Concert review by JD Alvarez
Several years ago, I saw a band called the Wonderstuff. They did a show at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angles that was so unique, I remember it to this day. A few years later, along came a band called Flogging Molly. Although I’ve never caught one of their shows, I became a fan almost immediately. I think in part because they reminded me of the Wonderstuff. One day in 2005′ I heard a song that really caught my ear. The song was called The Walking Dead. For whatever reason I didn’t know who sang that song at the time. So, for a while whenever I heard the song, I would say to myself… hey it’s the Flogging-Wonderstuffs. Turns out it was the Dropkick Murphys. Needless to say, I’ve been a fan of theirs ever since.
About two weeks ago, I was checking out an add for this years Hootenanny show. Turned out there were a few bands I really wanted to check out. So I got on the phone and shot out as many e-mails as I could to get some passes for the show. I really wanted to see The Reverend Horton Heat, John Doe and of course the Dropkick Murphys. As luck would have it, I got the passes and to my surprise, I was also able to score an interview with one of the Dropkick Murphys band members.
So I finally got to the show, and as Matthew Broderick would put it…. “it was hot, Africa hot!” It was 95 degrees in the shade! I was looking for monkeys in the trees it was that hot, and humid too. It was very Europian smelling in some areas if you know what I mean. Once I got through the main gate, or the dust bowl as some there put it, I got to see a few opening acts. Mojo Nixon put on a very entertaining set, and John Doe was a crowd favorite. Especially when he did two X tunes (The New World and 4th of July).
It was a little cooler (93 degrees) when I got to sit down with Matt Kelly (drummer). We did the interview in a make-shift tent-like area right behind the bands tour bus, next to an andy gump. There were other band members next to us doing other interviews. Immediately Matt noticed I had my sound equipment in hand and asked if it was ok where we were sitting since there was a fan near by that was making a little noise. I was 30 seconds into meeting Matt and I knew he was an ok guy. Here’s the thing, one of the things I really wanted to know about this band was this, are they as down to earth as their music suggests.
We started off the interview by talking about some of their early work. We went on to their big break of having their song I’m Shipping Up to Boston featured in the movie The Departed. Matt commented on how people around them seemed to lose their minds when that went down. He was genuinely humble when he said “it was an honor for someone like Scorsese to feature our music.” Other than that, he didn’t think it was that big a deal. I personally thought that was kind of funny. We went on to talk about their evolution as song writers. Matt said they like to write about things they know and things people can relate to. He went on to say that none of the guys in the band feel like they’re rock stars. Matt said when he gets home he has to take out the trash just like everyone else. He went on to say that if they would never have made it, that would be OK too. He said they’d all be doing a 9 to 5, but they would still be doing music… most likely in local bars. I started to get the impression that these guys are normal everyday guys that care about the normal things in life. Like their friends, family and just as importantly, their fans. I asked Matt if they are the kind of guys that would throw down in a bar, Matt just smiled and laughed.
We went on to the topic of their new album Going Out In Style. I asked how much of the album was based in reality, and how much was in based in fiction? Matt said that a good portion of the content was based on experiences of friends and family. There were some portions added for commercial effect, but a good part of the album was based on real life. Matt explained how the Boston area is a tight knit community. Families have lived in certain areas for generations. So they know a lot of stories. The new album is based on a central figure (Cornelius Larkin), the album basically tells his life story. The thing I came away with is that the Dropkick Murphys come from Boston, but tell stories that resonate with all blue-collar workers, and their families. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Boston, St. Louis or Dublin. You get them and they get you. To some extent, the band is an extension of their fans. I asked Matt if someday soon we would see Cornelius on Broadway like Green Day’s American idiot. He laughed out loud when I said that. He simply said, “I don’t know about that!”
We ended the interview with a discussion about some of the sports teams they support. The band loves the New England sports scene. We went on to discuss their upcoming shows at Fenway Park in September. Matt said “sometimes I can’t believe what we do, we’re playing Fenway Park…. how cool is that!” I asked him the number one question from our fans. He smiled, then said he would come clean. He didn’t know Ben Affleck, or Matt Damon. However, one of the boys in the band use to play hoops with the Wahlbergs’ as kids. In the end, Matt did not disappoint. Turns out that Matt, and his band mates are as down to earth as their music leads you to believe. A very pleasant surprise.
So the interview was over, and back to little Africa I went. While waiting to see their show, I got to catch a band called the Supersuckers. Although I was not familiar with their music, those cats impressed me. Then came The Reverend Horton Heat, that was a show in itself. I just thought to myself, “If it was me, I would really hate to follow these guys.”
The sun was slowing coming down and it started to cool down. I realized moments before they took the stage that this was their first appearance at the Hootenanny, so I wasn’t quite sure how the crowd would receive these Celtic Punk Rockers. Two seconds into their set, I knew. Those cats were just as hot as the weather was earlier in the day. Lead singer Al Barr came out like a top with his skull on fire. His voice is like a cross between Al Jorgensen (Ministry) and Bon Scott (AC/DC). The band was tight; guitar, bass, drums, violins, banjo and bagpipes all in unisin. A sound I have never heard before at a punk show. To the crowds enthusiastic roar, they covered a high intensity version of The Irish Rover, they even covered AC/DC’s TNT, a song Al’s voice was made for. The crowd really got into Take Em Down and lost their minds over Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced.
After taking in just about every band at the Hootenanny, I can definitely say that the Dropkick Murphys deserved their headline billing. They are the quintessential American-Celtic-Punk band. This was a show I can honestly say I will remember for some time. Most importantly for me, I can write that the Dropkick Murphys are good guys. If you’re a fan of punk, young or old, or just love good music… do yourself a favor and check out the Dropkick Murphys.
The Dropkick Murphys are currently on tour in support of their latest release Going Out In Style. You can go to dropkickmurphys.com, or their social media pages at FaceBook or MySpace for details on their tour and all there is to know about the band. Their album is in stores now or can be downloaded at iTunes.
The Dropkick Murphys feature: Al Barr (lead vocals), Ken Casey (lead vocals, bass), Matt Kelly (drums, bodhran, vocals), James Lynch (guitar, vocals), Tim Brennan (guitar, accordion, vocals), Jeff DaRosa (mandolin, banjo, bouzouki, whistle, acoustic guitar, keyboard, vocals) and Scruffy Wallace (bagpipes).
Hootenanny 2011 Set List
Deeds Not Words
The Fighting 69th
The Gangs All Here
The State of Massachusetts
Take Em Down
Going Out In Style
The Irish Rover / Peg O’ My Heart
The Dirty Glass / Echoes On “A” Street
I’m Shipping Up To Boston
TNT (AC/DC cover)
Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced