Orlando, FL • August 7, 2005
I have never liked the Dropkick Murphys. I’ve never liked any of the Boston Celtic sing-a-long punk. Yet soon after entering Tinker Field for this year’s Warped Tour, something compelled me to be waiting at the side of the stage minutes before DKM’s set. My plan was to get a few photos before moving on to something else at this festival smorgasbord of new punk. Before the band could even hit the stage the substantial crowd began chanting their name, drowning out the band that was finishing up their set on the nearby SmartPunk stage. The audience’s energy level was rising above the 100 degree Florida heat in anticipation of this band that would soon surprise me.
One by one, the seven members of Dropkick Murphys came out into the scorching sun, beginning with bagpipe player Scruffy Wallace and culminating with lead vocalist Al Barr. What followed was an intense 30 minute set, highlighting songs off of their latest HellCat release, The Warrior’s Code. For those unfamiliar with their sound, imagine punks who grew up on the classic punk of the ’70s, drunk on whiskey and Guinness, and acting as the house band in an authentic Irish pub. Now fill that pub with an audience who raise their glasses and sing along. Who knew Irish folk songs could so easily mix with punk rock? The bagpipes and accordion can be misleading, until the attitude and intentions bleed through into an aggressive, pit-inspiring performance.
Bassist Ken Casey aided on vocals when not hurling himself through the air and across the stage. Guitarist Marc Orrell, with his Johnny Ramone stance and Billie Joe Armstrong looks, was difficult not to stare at as he repeatedly catapulted his thin frame high into the air. These acrobatic airs were bested only by Barr, who lunged from the stage onto the barricade and into the arms of fans. Framed by the then-clear blue sky (the rain came later) and perfect palm trees, Barr flexed his vocals with so much passion that veins threatened to burst from his sun burnt neck. The audience became a sea of arms, with hands desperately trying to touch the king of the afternoon rock show.
You don’t have to be Irish to appreciate the hard rocking sounds of a band writing songs about fighting for the working class. You don’t have to be a fan of boxing to appreciate the new album’s title track/ode to Mickey Ward, “The Warrior’s Code.” You don’t even have to have ever liked the Dropkick Murphys to appreciate their skills as a live band. The performance, which ended with dozen of fans onstage singing with the band, says it all. Somewhere in the course of that sweaty half hour DKM became one of the best live acts I’ve seen, and easily the best of the festival.
Dropkick Murphys: www.dropkickmurphys.com