Dropkick Murphy’s, Good Riddance, the Casualties, Roger Miret and the Disasters
The Moore Theater
When I first arrived at the Moore Theater, I found it hard to believe I was at a punk show. Not only were there security people frisking the attendees, they were turning away people with wallet chains. Oh yes, the very dangerous wallet chain, there’s something we need to protect people from. Once we were inside, someone scanned my ticket and said, “Your section is straight ahead.” Sure enough, we had assigned seats. Few things are less punk rock than assigned seats. While I understand that a band like the Dropkick Murphys are popular enough to warrant a large venue like the Moore, I guess I was expecting something like the old Ritz in NYC, which was big but without seats. Many people crammed up front, in between the seats and the stage, but it was not nearly big enough for all the people that wanted to dance and sing along.
I arrived too late to see Roger Miret and the Disasters, which was honestly fine by me. Roger used to be the lead singer for Agnostic Front, perhaps the quintessential New York hardcore band. The last time I saw Roger, he was sitting on a motorcycle outside Reconstruction Records in NYC, while his gun-armed skinhead goons tried to intimidate the store’s all-volunteer staff (including myself). Ah, good times, but perhaps a story for another time.
Next up was the Casualties, another New York band. The last time I saw the Casualties was about ten years ago, in the basement of a squat on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I remember that show vividly not only for its vile “piss bucket”, but also because I ended up face down in the dirt under a pile of bodies while the Radicts played. I also recall when the Vibrators played at ABC No Rio, and George (the singer for the Casualties) spent the whole show grabbing the mic away from the actual singer (who also played guitar, so he had a hard time fighting back) so he could sing all the Vibrators songs for them. Tonight George proved he was just as much the charmer, continually telling the audience to fuck off, “get angry,” and then fuck off some more. The band proved that they hadn’t gotten one bit better in the last decade.
The Casualties are perhaps the most derivative and clichéd punk band to have such a long lifespan. I can’t think of one thing about them that is remotely original or even interesting (this was obvious before they even hit the stage, as the sound of air raid sirens was used to introduce them). They sport the classic Mohawk, bullet-belt, and leather look popular in England in the early 80s. You know the post cards you see in London of punks posing at famous monuments and such? The Casualties are the band you’d get if four of those postcards suddenly came to life through the work of an evil supra-genius. Their songs are tuneless and utterly generic thrash. About halfway through I started hoping that they’d at least play a cover song or two, so we could hear something by a better band. This is always a sure sign that you are watching a shit performance. Well, sure enough, they played a cover song, “4Q” by Blitz, which provided George another excuse to shout out “Fuck You” a lot.
After that tedium, Santa Cruz’s Good Riddance was a breath of fresh air. I would describe them as a mix of Bay Area punk and Dag Nasty styled hardcore. The band was tight and had good energy. I hadn’t heard of them before, but I’d consider picking up one of their albums now.
Finally, at 9:40 or so, the Dropkick Murphys hit the stage. Lest you somehow forget that they are proud Irish-Americans, they not only played Stiff Little Fingers “Alternative Ulster” over the PA, but also used a traditional Irish ballad as a lead in. I had last seen the Murphys in 1996, at The Rat in Boston. They hadn’t impressed me much then, and in fact I avoided their records for a good four years after that. Well, let me tell you, the Murphys are a band that has gotten a whole lot better. On paper, the idea of mixing Oi with Irish music sounds pretty ludicrous, but damn if it doesn’t work. The Murphys are not just another streetpunk band gazing back at the glory days of Cock Sparrer and the Cockney Rejects. They’ve fused a lot of disparate elements and come up with something rooted in the past, but all their own.
Their performance was what I’d describe at a celto-punk circus. Between the bagpipe player (yes, you read that right), the accordion/pipes/mandolin player (yes, that was all one guy), and the guest vocal spots by Stephanie Dougherty, there were sometimes up to seven people onstage. Rather a lot for a punk band. Guitarist Jimmy Lynch was positively manic, leaping in the air and literally running circles around his bandmates while playing. Vocalist Al Barr had the classic “skinhead prowl” down pat, and he had masterful control of the audience. His frequent intoning of Seattle struck me as a bit too rockish, but that’s the worst thing I can say about their performance.
The band played nearly all of their new album, “Blackout”, and a healthy selection of old favorites as well. They rounded out their song selection with an eclectic group of covers. Their ripping version of Woody Guthrie’s “Blackout” was to be expected, since it’s the album’s title song. More surprising was their dedication to Johnny Cash, with Al and Stephanie singing his “If I Were a Carpenter.” They also took two respectful nods to American Oi bands of the past. Their cover of Iron Cross’s “You’re a Rebel” was heartfelt, even if it went over the heads of most of the audience. The real treat for me, however, was a scalding rendition of “21 Guitar Salute” by obscure New York Oi band the Press. This song came from a split LP by the Press and the Radicts (see above) that was the whole of the Press’s recorded output. I was lucky enough to see the Press once and this brought back some fun memories.
Towards the end of the night, the circus got more rowdy. The Murphys did “The Spicy McHaggis Jig”, and invited women to come on stage and dance. 20-30 punk and skinhead women took them up on the offer, gleefully jumping and dancing throughout the song. One girl literally bounded onstage and began to actually jig. She clearly had training and was busting moves like a member of Riverdance. She was smiling and singing along and couldn’t have been happier. I can imagine her as a young girl, being forced to learn traditional dancing by her family and thinking how lame it is. Now, years later, thanks to the Murphys, she’s jigging around the stage, thinking, “I’m finally cool!”
One encore later and they closed with crowd favorite “Skinhead on the MBTA.” This time they invited everyone on stage and it quickly filled with 100+ chanting punks and skins. So while the show started with people in assigned seats, it ended with the crowd and band together onstage. Now THAT is punk rock.