Dropkick Murphys spent the better part of last week doing interviews and gearing up for their six straight St. Patrick's Day shows. Mike Miliard from the Boston Phoenix followed the Murphys to see what the band gets up to on their favorite holiday.
Gang's all here
How Dropkick Murphys spent their St. Patrick's Day
At 7:30 a.m. on St. Patrick's Day morning, there's already a line stretching down the block outside the Black Rose on State Street; inside, the bar is packed even though the taps won't start flowing for a half-hour. But by the time Dropkick Murphys push through the crowd of green-clad patrons --- without drummer Matt Kelly, who arrives late after being trapped on the Red Line --- at least a few fans have already drained two pints each in less than 15 minutes.
"Howyadoin, you alcoholics?" bellows bleary-eyed frontman Ken Casey, marveling at the hour. "It's eight in the friggin' morning!" Which doesn't stop the crowd from lurching as the band rip into acoustic renditions of "Boys on the Docks" and "The Dirty Glass." And lemme tell ya: you ain't lived till you've been manhandled in a mosh pit before your morning caffeine has kicked in. After an encore of the trad "Black Velvet Band," Casey salutes the fans. "Thank you very much. Now we are getting the fuck outta here and going back to bed!"
Wishful thinking. One day into their annual week-long marathon at Avalon, the Murphys are in decent spirits given the late night they're shaking off and the five days of sold-out St. Paddy's shows yet to come. Casey, especially, has a lot on his plate, shuttling between the band's hotel --- "It's so weird to be staying in a hotel in your own home town" --- and the studio, where he's putting the finishing touches on their forthcoming The Warrior's Code. At a late breakfast --- I order the corned-beef hash, because one should always eat corned beef on March 17, even if it is, as Kelly reminds the table, an Irish-American delicacy --- Casey frets over the ever-expanding guest list for the evening's show (he seems to know everyone in the metro Boston area) as well as the task of devising a new set list. (In order to please the cadre of Dropkicks diehards who come to all six shows, they switch up the play list every night.)
A midday live-on-the-radio set brings their total to three performances inside 24 hours, with one left to go. As the afternoon crawls on in an emptied Avalon still smelling of last night's beer, the Murphys sneak in a quick soundcheck. "Test. Test. Testicles," singer Al Barr intones into the mike as the band tear through tight versions of their Stiff Little Fingers paean "Get Up," the Standells' "Dirty Water, and the Who's "Baba O'Riley." "It's way too early in the weekend to be feeling this tired," Casey confides as he walks off stage. Indeed, to watch the guys marshaling their energy for the evening's show, you wonder whether they might finally have bitten off more than they can chew. The annual homestand has grown steadily; this one --- a half-dozen sold-out shows, 12 opening acts, and countless friends and family in attendance --- is the biggest yet.
Nonetheless, when the Murphys take the Avalon stage before a roiling, beery crowd with air-punching fists and many scally caps, any sense that they're knackered is dispelled. The audience --- which seems to this old codger to get younger every year --- takes up the trademark "Let's Go Mur-phys!" soccer chant. ("Who is this Murphy, and where do they want him to go?" guitarist James Lynch wonders backstage.) And the band explode into motion, with guitarist Mark Orrell leaping and scissor-kicking and Barr striding the stage like a prizefighter. (The title song on the new album is about boxer "Irish" Mickey Ward, footage of whom appears on a video screen as they play it.) The show culminates with "Skinhead on the MBTA," a stage choked with rowdy fans, and Casey standing triumphantly on a Marshall stack, king of all he surveys. It's a fitting tribute to St. Patrick, the missionary who brought the Trinity to Ireland and drove the snakes out. Or, as tin-whistler Tim Brennan puts it, "the guy who led the kids to Lansdowne Street for five days of music and green T-shirts."
BY MIKE MILIARD