The Dropkick Murphys bring unique fusion of folk and punk rock to House of Blues
In general, songs that have become intertwined with sports have had a generic quality to them, like Queen's "We Are the Champions," "Start Me Up" by the Rolling Stones, or the Troggs' "Wild Thing." The latter got linked to erratic former Phillies' closer Mitch Williams, but could easily be connected to any athlete in any sport with an inclination for being unrestrained.
In contrast, the Dropkick Murphys, who return to Showboat's House of Blues this Friday, Nov. 7, is a band whose passionate loyalty to the Boston sports scene is singularly and enthusiastically channeled into that entity alone through its songs. Maybe nowhere else in the nation has a band and its music better represented the rally cry and the sports fervor of the town from which it originated.
Consisting of an atypical fusion of traditional Irish folk tunes and the rambunctious sounds of punk rock, the Dropkick Murphys' creation as a band pre-dates by eight years the Red Sox run to its jinx-snapping World Series title in 2004, but the two are inextricably linked. The song "Tessie" was played after every Red Sox win at Fenway Park in 2004, and the song "I'm Shipping Up To Boston" became the Sox's unofficial anthem during their 2007 World Series victory. The title track of the band's 2005 CD The Warrior's Code is a tribute to suburban Boston boxer Micky Ward, whose epic fight trilogy with Arturo Gatti in Atlantic City is, without a trace of doubt, the main reason Gatti became such a beloved figure in A.C. The song "Time To Go," a track on the band's fifth of seven CDs, 2003's Blackout, pays homage to the Boston Bruins, and at the end of the band's 2001 CD Sing Loud, Sing Proud, a radio telecast of the Boston Celtics winning their 16th NBA title is recreated.
"I believe a lot more people have become aware of the band and we've maybe expanded our audience due to our association with the Red Sox and Boston sports teams, but we've done a lot of touring over the last 12 years and had already established our core audience long before any of that," Dropkick Murphys' lead singer Al Barr tells AC Weekly. "So in terms of people coming to Red Sox games and turning around and buying our records? I don't think we've ever seen that kind of thing happen, but there's definitely an awareness of the band that wasn't there before."
The band's latest CD, The Meanest of Times, was released about a year ago and includes 15 tracks. Barr says the band takes much of its influence from the Pogues, an Irish-English band that formed in 1982 and sort of pioneered the fusion of traditional Irish folk music with more high-energy sounds. The Dropkick Murphys' music is infectious, and to hear how the band uses classical Irish instruments like bagpipes and tin whistles to create a punk-rock resonance can really supercharge the senses. Along with Barr, the band includes Ken Casey on bass, Matt Kelly on percussion, James Lynch on guitar, Tim Brennan on guitar and accordion, Jeff DaRosa on mandolin, banjo, bouzouki, tin whistle, guitar and keyboard, and Scruffy Wallace on bagpipes. All sing backup to Barr's lead.
"I think everybody in the band grew up seeing punk rock and hearing a lot of American folk, like Woodie Guthrie and Pete Seeger, and traditional Irish bands like the Dubliners and the Chieftans," says Barr, 40. "When the band wrote their first original [a single called "Bar Room Hero" that is on the 1998 CD Do or Die], somebody said 'You know, it sounds a lot like the Pogues meets the Ramones.' But I think where the Pogues are more of a folk band that leans toward punk, we're more a punk band that goes outside the realm of punk and rock 'n' roll for the folk influence.
"We're a Boston band, and it's great to be thought of synonymously with the city in terms of when people talk about Boston, its musical traditions and our contributions to it," adds Barr. "It's been amazing, it's definitely been humbling and cool, and being associated with sports is a wild experience, but it's not something we set out to do. We didn't get into music to say, 'Someday we'll play at Fenway Park.' That's something that just kind of happened organically."
“We had it rough. We are not of privilege. We were literally hungry during the early days of this band."
'I didn’t want to do the Ramones clones thing. The guys I play with sound like themselves. We have Michael Graves from the Misfits, who doesn’t sing like Joey. He sings like himself. We do 34 Ramones songs.'
Sure, the obligatory green food coloring will once again find its way into copious kegs of beer when St. Patrick’s Day weekend (March 16-18) arrives, but there’s so much more to look forward to if you’re fortunate enough to be in the Atlantic City area then
The Wrecking Crüe
Laughing with George Lopez
Fight Night at Boardwalk Hall