This year Dropkick Murphys put on a show, not just any show, but the First Annual Shamrock-n-Roll Festival. Kicking off with a bang with two nights at Fenway Park on September 8th and 9th. The Fenway dates included special guest Mighty, Mighty BossTones and at each successive date local area band were invited to play as well.
Dropkick Murphys are known for their raucous, loud, adrenaline pumping shows, but this tour seemed to have a little extra kick. Surely the tour lineup had a great deal to do with it – bringing along Stiff Little Fingers, Street Dogs, Chuck Ragan, The Mahones and the Parkington Sisters – the show was non-stop once it started, and fans both old and new were in for a wild ride.Suspect Device – Stiff Little Fingers by Robert Bell
Stiff Little Fingers, although not headlining, showed the audience an amazing set. (If you don’t know Stiff Little Fingers please head to YouTube and check them out now, we’ll wait here…) With a pocketful of hits that sent the crowd roaring they belted out number after number. “Tin Soldiers” was a crowd favorite and lead vocalist Jake Burns recounted a meeting with Joe Strummer before heading into his tribute of the Clash front man “Strummerville.” SLF is the band that so many others want to be, socially conscious, committed, skilled musicians that were no more weary for their years, and playing music still relevant after, ahem 30+ years. This was no “classic car show” kiddos, this was punk rock in its early form and holy cow was it potent.
Another act that created quite a ruckus was Chuck Ragan. Known also for his part in the band Hot Water Music, Ragan has just released his third solo album Covering Ground. In the style of classic singer-songwriters he takes the stage with a guitar and harmonica and captures the audience with his lyrical imagery and impassioned voice. Accompanied by Jon Gaunt on bass and Joe Ginsbeg on fiddle this three piece demands attention, if you haven’t hopped on the Chuck Ragan bandwagon, now is the time.
The Parkington Sisters, based in Wellfleet, MA drew much attention at the festival, and working double-duty played their own set as well as joined the Murphys. The songbird sisters treated the crowd to their harmonies. Magical and ethereal in sound they are also in vision, stunningly beautiful. Their charisma pulled even the angriest punks in the audience to their stage, captivated. The effortless mix of Celtic, folk, Americana, roots, and contemporary sounds is refreshing, and something to be taken in slowly.
The Mahones, this writer is convinced, is an act totally underrated and completely deserving of every possibly laud. Musicians of the highest caliber, they delivered an outstanding set that was fun, rowdy, easy to sing-along with and so totally engrossing that it seemed far-too-short. Clever lyrics, catchy hooks and a tin-whistle make for a fabulous time on numbers such as, “Paint the Town Red” and “Drunken, Lazy Bastard”, mix in a foxy accordion player who likes to do back bends and the only thing missing in this act is a round of Jameson. Their entire catalog has just been re-released on True North records, for the love of God go check them out, and thank me later.
The Street Dogs, well there is a tale to tell. Known for their street-punk savvy and hard-rocking ways this band delivers a knockout punch live. Pro-union and proud of it the five-piece write strong, emotional lyrics that drive to the core of the plight of the working class. They call out and sneer at companies and practices that crush the middle-class, “Up the Union” and call to arms those who work for a living. More than anything the enthusiasm and support that emanates from the audience to the band, and back again is infectious and even those seeing the Street Dogs for the first time found themselves wrapped up and carried away.Dropkick Murphys – Memorial Day by Cosmos Music Group
The Murphys of course always deliver a show that leaves the audience sweating and exhausted but begging for more. The entire set was peppered with crowd interaction and the lovely Nora Parkington joined in for “The Dirty Glass” to a roaring crowd. Taking a break mid-way through for an acoustic set showed allowed the band to set and talk about their music, sharing stories and slowing giving the crowd something of a respite…of course the last song of the acoustic set was “Boys On the Docks” which sent the crowd back into a fist-pumping frenzy. Props to the Murphy’s for changing up parts of the set-list, each city was a bit different from the last but still a good mixture of old and new.
The highlight for some was Street Dogs member Mike McColgan, founding member of the Murphys, joining the group on stage for a few numbers at the end. Full circle indeed. After a night of incredible talent this bunch of rowdy hooligans pulled ladies from the audience on stage for the rousing “Kiss Me I’m Shitfaced” and ended the night with a cover of AC/DC’s “TNT”.
It’s clear why Murphys fans are so devout, this is a band grateful for what they have, personal in their music, and strong in their beliefs. This tour was titled “First Annual Shamrock-N-Roll” and was certainly set the standard for others tours to try and reach. The level of talent and musicianship was staggering, and each performer came out to their merch tents to meet with the fans and mingle with the crowd.
If you missed the tour this year be sure to put the next one on your “to-do” list. Hopefully next year the tour will be a bit longer, with only ten dates focused heavily on the east coast it was short, but very sweet.
Written by Meredith Underhill