Boston doesn’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day the way most cities do, in Boston it’s more like St. Patrick’s Week. Every year the celebration usually kicks off a few days before the actual holiday and typically concludes on the first Sunday after it, with the city’s big St. Patrick’s Day parade. One of the biggest parts of the city’s week long celebration typically takes place on Lansdowne St. where Boston’s own Dropkick Murphys play a handful of shows at the House of Blues. On Wednesday night, one day after the city was hit with over a foot of snow, the Dropkick Murphys opened their annual homestand and reminded Boston what time of year it is.
Opening things up was veteran hardcore outfit Reason to Fight from Providence, RI. Self-described as a “working class hardcore band” Reason to Fight is reminiscent of hardcore legends like Sick of It All and Biohazard. Their heavy riffs and high energy are elements that could once be used to describe the Dropkick Murphys in their earliest days on the Boston Hardcore scene. Reason to Fight played a 30 minute set playing songs such as “Battle Brigade” and “One Step Fall”.
Following their set, ska punk band The Interrupters, who have been with Dropkick Murphys for most of their current tour, took to the stage. The Interrupters came up through the west coast punk rock scene, mentored by bands such as Rancid and The Dirty Heads. Lead by vocalist Aimee Interrupter (Allen) the rest of the band is comprised of three brothers. Their fast paced, ska punk sound brought forth thoughts of early No Doubt or the recently reunited Save Ferris. The Interrupters played material from their two studio albums, including last years “Say It Out Loud” which was released on Hellcat Records.
After The Interrupters finished, the anticipation in the room began to build, Dropkick Murphys shows bring an entire different atmosphere to the House of Blues than most shows. The interior of the venue was decorated for St. Patrick’s Day, with multiple merch stands, extra beer stands, volunteers selling raffle tickets and a table in the lobby representing the Dropkick Murphys’ charity The Claddagh Fund.
As the show began, the well known “Let’s Go Murphys!” chant broke out in the crowd, and the Sinead O’ Conor classic “The Foggy Dew” played over the PA, the way that nearly every Dropkicks show in Boston typically begins. The taped intro faded into a live one, as the band warmed up quickly playing through “The Lonesome Boatman” the intro track on their new album “11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory.” After that it was right into the classics, such as “The Boys are Back” and “Prisoner’s Song.”
Another staple of Dropkick Murphys live shows, is the band’s proclivity for covering traditional Irish folk songs. Early on they played “The Irish Rover” and before the night was done they would work in a few more including “I Had A Hat” and "The Fields of Athenry.”
Another legendary cover song they played was the one that inspired their latest album, the Rogers and Hammerstein classic “You’ll Never Walk Alone” Murphys songwriter Ken Casey said that after a poignant moment hearing the song, he was inspired to make a new album, centered around the band’s personal experiences with friends and family who struggle with addiction. Before playing it, Casey dedicated the song to longtime Murphys guitarist James Lynch who is sitting out the current tour while in rehab. The idea behind the album seems to have influenced the band in a few ways, as one thing that was noticeably different this year was the absence of the long time setlist staple “Kiss Me I’m Shitfaced,” in fact, save for the song “Barroom Hero” – the first song Dropkick Murphys wrote together – there were almost no references to drinking and drunk antics, something a lot of people have associated with the Murphys over the years.
Boston has always been one of the most common lyrical themes when it comes to writing their music, but it’s perhaps never meant as much as it does on the bands’ song “4-15-13” named for the date of the infamous Boston Marathon Bombing. Prior to playing the song, Casey said they had only played it live twice and were considerably nervous about getting through the song with emotions in check playing it at home, but they executed it flawlessly.
After a few emotional moments in the set, they brought the energy back up towards the end of the show with the punk rock power anthem “Citizen C.I.A.” It wasn’t until the encore that Murphys brought out the oft-played “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” a song that has managed to find it’s way into sports arenas and radio station playlists all over the world. The song has taken a larger than life path over the last 10 years and in Boston, it’s one of those songs you can’t go more than a few days without hearing somewhere.
For the final song of the night, “Until the Next Time” the band invited fans to make their way to the stage, something they have done at the close of every show for years now. The Dropkick Murphys have always been a working class band, around Boston it’s common to see them play all types of shows, from arenas to barrooms, and even the terminal at Logan Airport – seriously – they’re a band who never seems to turn down a gig and continue to work hard at their craft.
Now over 20 years into their career the Murphys have become the elder statesmen of the modern Boston punk scene, in a lot of ways they’re like Motorhead or The Ramones in the sense that while you will rarely see them experimenting far out of their genre, they continue to be one of, if not, the best at doing it. When it comes to Celtic punk, Dropkick Murphys are the first band to come to mind for most people and while every band hopes for growth to a certain level, the Murphys are exactly where they want to be, and where they want to stay.
In an era of music where musicians are constantly re-inventing their sound, look, and lyrics, the Dropkick Murphys take more of the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to the band, and for a city like Boston, the dependability and consistency of the Dropkick Murphys have become as intertwined with the fabric of the city as that legendary “Dirty Water.” The Murphys will continue their St. Patrick’s Day homestand tonight and all the way through to Sunday night.
The Lonesome Boatman
The Boys Are Back
The Irish Rover (traditional)
Rebels with a Cause
Going Out in Style
Caps and Bottles
Just What I Needed (The Cars cover)
Had a Hat (The Andrews Sisters cover)
Paying My Way
Sunday Hardcore Matinee
The Fields of Athenry (Pete St. John cover)
The State of Massachusetts
You'll Never Walk Alone (Rodgers & Hammerstein cover)