I’m a white Frenchman. Or at least, because my last name is French and I speak the language pretty well, I like to choose France as a mother country despite my thoroughly American and mutt-white blood. But in America, most people don’t like the French. Italian and Irish, though? There’s a whole lotta Irish pride in this country, and it explodes in March through green and beer (and green beer). Suddenly, everyone’s wearing white, orange and green, chugging Guiness with zeal. It’s also the time of year that the Dropkick Murphys become the band to book, and they descend upon East Coast bars and clubs to sell out shows and delight drunk white people with their Celtic-flavored punk rock.
They know their strengths. One of them’s touring around St. Patrick’s Day, and we’re one of three lucky cities that get a back-to-back affair with ‘em: two nights at the Electric Factory on March 8 and 9. They double-head two nights at D.C.’s 9:30 Club afterward and then N.Y.C.’s Terminal 5 after that, but of course, they’ll be at the House of Blues in Boston on the actual 17th. They’re not just a Boston band; they’re the Boston band, providing warm-up and opening music for the Bruins, Sox and Celtics. They’re also used in pretty much any big-deal Boston-based movie save for Good Will Hunting: The Departed, Fever Pitch, The Fighter, etc. Their raucous music’s also ideal for things like Guitar Hero and hockey video games.
The Murphys got their start ages ago in the second half of the ‘90s, their big break coming in 1997 opening for the Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ tour. They go back almost 20 years, and no, the lineup is not all the same. In fact, bassist and lead vocalist Ken Casey’s the only member who’s been down since the beginning. However, eight LPs later—their latest, Signed and Sealed in Blood, dropped at the top of 2013—they’re still putting out formidable records and touring like they’re 25.
A couple obvious elements make them decidedly Irish: a pipe and bagpipes. And that’s not a bad thing; it’s what makes them way more palatable. Their kind of rock’s been uniquely enjoyable—especially if you’re drunk on beer and it’s March—exactly because they use these identifiably Gaelic elements in their punchy punk offerings. It’s not hardcore, and even though they’re inspired by seminal bands like the Sex Pistols, the Ramones and AC/DC, their music isn’t nearly as radical or hard. But it can be fun. And that’s what really counts.
Another truly redeemable thing about the Dropkick Murphys? They’re Democrats, and they love unions. They were anti-Bush and celebrate the AFL-CIO. They’re blue collar, and so is their fanbase. They enjoy a pint, and when the loud, Gaelic punk starts blasting, their minions won’t hurt you unless you want them to—in the pit, natch.
Thank goodness the DMs clearly understand the kind of band they are and practice an “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy. In an interview he did for Vindy.com, Casey put it bluntly: “The worst thing we can do to the local fans who have stuck with us is to all of a sudden try to be Fall Out Boy with bagpipes. We don’t sell millions of records, but we have a niche.” No one can argue with that.
Fri., March 8 and Sat., March 9, 8:30pm. Sold out. With Old Man Markley + Bryan McPherson (3/8), Jom Lockley & the Solemn Sun + Barroom Heroes (3/9). Electric Factory, 421 N. Seventh St. 215.627.1332. electricfactory.info
In Memoriam: Lou Reed