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Stage Buzz: Dropkick Murphys @ Aragon Ballroom

| February 12, 2016

Dropkick Murphys 2016 (Kerry Brett – photo)

Dropkick Murphys return to the legendary Aragon Ballroom on Feb 19th for their 20th Anniversary Tour. This month’s “Hello, My Name Is…” connects with DKM drummer Matt Kelly, who has logged in nearly two decades on the drum throne with the band, bashing out their passionate brand of Boston-based Celtic punk rock.

IE: First, sorry about your Patriots. They didn’t make it to the promised land, but in many ways it was their gutsiest performance this year – considering all the injuries – they went further than many out of town NFL fans thought. I know hardcore Patriots fans expect more. Bears fans don’t understand that line of thinking though (no playoffs in eight years!).
Matt Kelly: Yeah, I heard it was a tough loss. It’s never fun to see the home team get snatched from the jaws of victory, but I have to admit that football bores me to tears! Me, I like my family, listening to records, a nice flagon of ale, and the Boston Bruins.

IE: One more Boston sports question. I saw a lot of fans on your Twitter page longing for DKM to play the NHL Winter Classic. Were you guys ever lined up to play the show or were those fans just calling out the NHL brass?
MK: We were asked to do it but the stipulations were…less than savory. All I can say is that we were approached to do it, and we turned it down. I was very happy to be there as a fan in the stands and see the whole spectacle. Unfortunately, it went south almost as soon as the puck dropped! Tailgating before a hockey game was pretty frigging pisser though!

IE: DKM has a passionate connection to fans in Chicago. Your Riot Fest 2014 show was one of the highlights of the weekend. It was electric! There are similarities between Boston and Chicago: blue collar towns, storied Irish immigrant population, passion about our sports teams, dedicated and thriving music scene. Do you think that’s a reason for the connection with the band?
MK: Thanks! Riot Fest was a blast, and I wish I’d have been able to get into town early and stay for the whole thing. There were so many great bands. Though I at least got to see Naked Raygun, which was inspiring to say the least. Yeah as far as the connection, we’ve clicked with Chicagoans since day one. Our first gig there was in the cellar of Bulldog Records with Gangreen in the summer of ’97. We met a lot of friends whom we still hang out with when we’re out there. So many great people in the Chicagoland area. And I think there’s a lot of similar grit in both cities and, like you said, the blue-collar ethos ingrained in the culture.

IE: What do you remember about some of your early gigs in Chicago – and what were some of the venues you played?
MK: Well as alluded to before, there was the Bulldog Records place, the Metro, the Vic Theatre, and some smaller places whose names now slip my mind…but playing out there was always the balls, and still is. Chicago is definitely a stronghold for us and our supporters. Wait! another venue….We played the House of Blues with U.S. Bombs and Maximum Penalty in ’98 when we were all on tour with Agnostic Front, but AF couldn’t play for some reason. I remember looking out in the crowd and seeing a HUUUUUUUUGE melee in the back of the room. Skins and punks in some turf war or something. Pretty nuts. I don’t know, but for me the Chicago scene always had some sort of mystique for me due to old bands like the Effigies and Naked Raygun; bands with a very unique, “Chicago,” sound that was foreign to kids in our parts but just “worked.” So cool.

IE: I laughed out loud when I saw this was DKM’s 20 Anniversary Tour. Not because I couldn’t believe DKM made it this far, I always thought you guys were built to last. It just seems time has flown by – since I first heard DKM on a Hellcat music sampler. Does it seems like it’s gone by quickly for the band? You guys have toured heavily over the years, maybe that seems like it’s been 30 years when you tour that much.
MK: Oh man, it all seems to have passed like maybe ten years to me. BUT, then looking back on, say, the Motörhead tour in ’99, which seems like a lifetime ago, I realize that it’s been pretty well nigh two decades. It really does seem like it’s flown by quickly. The only time it really started to drag was in ’99 when we were on tour for eleven months almost straight…I can honestly say I got pretty burnt! The year saw five U.S. and five European tours plus an Aussie trip…all of which were fun, but I think I speak for the rest of the guys when I say we burned out and needed a break. Luckily, we acquired James (Lynch) on second guitar after that never-ending touring cycle and new life was breathed into the band. Since then it’s honestly gotten better and better as far as all that goes. Touring is a blast and getting to play music every night to eager supporters is a blessing.

IE: With your catalog spread out over 20 years – what can hardcore DKM fans expect from your Aragon show? Any deep cuts that we’ve not  heard in a while?
MK: Well first off, we do a different set almost every night so there’s THAT. Second, since this is our 20th anniversary you certainly can expect deep cuts and classic covers, venturing into the realm of the ridiculous.

IE: When the band approached this tour – did you discuss mixing in some tunes you haven’t played in several years – or is that still being worked out?
MK: Yes and yes. We’ve been dusting off a whole slew of old, new, borrowed, and blue songs in the practice space. And on the other end of the spectrum, your soundcheck is your friend when you have an eight-album catalogue and a million covers and you want to play them that night!

IE: I was thrilled to see DKM stood up for your music (and beliefs) when Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker used your music in his campaign. It’s a weird political time – the weirdest in our lifetime – between Trump and Bernie Sanders who are at opposite ends of the political spectrum. DKM has always stood up for the working man, working families. I’ve always thought that bands that have people’s ear have a duty to let their political feelings be known to their fans – at least in moderate doses. In an election year (especially this year!), do you feel like the band has a responsibility to “talk-up” a candidate – either locally or nationally – that aligns with their beliefs?
MK: “Moderate doses” is in my opinion is great, and almost an overstatement. The band does have a vaguely cohesive political stance, and we don’t want it to be falsely represented, a la the politician you just mentioned. However, I tell you what…At least on the national stage…rather than tell people whom to vote for, I’d rather people research the candidates and come up with their own conclusions about whom they think is the best man for the job—and not voting for Candidate X just because some loud-mouthed punk band says that it’s cool to vote for them or some comedian or celebrity endorses them. Use the internet as the resource that it is – There’s so much information on these peoples’ political stances, ideals, voting records, and which (if any) special interest groups or PACs are backing them financially. It isn’t rocket science. I’m an uneducated former warehouse worker and even I can do the research. Don’t ‘borrow’ other peoples’ opinions by reading comments sections on Facebook or blindly accept whom your teachers or professors endorse. Form your own opinions on the candidates. They’re going to run the country and utilize YOUR tax dollars.

– John Vernon

Dropkick Murphys appear at the Aragon Ballroom, Friday, February 19th, with Tiger Army and Darkbuster.Tickets available

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