Dropkick Murphys at the Uptown
Every band last night had their vocals completely buried in the mix. Muddy, murky, and incomprehensible was pretty much the game for the entire night. When you’re dealing with the high, clear vocals of someone like openers Teenage Bottlerocket, it’s not so much an issue, but when you’ve got Al Barr’s rough, gruff singing for Dropkick Murphys, it becomes a problem. Barr’s voice is pretty iffy, even under the best of circumstances, but under these conditions, it was a guttural, incomprehensible blur for the first 30 minutes of the band’s set.
No matter how the sound is, however, watching Dropkick Murphys is a delight. Barr moves on stage like a boxer, his energy seemingly boundless. He’s bouncing around, tossing his mic from hand to hand, almost effortless in terms of confidence and stage presence. The rest of the band runs around and rocks and poses like they’re the fucking starts they are.
Still — and it sucks to be the guy who reminisces about when he saw them when, but the Dropkick Murphys of today — playing the Uptown to a crowd of nearly 1,000 people — to the band I first saw play an all-ages matinee, opening for the Business to a crowd of maybe 50-60 at the Bottleneck. That was with original singer Mike McColgan, so it’s maybe a bit unfair, but even the first show I saw them play with Barr was leaner, meaner, and less the Pogues-worshiping outfit they are now.
Frankly, to be honest, while it’s a great show, it’s certainly polished and preened. The punk touches actually seem out of place now. “Barroom Hero” and the surprise inclusion of early single “Caps & Bottles” are great and hearken back to what they once were, but the band’s evolved. “Shipping Up to Boston” was, as expected, crazy, and they could’ve ended the set there. Anything else seems weak, right?
Nope. They came out, did “Barroom Hero,” then “Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced,” which brought half the women in front up on stage, and then closed with a cover of AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds.” It was a fun time, and certainly entertaining, but the band’s not my cup of tea anymore. The crowd skews older, but still plenty drunk and loud. Fun? I suppose. Evidently, “Irish” meant “loud, drunk, and irritating” to most of the crowd at last night’s show.
Early in their set, the crowd’s rather unenthused by Teenage Bottlerocket‘s pop-punk, despite their merch guy rocking a mask and signs, a la the Ramones, once upon a time. To the boys’ credit, they play their fucking hearts out.
The songs that veer toward “hit” status (insomuch as that’s possible for a pop-punk band on Fat Wreck in 2012) like “Headbanger,” “Necrocomicon,” Stupid Games,” and “In the Basement” seemed to do a little better. Using “Blitzkrieg Bop” with “Let’s go Murphys!” to intro “On My Own” also got quite a few folks on their side, as did covering Poison’s “Talk Dirty to Me.” By the time they were done, there were more people apt to buy a shirt or a CD than stand around screaming about how much “they fucking sucked.”
Big ups to the new song, “I’m the Motherfucker Who Smokes Marijuana,” which does a good job of walking that strange metal / pop-punk line the quartet’s been straddling as of late. Also big ups to Cody for taking time to hang and chat with my buddy Jason and I when we ran into him near the bar. Bands that are willing to shoot the breeze with their fans are fucking aces, in my book.
The Mahones were a bundle of energy, and seemed to catch on with the crowd right from the start. Having a buxom, attractive young woman in leather short shorts as your accordion player is a great way to catch on with an audience that was dominantly male, leaning toward the late-30s end of the age spectrum, and (unsurprisingly) drunk when the Mahones took the stage promptly at 7:30.
Their Celtic punk was a higher-energy, leaner version of the Murphys’ style — not unlike the Tossers, minus the fiddle. Good, and certainly well-executed, but ultimately not particularly memorable. Lots of movement around the stage, a minimum of pandering to the audience — you can see that they’ve been a band for over 20 years at this point, because they’re a well-oiled machine.
Fun show overall, however. A little packed, but not quite the clusterfuck it would’ve been had they put it at the Beaumont or something like that. The balcony was closed off, which demonstrates that Flogging Molly may have eclipsed the Murphys in terms of who owns the Celtic punk area these days. However, it seems that the Dropkick Murphys fanbase may be aging out. There was a lot of grey hair in the audience, and the seats at the back filled up by the time the show started. I didn’t see that usual batch of young kids one sees at Flogging Molly these days.