the audience that loves them. That night it was for a signed Buchholz baseball, to which there were groans mixed in with applause. Ken replied to this with something like, “What is with the groaning? You should be happy. Last night we gave away an autographed Wes Welker football!” (A former Patriots player, who just defected to the Broncos.)
After a bunch of songs, I saw Ken glance into the audience and notice someone. I wondered what was going on. He then walked around the stage to talk quickly with different members of the band. I figured they were just changing up the set list or something, but soon found out they were about to invite someone up. The Dropkicks are known for doing this at shows. This show was no different, but the kid who came onstage this time was a dynamo. He sang an old Murphys hardcore song, Eurotrash. He was all over the place, jumping on and off stage while he sang, even diving into the audience at one point, then rushed back up never missing a word. Video here.
Every once in a while the Murphys surprise me with a great cover tune. A few years ago when they performed at Fenway, they covered CCR’s Fortunate Son; one of my absolute favorites. Towards the end of the night they surprised us all with a cover of The Who’s Baba O’Riley. They blew the doors off the place! This band is amazing, they write some of the best songs, but can also do amazing renditions of other band’s songs, all in their own style. Is it sacreligious to say the Dropkicks do them better?
After a few more songs, the Murphys wrapped up the evening with a few more traditions. All the girls in the audience were invited onstage for one of the final songs, End of the Night. Then all the guys rushed on stage to join them for Skinhead on the MBTA. The stage was packed with people when the night finally ended and everyone was singing Citizen CIA.
It was a great show, a great night, and full of memories. This was show #2 for that long weekend, there were 3 more to go! I know that many of the regulars I met earlier went to every one of these shows. The pictures and stories that travel the social media are then shared and enjoyed by many. That’s where I saw that the Dropkicks covered the Ramones Blitzkreig Bop at the Landsdowne show. Proves that all those fans from out of town have the right idea; if you don’t go to every show, you’re gonna miss something good!
Dropkick Murphys Setlist
Hang 'Em High
Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya
The Gang's All Here
Bastards on Parade
The Warrior's Code
Caught in a Jar
Rocky Road to Dublin ([traditional] cover)
Don't Tear Us Apart
The Wild Rover ([traditional] cover)
Jimmy Collins' Wake
Out of Our Heads
The State of Massachusetts
Baba O'Riley (The Who cover)
I'm Shipping Up to Boston
End of the Night
Skinhead on the MBTA