Ken Casey doesn’t simply know everybody in Boston -- he is aware of everybody, their moms and their 5 cousins named Sully.
It’s an October Friday, and Casey, the founding father of Dropkick Murphys -- the indefatigable Boston Celtic-punk band -- simply left a 300-person press convention on the Boston Harbor Hotel, the place he couldn’t take greater than two steps with out a handshake, a backslap or a hearty “Ken-nee!” When he’s not onstage, Casey can also be an unbiased boxing promoter (the Dropkicks have quite a lot of songs about legendary pugilists), and he’s selling an area combat card that he helped assemble for tomorrow night time on the TD Garden area.
Next up, the 49-year-old is headed to the Back Bay’s Lenox Hotel for a day VIP reception, the place the visitor of honor is Irish preventing famous person Conor McGregor. The first man to carry two UFC titles without delay greets Casey warmly -- a handshake and a backslap -- and so they chat with the benefit and effectivity of previous buddies. Casey tries convincing “The Notorious” to return tomorrow night time, which looks like a tall order. But because it seems, McGregor used to stroll out to Dropkick Murphys’ “I’m Shipping Up to Boston.”
You have undoubtedly heard this tune’s opening riff: DUH-NUNT!... DUH-NUNT! Neeeeeer. A two-minute sea shanty constructed round Woody Guthrie lyrics, “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” kicks off just like the Jaws theme rewritten for a leprechaun road combat. Released in 2005, Dropkick Murphys’ best-known tune received a profile increase in 2006, when Martin Scorsese featured it prominently in his Academy Award-winning Boston-mob movie, The Departed. From there, the anthem turned a favourite of New England sports activities organizations, NHL groups and native information producers needing to conjure suspense in 10 seconds or much less. In October, the Boston Symphony Orchestra even carried out it for the World Series. The platinum single has bought 2 million digital downloads and has accrued 91 million on-demand U.S. streams, in line with Nielsen Music, however the improve has been so gradual, the tune by no means made a dent on the Billboard charts.
Boston’s unofficial home band has adopted an analogous trajectory. Conceived in a barbershop basement, the Dropkicks began out overlaying The Clash in a notoriously dank membership down the block from Fenway Park. Twenty-three years later, they’ve carried out on the Fenway discipline throughout three Red Sox World Series runs, serving to to exorcise an 86-year-old baseball curse; performed roughly 5,000 reside reveals; and turn out to be as synonymous with their residence metropolis as Cheers or Good Will Hunting. But whereas Dropkick Murphys have launched 9 studio albums and bought three.6 million equal album items within the United States, in line with Nielsen Music, they’ve by no means notched a Billboard 200 prime 5 album or Hot 100 hit. And in a time when rock music’s affect is quickly waning, they’ve by no means been larger.
So how does a distinct segment native act with a near-parochial hometown loyalty turn out to be a worldwide model? How does a band constructed on authenticity operate as a self-sustaining enterprise with out compromising its credibility? And how have Dropkick Murphys by no means taken a yr off in 23 years? To hear them inform it: ethics, dedication, endurance, the need without cost hockey tickets -- and a bit little bit of Irish luck.
Earlier that day, all six members of the Dropkicks congregated at McGreevy’s, a Back Bay “baseball museum” bar that Casey opened in 2008. There’s drummer Matt Kelly, 43, who has been within the band since 1997, and singer and father of three Al Barr, who at 50 is “the senior citizen of the group” (except for Barr, Kelly and Casey, the opposite three Dropkicks are of their 30s). Guitarist-songwriter Tim Brennan lurks in a nook close to guitarist James Lynch, the Dropkick who seems to be most like a rock star. Multi-instrumentalist Jeff DeRosa stands idly on the bar; Casey is round right here someplace. (Bagpiper Lee Forshner excursions however isn’t a full-time bandmember.) Apparently, a whole Dropkicks lineup here's a thrill, even for the bar’s workers. Liam Harrington, an assistant common supervisor from Stoneham, Mass., loiters awhile, explaining, “It’s actually cool to see them multi function place.”
McGreevy’s has turn out to be one thing of a mecca for Dropkick followers, particularly through the band’s annual week of St. Patrick’s Day reveals in Boston. “For the whole week, individuals will drink right here, go to the live performance, come again,” stories Hazey Ricci, one of many institution’s managers, who says he sees the identical faces each March. “There are people who find themselves like, ‘This is so cool, I got here as soon as.’ And there’s others who’re like, ‘This is my custom yearly -- I’ll skip Christmas to return to those 4 reveals.’” In truth, two Saturdays from now, a few Dropkick followers will maintain their wedding ceremony reception right here; proper now the band is signing their wedding ceremony invitation.
