Dropkick Murphys on their livestreamed St Patrick’s Day gig: “It’s one of the most special shows we’ve ever played”

The Celtic punk heroes brought music fans across the globe together

The show must go on. That’s the mantra of Boston punk legends Dropkick Murphys, who refused to take no for an answer when coronavirus meant they were unable to play their annual St Patrick’s Day show in Boston for the first time in 21 years.

The ‘Rose Tattoo’ punks played live to fans on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook Live earlier this week – and turned the occasion into a boozy dose of much-needed respite for fans across the globe. For just two hours, virtual punters were able to forget all about the darkness currently entrenching the world as they poured out a glass of something special and raised it with their families.

It was the ultimate antidote for these darkened times, with fans subsequently sharing cute videos of themselves are their kids cutting loose to the show, so we caught up with Dropkicks frontman Al Barr to hear a bit more about what went down.

How did the idea come about in the first place? Dropkicks celebrating St Paddy’s without their fans seems unthinkable!

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“It was the first time we hadn’t performed on St Patrick’s Day in 21 years, but we’d performing at this place in Derry, New Hampshire, where we’d been preparing for a show in the round. Long story short, they had a sound stage and we came up with this idea – if we can’t play for people then why don’t we just do a virtual concert?

“So many people had contacted me – friends and family and even fans talking about it – and then it really started to freak me out because this was all new to us. We’d done the odd song on a television show, but even then you have a live audience so you feel like you’re connected. But this was with a skeleton crew in a studio and I just kinda had to put all that on the back burner and not think about it.”

What about the reaction, then? For just a few hours, it seems that you took their minds off all this misery

“It was only after we did the concert, reading the testimonials and watching videos of people just losing their minds in their living rooms that we realised the impact  – it’s really heartwarming and just made the whole experience worth it. I’m glad it came together in the way that did.”

How does it rank in the many, many shows you’ve done over the years?

“Look, at 21 years, going on 22 years of being with this band, we’ve done thousands of shows. But this one stands out among all of them as one of the most unique, and one of the most special.”

There was that one particularly emotional moment too, when Ken [Casey, co-frontman], dedicated ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ to the people of Italy

“We [the band] all follow the news, most of us are fathers and active family members when we’re not on the road. We’d just been in Europe, we’d just been in Milan and became aware of how much Italy had been struck by coronavirus. Italy’s got one of the oldest populations in the world, there’s a lot of elderly people and we’ve got a lot of friends and fans in Italy. We knew they were suffering and we had to acknowledge that. It just comes organically and from the heart.”

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This show particularly proved it, but what is it about music that can bring us all together at a time like this?

“Well right now, it’s the strangest of times. I’m a little bit older, but in my lifetime I’ve never seen anything like this. I think of my mother who was raised in Germany during World War II, and I think of the stories she tells. My grandfather was off fighting in the war, but the bombing got so heavy at one point that my grandmother had to send her away to a convent and all the kids were basically sent to an orphanage for months.

“My mother – she was probably ten or 11 – was put on a train as my grandmother waved goodbye to her and her siblings as they were separated. You can’t imagine what that was like.

“But I think a little bit of that now, and how hopeless it might seem to some. Music shows that we’re alive and there’s hope and still a chance for everything to come back together and that this isn’t as bad as it seems.

“We have the power to change, and we’ve always said that music is the great uniter. Music is the one place where you come under an umbrella and you don’t ask ‘Are you a Republican or are you a Democrat? Are you a Jew or a Muslim?’. Let’s just get under this umbrella and enjoy it together.”

It’s affected you too as a band – you were due to head out on a tour with Rancid and Gerry Cinnamon? Have you got a rough idea of when you’re hoping to get back on the road?

At this point, we’re just trying to push everything back into the fall, but it’s hard trying to figure it all out. A few years ago, we landed in Europe right when that volcano [in 2010] erupted and all the flights were cancelled. The day that the airports opened again just so happened to be on the day we had to leave so we couldn’t do it.

It’s a similar thing here, all the clubs we were supposed to play aren’t available – so how are all the bands who cancelled going to play? It’s going to become a bit dodgy in terms of where we’ll be able to put the shows on. It’s going to get very confusing and I think it’s going to be tough for a while until this rights itself.

There was the moment early on where Ken vowed to do more online shows if this continues. Are you guys up for that?

“It’s not off the table, but man I hope it isn’t [our future]! Especially for a band of our nature, we feed off the audience and the audience feeds off us. That energy is really so important at a Dropkicks show. But if it does, we’ll make the best of it and give it both barrels like the other day. We want to shed some light in the darkness right now as much as we can. I’m trapped at home with my three children and I think my wife is ready to kill us all right now!”

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