Now world-famous for their brand of Celtic-infused punk rock, THE DROPKICK MURPHYS return home to their beloved Boston each year for a weekend of madness, mayhem, and -- of course -- music, all around the celebration of St. Patrick's Day. The weekend is so much more than just music for the MURPHYS -- it's reuniting with old friends, it's seeing family, it's trying to make it out alive. "What we hope people get from it is that we just try to make it a party environment more than anything, at least for the people who are attending. For us, it's a giant pain in the ass," offered James Lynch with a laugh. Playing five shows within 72 hours, all the while playing the role of "fucking party host," as Ken Casey so aptly puts it, can take its toll. "It's stressful...just because I want to make sure everyone is happy. I'm worrying right now because I had an aunt come last night and she wasn't on the guest list. It was a screw-up, and that's the kind of stuff I worry about." What the show-goers see is only half of the story. Playing the shows is the easy part, admits Casey. After months of planning, "it's on auto-pilot now." But behind the scenes is where the real madness ensues. "It's fucking nuts back there!" offers Marc Orrell. But to understand THE DROPKICK MURPHYS, you need understand their history.
Formed in 1996, THE DROPKICK MURPHYS were at the forefront of a Boston punk revival, fueled by the likes of the SHOWCASE SHOWDOWN, THE UNSEEN, THE TROUBLE, and the DUCKY BOYS. A group of friends who began playing in the basement of a friend's barber shop, the band set out to fuse together their two main influences - punk rock and Irish music - a recipe which they are still following to this day. After self-releasing a few 7" records and self-booking countless shows and mini-tours, the band released an EP, Boys on the Docks, on small New Hampshire-based Cyclone records. The CD caught on like crazy, and THE DROPKICK MURPHYS were pushed to the forefront of the Street Punk scene, officially putting Boston punk back on the map. Within two years, they had already attained their only goal. "It [their first goal] was to open for the SWINGIN' UTTERS," remembers Casey. Playing packed shows coast-to-coast, the band caught the attention of RANCID, and quickly signed to Tim Armstrong's new Epitaph imprint, Hellcat Records, and agreed to have Lars Fredrickson produce the album. Following the release of Do or Die, their first full-length CD, and the DROPKICKS set off on tour, only to have singer Mike McColgan quit abruptly in Texas. What could have signaled the end instead gave birth to a whole new beginning. Al Barr left the Bruisers to join the DROPKICKS, and the band has been on a whirlwind tour of the world ever since, finding time to release three more full-lengths and now, a DVD entitled the "On the Road with the DROPKICK MURPHYS." The DVD gives the viewer a first-hand account of what it's like to tour the country, and the world, with the band, even sharing stories that you may be better off not hearing. "Ken Casey vigorously towel dried his balls, and that's the truth," swears Al Barr. "That is a complete LIE!" Ken retorts. Through all of this, the MURPHYS have never released their steadfast belief in the true importance of keeping your friends, families, and fans close.
As soon as Al joined the band, the decision was made to make the band everyone's full time job. "We quit our jobs and decided to go for it. We could crash and burn if we do or we could make it a success. We put all of our energy into setting up shows, going on tour, and it was just a total conscious effort to just go for it," explained Matt. "Even though we weren't making enough money to pay the bills, it was just that the touring schedule was so rigorous that there was no employer that was going to employ any of us," added Al. The decision turned out to be the right one. Less than six years later, THE DROPKICK MURPHYS are able to concentrate solely on their music and make a decent living in the process. "It wasn't that long ago, even when we were doing good as a band, we struggled for so many years that you accumulate so much debt," explains Casey. "So everyone is like 'oh yeah, it's going great,' but we're still recuperating from five years of debt we incurred. I make the same money now that I could make if I was working construction, but it's a far far more fun job. I tell you what, if I could cut some of these assholes out of the band and bring it back down to a four piece [the MURPHYS are currently a seven-piece band], I might make some real money," joked Ken.
Boston for THE DROPKICK MURPHYS is not the same place now that it was when the band began. There are no more local shows, no more self-booked weekends. Playing a place like the Avalon, home to the St. Patrick's Day weekend shows for the past three years, is about as far removed from the bands Boston roots as you can get. This club is no the Rat, Boston's most famous punk rock club that is now just a memory, a club where the DROPKICKS got their start. "The Rat was a 1 foot stage, microphones hitting you in the forehead, the crowd was right there, so you can't compare. One show there was a sewage leak, and all the pipes burst and there was raw sewage on the ground so they just threw down some sawdust. So there kids going in and people kicking it up and breathing it in," remembers Casey. The Avalon -- an expansive club more known for its all-night dance parties than its punk rock shows -- is right there on Lansdowne Street, the same place THE DROPKICK MURPHYS wanted to drop a pipe bomb only five short years ago. Matt Kelly still remembers the meaning behind the song. "Well at the time, they wouldn't let punk bands play. Basically that was like, there was a big stink about it when that song was released, and all the people were pissing and moaning about it, but then they offered us a show. So now I've seen THE SWINGIN' UTTERS down here, THE UNSEEN, I mean all kinds of shows. I guess that song helped to open the doors. It helped bring punk down here. Whether that's a good or bad thing, I don't know." As for the many kids in Boston, and across the country, who once supported the band that now resent them for the level they're reached and the size of the clubs they're now playing, Al doesn't let it bother him. "We're all in this business to try and make a living at it, to try and put some food on the table for our families, and to try and make a better life for our families, and this is the ONLY industry where you get shit for that. If you work at a job and you get a promotion, people would be like 'good job, you deserve it, you worked hard.' But if you're not starving and playing to 10 people, then you just ain't legit, you're a fucking asshole because you sold out, so the bottom line is there comes a time when you've just got to go 'you know what? These people aren't coming to Thanksgiving dinner.'" Matt's response is a bit more direct and to the point. "They can go eat a bag of dicks."
