Dropkick Murphys’ Celtic punk
Celtic punk band, the Dropkick Murphys, ring in Saint Patrick’s Day early, 7:30 p.m. March 12, Sherman Theater, Stroudsburg.
The band’s singles, “Tessie” and “I’m Shipping Up to Boston,” brought them international fame. The latter song was featured in the 2006 four-time Academy Award-winning movie, “The Departed,” directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson. “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” went on to become a platinum-selling single.
The group, founded in 1996, began playing in the basement of a Quincy, Mass., barbershop and got its first big break when The Mighty Mighty Bosstones selected the band as the opening act for a 1997 tour. The Dropkick Murphys was signed by Hellcat Records and in 1998 released its first full-length album, “Do or Die.” The band was named after John “Dropkick” Murphy’s alcohol-detoxification facility.
In 2009, the Dropkick Murphys joined Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band on stage in Boston during his “Working on a Dream” Tour. In 2015, the band was invited by the New England Patriots to perform at the season-opening game at Gillette Stadium. The Dropkick Murphys recently toured Switzerland, Italy, France and the Netherlands. The band has sold six million albums worldwide.
Dropkick Murphys defy the punk genre with upbeat Irish music, haunting vocal tales, energetic rhythms and buoyant mandolin. “Rose Tattoo,” from the “Signed and Sealed in Blood” album, reveals the poignant and powerful songwriting skill of original band member Ken Casey, Jr. It’s a tribute not to a sweetheart, but to Casey’s grandfather, a union worker in Boston.
When asked in an email interivew if the founding members of the band could have foreseen the enormous musical and political impact of the band, drummer Matt Kelly states: “Artistic? Haha! Political? What?”
Kelly, born and raised in Leominster, Mass., moved to Boston in 1997, joining the band that same year.
In addition to Kelly, the band includes Ken Casey, bass guitar, lead vocals; Al Barr, lead vocals; James Lynch, guitar, backing vocals; Tim Brennan, accordion, mandolin, keyboards, lead guitar, backing vocals; Jeff DaRosa, banjo, guitar, keyboards, backing vocals, and Lee Forshner, bagpipes.
“The band’s original vision was [simply] to get a gig at the Rat [the Rathskeller in Kenmore Square] which was basically the CBGBs of Boston,” states Kelly.
“What we’ve encountered and accomplished as a band has gone quite a bit beyond the scope of the original intent of the band. I mean, the band started on a dare.”
Dropkick Murphys released its ninth album, “11 Short Stories of Pain and Glory,” in January 2017.
Has the group contributed to the evolution of punk over the past two decades?
“That’s hard to say when one is in the thick of it,” Kelly states. “I think we helped strengthen a particular bough of the family tree of punk, and maybe inspired some people to embrace their ethnic roots instead of rejecting them.”
As to why the group’s music resonates with audiences, Kelly states:
“I think that often times the music is linked with a particularly powerful scene in a film [such as the breakneck car chase at the end of ‘The Departed’).
“It enhances the film, and the film likewise enhances the power of the song to some people. When we first played ‘I’m Shipping Up to Boston’ at a gig, we said afterwards, ‘Well, we never have to play that song again.’ It went over like a lead balloon. Yet when the film came out featuring it, there was more life or power to it. People latched onto it.”
Original band member Casey founded a charity, The Claddagh Fund, and owns McGreevy’s bar in Boston and Murphy’s Boxing. Casey had a small role in the 2016 film, “Patriots Day,” about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and manhunt.
“The band has been using our popularity towards doing charity work for some time, and we were trying not to say no to any of them, which became well-nigh impossible,” states Kelly.
“With some charities, you don’t know where the money is really going or how much of it is going to the causes they’re supposedly helping. So we figured, hey, why not start our own? We’ll know where the money goes, and we can use our popularity for good instead of self-aggrandizement and inflating our egos.”
The Claddagh Fund raises money for inner-city children, drug and alcohol recovery and for war veterans.
“Another charity important to me,” says Kelly “is the St. Vincent de Paul Society. They do an amazing amount of good around the world. Also, locally, the Pine Street Inn in Boston. It’s a homeless shelter which promotes reacquainting people in their programs back into steady jobs and home ownership, which I think is very important. We should promote home ownership in our society.”
Magic Hat Brewery in South Burlington, Vt., collaborated with the Dropkick Murphys to create an English-style beer, Barroom Hero Pub Ale, with proceeds from sales benefiting The Claddagh Fund.
Regarding the group’s latest album, “11 Short Stories of Pain and Glory,” Kelly states, “I think every album is different from the last, though this one was recorded away from home. We recorded it in Tornillo, Texas, at Sonic Ranch studios. We had an amazing amount of vintage instruments and equipment at our fingertips, not to mention consoles from the 1970s, which are the Holy Grails as far as sound goes.
“Aside from our ‘Going Out In Style’ album, which was a theme album, ‘11 Short Stories’ has a couple less-rigid, but certainly palpable, themes running through it: suffering and celebration.
“As I’m sure there, probably is in Pennsylvania, in New England there is an enormous opioid epidemic. There have been so many people hooked on prescription medications and, subsequently, heroin.
“Songs like ‘I Had a Hat’ and ‘Kicked to the Curb’ are more tongue-in-cheek songs of suffering which have the typical Irish folk dichotomy of sad or negative lyrics coupled with fun or uplifting music.”
As for plans after the tour, Kelly says, “Some rest and relaxation. No studio plans of consequence are yet in the pipeline. However, with us you really never know … We can be sneaky sometimes.”
Tickets: Sherman Theatre box office, 524 Main St., Stroudsburg; shermantheater.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-420-2808