Disclosure: I have never been to a “normal” Dropkick Murphys concert. Every time I have seen them perform has been to celebrate a sports championship, at Fenway Park, with Aerosmith in their own backyard, or on Saint Patrick’s Day. When you see the Dropkicks play in the Boston area, they pull out all the stops. Ensembles of fiddle players, bagpipers, jig dancers and several hundred friends and family members sporting VIP laminates are all part of the norm when the Dropkick Murphys perform in The State of Massachusetts.
The tradition was that they’d perform a run of shows on Lansdowne Street directly behind Fenway’s Green Monster leading up to Saint Patrick’s Day every year. Their 2002 St. Paddy’s Day gig at the Avalon was immortalized on their first live album, and ever since a House of Blues was built over the Avalon, they’ve continued to turn the venue into their own playground for a few days out of the year around the middle of March.
In 2012, the draw was just too large. The festivities were shipped a bit north of the city limits to Lowell, Mass, a former textile Mecca only known for giving the world Jack Kerouac and “The Fighter” staring Mark Wahlberg.
The Tsongas Center at Umass Lowell, home to the schools NCAA hockey team, holds triple the capacity of the House of Blues, and the Dropkicks still managed to fill the venue for an 8pm concert that followed a matinee performance featuring an opening set by State Radio.
The Dropkick’s afternoon set list gave fans what they’d expect for the most part, featuring performances of “Time to Go,” “Going Out of Style,” “I’m Shipping Up to Boston,” and a set closing rendition of “The State of Massachusetts.” However, they whipped the crowd into frenzy by performing “Tenant Enemy #1” for the first time ever.
What was completely unexpected was an appearance by Mickey Ward (aka Wahlberg’s character in “The Fighter”) who showed up to train with a younger boxer behind the group during a performance of “The Warrior’s Code.” The cameo appeared during a mini acoustic set, which was highlighted by a solid “Boys On The Docks,” a tune Dropkick’s bassist/sole founding member Ken Casey wrote about his grandfather.
No group is more responsible for the creation and popularization of Celtic punk than the Dropkick Murphys (no, not even Flogging Molly). To say Saint Patrick’s Day is a big date on their tour calendar is an understatement. St. Patty’s Day is to the Dropkicks what Halloween and New Years Eve are combined for most jambands.
Having never seen a “normal” Dropkick’s show, I can’t tell you what to expect when they come to your town. That being said, you haven’t experienced the full intensity of a Dropkick’s concert until you’ve seen them perform for a crowd of green-clad Massholes on St. Patrick’s Day.