The weekend itself has become very special to the MURPHYS. It's their way of giving back to the people who helped get them where they are today. "Having this tradition, and making people around here realize that they are important to us and we wouldn't be anywhere without them, is very important to us," said Al. The weekend itself has grown along with the MURPHYS, adding more and more shows each year as the demand continues to grow. "It started off as one show, and we added a second one that first time," James explains. "We had sold out that first show, and I was like why push our luck, we sold out the Avalon, why add a second show? And now it's five, and all five shows sold out."
"We've been adding a show every year, but I vow that we will never do more than five," states Ken. "I think they'll run us out of town. It feels like Groundhog Day after a while, you know?"
Although the shows begin on Thursday, the real insanity of the weekend doesn't fully set in until Saturday morning. In the past, this weekend has coincided with the City of Boston's St. Patrick's Day parade. However, due to a late change in the City's schedule, the parade was shifted back a week and the DROPKICKS were left without a Saturday morning event, something that has become a sort of tradition. So the DROPKICKS created a new tradition -- the DROPKICK MURPHYS Charity Breakfast. "At the parade everyone knows where we are going to be, and everyone hangs out together, so this year we wanted to add something else so people could get together," Ken explains. "We had 300 people, and if the place was bigger, we could have had a thousand. We raised a lot of money and ended up playing a few songs acoustic. It was unbelievable; it was cool, like completely unplugged acoustic. What we do is a very sing-along thing, but the nature of the guitars is so loud it sometimes kills that. This morning I was like, wow. I felt like I needed ear plugs there were so many kids singing along."
As soon as the breakfast ended, the MURPHYS joined a thousand of their closest friends at the Fleet Center in Boston to take in the afternoon Bruins game, which the Bruins won in amazing fashion with 3 seconds left in overtime. The sections erupted when "Time to Go", an ode to the Bruins off their new CD Blackout, blared out over the loud speakers, followed by an image of Scruffy Wallace, everyone's favorite piper, displayed on the big-screen. Anyone who knows the DROPKICKS knows how important the Bruins are to them. Ken is a season ticket holder, and all are big fans. Over the years, the band and team have managed to forge a relationship -- one that afforded the MURPHYS an opportunity to play live following a Bruins game earlier this season. "It was amazing, so amazing. I mean, I've never been more nervous for a performance ever. People go there for hockey, not to see you. I get nervous every night before I play, I get butterflies, but this was different. And it went off so well, they won in overtime, it was amazing," said Al. Two of the Bruins, Nick Boynton and Brian Rolston, are big DROPKICK MURPHY fans, even joined in on a song. "When Nick Boynton and Brian Rolston came out to play on song with us, they were freaking out. They play hockey in front of thousands of people every night, but they've never played guitar for them before. It was a weird role-reversal thing, and it was interesting to see that."
The relationship with Boynton doesn't end their, however. Nick Boynton suffers from diabetes, and is a strong proponent and advocate for the research of pediatric diabetes. His own Nick Boynton Pediatric Diabetes Foundation benefited from the charity breakfast and online auction (which included a variety of items and raised just over $2,000) to the tune of $10,000. "It's unbelievable that they decided to do that [the charity breakfast] for us, and it's great," explained Nick. "Ken asked me about it and I obviously thought it was a great idea. If they were willing to do that, you know, it's very nice of them and I really appreciate it," offered Boynton. To show his mutual respect and support for THE DROPKICK MURPHYS, Boyton attended the show on Saturday night, along with teammates Andrew Raycroft, Felix Potvin (who is totally fucking punk, by the way), and Jonathan Girard.
Although the MURPHYS didn't go on stage Saturday until 8:00, backstage was crammed with people by 5:30, and the true insanity ensued. Surrounded by friends, family, and well-wishers, members were constantly being asked for pictures, autographs, a hand-shake, or just a moment to talk. All taken in stride, it became obvious that this is what THE DROPKICK MURPHYS truly are about -- spending time with those people who are important to them. And for those who think that doesn't mean their fans, they don't know THE DROPKICK MURPHYS. The band knows that without their fans, they wouldn't be where they are today, and do their best to keep their fans close. "We do things like let kids on stage. It's cool, I guess, it's a big thing for some people. It used to just be our friends, but it's a real deal for some kids. We did the charity breakfast, do autographs and stuff. I have never really understood the autograph thing, but whatever," explains Matt. There were more people backstage that obviously didn't know the Murphys than did, and each one was treated with the same amount of dignity and respect as they would afford their own family. Ken even offered that this was his favorite part of the weekend. "This is where I lose my voice, not singing. I lose it back here. I just did 22 shows in 21 days and had no problems. Here, after a few days, I can't talk because I'm back here shooting my mouth off the whole time."
Read the rest of this great article by Matt Cote at the link below!