The Dropkick Murphys and Stiff Little Fingers represent new and old generations of Irish punk

Although some people were planning to celebrate Valentine’s Day as the next major holiday, last Friday, it felt a little more like St. Patrick’s Day, when local punk rockers convened for an early show at Nation to party with the spirit of the Irish.

The opening band Stiff Little Fingers successfully revved up the crowd, bursting on stage with minimal introductions and cutting right into a ferocious set. The veterans from Northern Ireland proved that after 27 years on the scene, they still know how to get things moving. Lead vocalist Jake Burns gave his usual no-frills performance, transitioning hard from one politically incensed song to the next.

Last August, SLF released Guitar and Drum, its highly anticipated ninth studio album. The Dropkick Murphys later acknowledged the band, saying it would not be here today if it weren’t for the precedent established by SLF, who started off as a cover band and later began writing its own material that incorporated elements of the band’s ethnic roots.

After SLF’s set, the crowd experienced an unnecessarily long period of anticipation, in which echoes of bagpipes and bass lines emanated from behind a closed curtain. Clusters of people throughout the crowd attempted to prematurely conjure the infamous energy of a Dropkick show, chanting, “Let’s go Dropkick” while clapping their hands and stomping their steel-toed boots. Finally, the curtain rose, revealing a large backdrop with the band’s name and emblem under greenish lighting. But it was not until the guys emerged that the genuine pandemonium set in.

Predictably, the band opened with “Barroom Hero,” the infectious anthem about a legendary aggressive drunk who is covered in scars and bruises from all the bar fights he has lost. The song was met by an instinctively volatile crowd response, but the level of congestion in the venue made it a bit difficult to accomplish anything in the pit. Options were limited to throwing fists in the air, jumping up and down in one place or just simply being swept back and forth by the energetic lump of the foremost audience members. Though the crowd was indeed energetic, it was also relatively nonviolent.

The beginning and end of the set was heavily dominated by songs off of earlier albums – Do or Die and Sing Loud, Sing Proud – while the middle focused more on the new album, Blackout. One of the major differences with Blackout is that lead vocalist Al Barr shares vocal lines with bassist Ken Case more often. At this show, Case decided to return the favor. After calling attention to a dedicated fan who was belting out all the lyrics to every song, Case invited him up to the stage to sing. The devoted fan took the microphone with determination and sang as if he had been waiting his entire life for this opportunity.

Later, someone else was invited to the stage: me! After I crowd surfed my way up to the very front, a bouncer asked me, “Do you want to go?”

Misinterpreting his request, I thought I was being corralled to the back because I had traveled beyond the crowd barricade. I walked away and turned around only to realize he was asking me to take part in a Dropkick tradition, in which people are invited on stage to do “The Jig.”

Sadly, like the greater majority of the crowd, I ended up as a mere spectator and had to watch the concert come to a close from off-stage. But like any good concert, I walked out of the show feeling like my ears were stuffed with cotton, and I had a few good bruises as proof of my good time.

All in all, the band’s style hasn’t changed much over the past few years. Dropkick continues to blur genre lines and unite listeners with its unique blend of old-skool riffs, celtic instrumentation and sing-a-long lyrics about the plight of the common man. Since the band formed in 1996, it knew what it wanted to do and stuck with it.

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