Boston’s Dropkick Murphys are worthy of anyone’s attention argues John Robb with the aid of lead singer Ken Casey. Listening to any Murphys long player you have to agree, their fusion of Irish music and punk is hard to ignore…
Punk rock is the last great folk music.
And I don’t mean all fiddly diddly fingers in the ears bobbins, but music made by the people for the people. The sometimes celebratory, sometimes sad, sometimes angry rush of sound that sound tracks people’s lives in a bacchanalian uplifting rush of sound. Perfect.
Easily crossed with other rebel music, it is the last blast of real life air in a cosseted corporate pop culture. A last stand against the accountants making money and killing music with the their soulless supermarket slop.
And it’s genuinely heart-warming to see these outsider bands getting bigger and bigger.
Because outside the suffocating world of Sunday magazine grown up indie pop and copyright pop bores, bands like Boston’s Dropkick Murphys are making giant strides. Their crossing of traditional Irish roots music with second wave UK punk rock, has seen the Dropkick Murphies hitting upon an uplifting formulae that is filling houses all over the world. Put simply, the band are very much on the ascent.
“We’ve been working hard and it’s paying off in increments… not suddenly playing to a 1000 people… we are out here earning it” explains frontman Ken Casey.
Very much a roots band, the band’s fusion of Irish music (complete with bagpipes!) and second wave British punk rock is very much part of their growing up in Boston, an American city steeped in Irish traditions.
“The band are from all over the city- Brighton, Dorchester, Milton… all basically from similar neighbourhoods; blue collar parts of town with strong Irish communities, that’s where the Irish music influence comes from and when we were teenagers we were very much part of punk scene.”
Ken grew up steeped in Irish music.
“I always heard it around friends’ houses – somebody was always playing Irish music. The music stays longer than the culture. A lot of these songs were written many generations ago.”
2011’s ‘Going Out In Style’
Ken feels that punk rock has much in common with Irish music.
“Punk rock is a roots rebel music. It’s similar to Irish music in that it comes out of nothing. It is a grass roots thing. Both are very pure forms of music. Grass roots music for the people, and they have a lot more in common than people would think…”
Introduced to punk rock at an early age in the early Eighties, Ken was very much part of the then burgeoning Boston punk scene.
“I got into punk when Boston’s hardcore scene was at its peak and then went on to check out the UK punk bands, and that’s the strongest influence on us… That style of music is important to us. Mid-tempo guitar driven UK punk is much more compatible with Celtic influences… It was bands like Stiff Little Fingers and the UK Subs, all those bands.”
The tasty ‘I’m Shipping Up To Boston’(2007)
And in the grand tradition of street music, the Dropkick Murphys like to keep their message pure and basic.
“We pretty much keep it simple. We try not to be too arty. We write simple songs that every day people can identify with. There are enough people in the world singing about butterflies and poetry and stuff like that. Our songs are for people to grab onto and identify with and relate to what we sing about…”
Having played with The Pogues and the Sex Pistols, The Dropkick Murphys are very much dug deep into the long tradition of Irish punk rock roots rebels.
“We first played with the Pistols at Finsbury Park a few years ago. It helped a lot because we were the only punk rock band playing. We almost couldn’t fail because people were sick of all the other bands (The Rapture and The Libertines both failing spectacularly). I would like to thank them for choosing such crap opening bands. We hit it off that day with The Pistols and they asked us to do the American tour. It was an honour.”
The result was The Dropkick Murphys opening on The Pistols last American tour, just another leg of the Dropkicks’ endless world tour. A world tour that saw them back in the UK for April 2010.
Getting bigger and rowdier, the Dropkick Murphies rebel rock is fast steamrolling its way into the big time. Their live show is fantastic and their anthemic adrenalised songs are classics – great tunes and some classic rabble rousing moments. They fuse the Irish influences perfectly and their rowdy reflection of real life perfectly captures the imagination of both the disenfranchised army of punk rock loving mid-teens and older heads that remember the first time round.
See the ‘Rose Tattoo’ video
Not surprising then that the bands popularity was even more further cemented by a string of impressive album releases from 2011’s ‘Going Out In Style’ 2012’s ‘Going Out In Style: Fenway Park Bonus Edition’ and 2013’s ‘Signed and Sealed in Blood’.
Following the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, the Dropkick Murphys created a special “For Boston” t-shirt they sold through their website with all donations going to the victims of the bombings. The donations reached $65,000 in less than 15 hours and totalled over $100,000. The band also will donate all money from sales from a special three song charity EP titled ‘Rose Tattoo: For Boston Charity’ EP
through iTunes featuring a re-recorded version of their song, “Rose Tattoo” with guest vocals by Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen contacted the band following the tragic events asking if there was anything he could do to help. The band also played benefit shows where all money was donated to the victims including the four who lost their lives.
The Celtic rockers have just announced dates for their annual St. Patrick’s Day Tour, and the tour will set off on Feb. 18 2014 at the House of Blues in Cleveland and travel through over a dozen North American cities. Check out the full tour roster below.
In Dropkick Murphys tradition, the tour will close out with several shows in the group’s hometown of Boston. Meanwhile, the location of the band’s St. Patrick’s Day show is still a secret, although it will take place somewhere in Boston. Lucero and Skinny Lister will support Dropkick Murphys at select shows.
Head to the shows, and you’ll see Dropkick Murphys guitarist James Lynch slinging a Les Paul. “It’s such a nice, solid, heavy instrument, and you know you have something quality in your hands,” he told Gibson.com when asked about his affection for Les Pauls. “It’s just great sounding.”
Dropkick Murphys’ 2014 St. Patrick’s Day Tour Dates:
2/18 — Cleveland, OH, House of Blues
2/19 — Detroit, MI, The Fillmore
2/21 — Madison, WI, Orpheum Theatre
2/22 — Duluth, MN, Twin Ports Brewfest
2/23 — Chicago, IL, Riviera
2/24 — St. Louis, MO, Pageant
2/25 — Springfield, MO, Gilloz Theatre
2/27 — Oklahoma City, OK, Diamond Ballroom
2/28 — Dallas, TX, House of Blues
3/1 — Austin, TX, Stubb’s
3/2 — Houston, TX, House of Blues
3/3 — New Orleans, LA, House of Blues
3/5 — Birmingham, AL, Iron City
3/6 — Jacksonville, FL, Maverick’s on the Landing
3/7 — Charlotte, NC, Fillmore
3/8 — Pittsburgh, PA, Stage AE
3/10 — Sayreville, NJ, Starland Ballroom
3/11 — Huntington, NY, The Paramount
3/13 — Boston, MA, House of Blues
3/14 — Boston, MA, House of Blues
3/15 — Boston, MA, House of Blues
3/16 — Boston, MA, House of Blues
3/17 — Boston, MA, To Be Announced