I’m pretty sure I can place the exact moment when Monday’s Dropkick Murphy’s show stomped into my Top Five List of Kick-Arse Concerts.
The ever-popular ballad “Boys on the Dock” had just finished and the crowd — fueled by pints and punk — decided to storm the stage like a bunch of World War I soldiers attacking a bunker. Two minutes later, band members were in the air and the stage seemed more crowded than the floor.
It was wonderful, beautiful chaos.
But the charge didn’t surprise me. Punk shows, Irish punk shows in particular, always spiral into rowdy, beer-soaked affairs — usually before the first band gets off the stage.
What got me was the number of people — never had I seen the House of Blues so packed. Which got me to thinking — has Irish punk, my favorite niche genre of music, completely lost its niche status?
To answer my question, I decided to look at the twin towers of Irish punk: Dropkick Murphys, a bagpipe band with harder punk leanings, and Flogging Molly, a lighter, seven-member group with more traditional Irish instruments.
And I turned to America’s premier expert on Irish punk — University of Colorado sociologist Carolyn Matthews.
In addition to being my little sister, “C” has an extensive knowledge of Irish punk supplemented by a recent interview with Flogging Molly.
M: OK, Ms. Matthews, a little background: Where’d you grow up?
C: Umm, right down the hall from you, idiot. In the same bloody Irish Catholic home you did.
M: OK, let’s say I like the music on the radio. What’s the broad appeal in going to a concert like the Dropkick Murphys or Flogging Molly?
C: Basically, like all punk, it’s the release. And Irish punk rockers are a little different. They’re more lighthearted and more out there to have a good time. And look at the lyrics: it’s drinking, barroom heroes and drinking.
M: So, then, has mainstream culture taken hold of it?
C: Well, I was at a show in Denver and saw two drunk college girls whose only piercing probably was their belly button. And they were next to punk fans who were obviously upset about it. They didn’t have the same appreciation for the music.
M: We talking sell-out then?
C: I wouldn’t dare say that Flogging Molly has sold out. It’s just become more appreciated by more people. And I wouldn’t argue that it’s gone mainstream although I do see a lot more Flogging Molly T-shirts around campus.
M: Like how everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day? Or like that one article in The Onion that talked about the dude who was proud of his, like, 1/16 Irish heritage.
C: I think I asked Dave King [the frontman for Flogging Molly] about the popularity and stuff and how they keep getting bigger. He was on The Jimmy Kimmel Show recently and he had “No War” taped to his guitar. And they got a lot of hate mail for it. He said, `I don’t want those people at my shows. I want people who want to embrace everybody.’
M: Sounds more hippie than punk. When I talked to Ken Casey from Dropkick Murphy’s, he mentioned something about being “just a punk band” that oftentimes tries to ignore the celtic angle and just be hard-core. And I seem to remember a shout-out to the troops during Monday’s concert too.
C: Maybe it has the do with the roots of South Boston.
M: Yeah, the working-class roots.
C: Or maybe it’s just the maturity factor of the bands.
M: So then, with the increased popularity of Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphy’s has Irish punk lost its niche status?
C: Hmm. Is the specialty no longer special? I guess because of the diversity of instruments — modern and traditional — the sound is going to always sound fresh.
M: And think Ken Casey had it right. The Pogues started it out, but there are a lot of bands that try to do it but don’t do it well. So maybe quality Irish punk is still a niche.
So there you have it. Most definitely celtic-punk is about passion but gotta say that flat caps do look cool as feck!!