Interview and concert review by JD Alvarez
It was a very beautiful afternoon in San Diego on October 11th. I had arrived at the gaslamp district for an interview with Matt Kelly of the Dropkick Murphys. Honestly, I got a little lost, mapquest is not always so accurate. Perhaps because I was sidetracked by the “Occupy San Diego” demonstration I ran into. It took me a little time, but I finally found my way to the House of Blues.
When I arrived, I was taken by how much of the block this venue took up, it was quite the site. It was my first visit to this venue, and the site for the first show of the Dropkick Murphys tour. I had caught them earlier in the year at the Hootenanny show down in Orange county and was looking forward to a follow-up chat with Matt (the bands drummer). My previous interview left me with a very positive impression of the band. We discussed a variety of topics last time around. I was eager to see what they had been up too, and review their show.
For those not as familiar with the band as they would like, the Dropkick Murphys are from Quincy, Massachusetts, they formed in 1996. They are tagged as a Celtic-punk band. They were initially signed to an independent punk record label called Hellcat Records. They released five albums for that label; they made a name for themselves locally through constant touring and St. Patty’s Day shows in the Boston area. They received critical acclaim from their song I’m Shipping Up to Boston, which was featured in the 2006′ Martin Scorcese film The Departed. In 2007, they signed with Warner Brothers Records and had their albums, The Meanest of Times and Going Out In Style in the top 20 of the Billboard charts.
A few things about these cats, their reputation is that they are very down to earth people. So far, that has been my experience. When I arrived at the HOB, their Tour Manager (Evan) graciously offered to have me interview Matt at their hotel which was right down the street. Since it was much quieter there, I took him up on the offer. When I arrived, Matt was waiting for me with a big smile. We started off by chatting about a few sports related topics. This is something Matt and the rest of the band are always up for. The thing that is striking about Matt is his modesty. He acknowledged that the New England teams have had a great run the last few years. He explained that the recent shortcomings of the Red Sox was just a set back. He said with a big grin, “we’ll be back next year.” That was funny, because right after that, he said he was very happy about the Bruins. So much so, he was dancing in the streets when they won the Stanley Cup!
We also discussed their recent concert at Fenway Park. In short, Matt said they felt like kids in a candy store. They are just regular dudes who happen to be lucky enough to play music for a living, and they got to walk the sacred grounds of Fenway. We segwayed on to their show preparation. Interestingly enough, Matt said he really doesn’t have a ritual, he just practices on a drum pad, drinks lots of water and shows up to play. As for their set list, he said they keep their set list close to the vest and they mix it up with different tunes to keep their shows fresh. They want to avoid cookie cutter shows for their fans sake. He went on to say that they have some fans that come to multiple shows, and they pay hard earned money to come see them. For that reason alone, they want to give them their moneys worth.
We went on to discuss their recent success of their last album, and the critical acclaim that came with it. Matt’s response reflected my experiences with the band. That is, he was just happy everyone liked it. We moved on to their upcoming appearance on the Conan O’Brien show. There too, he was very modest and said they were just happy to be asked back. Despite having the stature of a mega-band, with upcoming shows in L.A. and Australia, Matt and the rest of the band remain well grounded. After the interview, Matt asked me if I had tickets to their show, I said “I do,” and he simply smiled. We shook hands and he went on to their sound check. I decided to check out fans that were already forming a line at the box office.
I had a bit of a surprise waiting for me when I got to the box office. I saw two burly looking guys talking to this other guy who really looked like Al Barr (the bands lead singer). I figured it couldn’t be him, so I moved on to get my media passes. When I passed him, Al looked at me and we both gave each other that look. You know, that I know that I know this guy from somewhere kinda’ look. Anyhow, I got my passes and by the time I went back to the sidewalk, the Al Barr look-a-like was gone. So I approached the two guys and to no surprise, they were die-hard Dropkick fans. They were Jerry Jimenez and Jeremy Pendergraft of Hemet, California. Turns out they are fireman and were there on their day off. They said they make every attempt to see the band whenever they’re in California, or Vegas. When I asked them who that guy was, they said “that was Al Barr.” They said Al recognized them from previous shows and just wanted to chat. They told me what die-hards they are and how over the last few shows, some of the band members have come up to them and said “hello.” So I took their photo for my article and said “see you guys in there.”
As for me, I caught up with my daughter who joined me for the show. She too is a Dropkick fan and was excited to see them. We got in and caught the opening acts, Swiggin’ Utters and the Silent Comedy. Both bands were fantastic; they received a great reception and acknowledgment from the capacity crowd.
As for the Dropkick Murphys, the crowd was treated to the Sinead O’Connor opening that set the mood for a full-throttle-Celtic-punk show. The crowd immediately engaged into a celebration of screaming and moshing. The pit formed almost immediately and continued throughout the show. Fans throughout the venue were showing off their Massachusetts roots with Boston Celtics, Red Sox and Bruins jerseys and caps. Not to mention several tats, one that even resembled Al. As for the tunes, Matt was right, they did change it up from the last show I saw. This time around they played tunes like Hang Em’ High, Time To Go, Hardest of Times, The Fighting 69th, Deeds Not Words, Take Em’ Down and Kiss Me I’m Shitfaced. For an encore, they played their cover of AC/DC’s T.N.T .This cover is so good, it would make Brian Johnson smile. During this song, Al brought what seemed like most of the crowd on stage to do a sing-a-long. Funning thing about that, when I was taking photo’s, I noticed Jerry and Jeremy were on stage with Al. They were along side singing as loud as they could. A good end to a great night of music.
Normally, that’s where my reviews end. This time I have a post-scripts to add. After the show, Ken Casey came out and was signing autograph’s and taking pictures with everyone who wanted one. I introduced him to my daughter, and he graciously took a photo with her. After the show, I was invited to an after hour party with the band. So I made my way there, but when I got to the door, I was told my daughter couldn’t get in. So I made my way in to look for Evan to see if he could allow her in so she could meet the rest of the band. Another interesting thing happened, I was in there about 3 minutes, when I turned around… my daughter was in. She came up to me and said “Hey Dad!” Apparently Ken Casey noticed I dropped something at the door. He was kind enough to remember my kid and brought her in to me. The evening circled back to me leaving, but catching up with Matt on the way out and he also graciously took a picture with my daughter.
So when I am asked what kind of guys the Dropkick Murphys are, my answer is this; they are the kind of guys that will let you come to their hotel to do an interview. They are the kind of guys that hang out in front of a venue to talk to their fans. They are the kind of guys who bring their fans on stage to sing with them. They are the kind of guys who will bring someone in to an after hour party and deliver them to their Dad. In addition to being a great band, I like them most because they are the kind of guys I can see myself hanging out with. Even if they weren’t the Dropkick Murphys.
For more information on their tour, go to dropkickmurphys.com or their social media pages on FaceBook, MySpace and Twitter. Their music can also be found on iTunes.
Josh “Scruffy” Wallace, Tim Brennan and Jeff DaRosa.