Growing up in Milton, Mass., Casey attended the identical all-boys faculty as New Kids on the Block’s Joey McIntyre, Catholic Memorial. His maternal grandfather, John Kelly, was a longshoreman and labor organizer who impressed the Dropkicks’ pro-union anthem, “Boys on the Dock.” In 1996, Casey was 25, learning to be a special-education instructor on the University of Massachusetts and dealing union building. In his offtime, he practiced bass in a good friend’s barbershop basement, and a co-worker dared him to begin a band. He recruited three buddies who couldn’t actually play their devices. “There was virtually a Bad News Bears impact,” recollects Casey. “People have been like, ‘Man, these guys suck, however one thing makes me need to root for them.’”
They turned Dropkick Murphys, their title paying tribute to a Massachusetts-based skilled wrestler and sanitarium proprietor. They practiced hardcore, punk’s sooner, extra aggro descendant, and located a scene at The Rathskeller (aka The Rat), a notoriously sketchy membership within the metropolis’s Kenmore Square, the place all-ages weekend matinees drew punk youngsters. The Dropkicks have been older, so that they stood out. “At The Rat, everybody else was enjoying anti-police songs; we had a tune referred to as ‘John Law’ a couple of good cop,” remembers Casey. “We hated numerous cops too, however I grew up with cops and knew there was one other facet.”
Released on the West Coast unbiased label Hellcat, Dropkick Murphys’ 1998 debut LP, Do or Die, made their intentions clear: They had working-class beliefs, Irish-immigrant delight and an unabashed affinity for his or her hometown. After authentic frontman Mike McColgan give up to turn out to be a firefighter, Barr, a gravel-voiced singer from New Hampshire, joined in May 1998. “What impressed me instantly was the dedication,” Barr recollects in the present day. In 1999, the Dropkicks toured rigorously, first with Motörhead, then on the Vans Warped Tour. A nine-date Australian trek laid the muse for a global fan base that may assist maintain them for the following 20 years. They went to Europe -- quite a bit. “We used to get German interviewers asking -- actually, verbatim -- ‘Why do you come right here a lot?’” recollects Barr with amusing. “We discover our followers in our reside reveals.” (Casey and longtime Dropkicks supervisor Jeff Castelaz will communicate at Billboard’s Live Music Summit in Los Angeles on Nov. 14.)
Crime novelist Dennis Lehane, who grew up in close by Dorchester, recollects inviting the band to a reading-and-music collection in 2002, held within the comparatively cozy environs of a Cambridge, Mass., café. “The Dropkicks couldn’t even match on the stage as a result of there have been so lots of them, plus an accordion and bagpipes,” he remembers. “It was insanity. They blew it out. They performed like they have been enjoying [TD] Garden.” (“You’re not unhealthy for a bunch of smaht individuals,” Casey reportedly teased the viewers.)
In 2003, the Dropkicks headlined a neighborhood radio showcase of 17,000 -- and so they weren’t a radio band. To Casey, it was a breakthrough: “We realized then that you simply didn’t essentially want mainstream success to be sustainable.” Tireless touring was one path to self-sustenance. Diving headfirst into Boston sports activities fandom was one other. A lifelong Bruins diehard, Casey wrote a throaty ode to his beloved “black and gold” for the 2003 LP Blackout. Jocks and punks traditionally have unhealthy blood, so Barr admits he was skeptical. “It wasn’t as if anyone exterior of our band was like, ‘That’s an awesome thought!’” he says. “It was extra that folks have been like, ‘What a silly thought -- a punk band with sports activities groups? That’s by no means going to work.’” “But I wasn’t even making an attempt to make it ‘work,’” provides Casey. “I simply wished free tickets.”
It labored anyway. In November 2003, Dropkick Murphys carried out at a Bruins recreation. Soon they have been working with the Red Sox to revive “Tessie,” a membership anthem that hadn’t been performed because the workforce’s final World Series win in 1918. Somehow, the Dropkicks’ model appeared to work some magic: In 2004, the Sox lastly received. “With the Red Sox, we didn’t see some spike in our ticket gross sales -- it simply made my grandmother cease saying, ‘Are you ever going to complete faculty?’” says Casey, laughing. “It legitimized us to lots of people.” (It additionally received the Dropkicks genuine World Series rings in 2013 -- and, after the Sox’s Series win on Oct. 28, a spot of their victory parade.)
Legions of Dropkicks followers now hail from far exterior Boston. To Casey, his band’s attraction comes all the way down to the plain. “We connect with individuals on totally different ranges,” he says. “Sometimes they just like the Celtic stuff and banjos. Other instances, they need extra hardcore songs. And typically individuals similar to the band -- that component of delight in roots goes proper over their heads.”
Despite the group’s success (and the Mercedes-Benz he drives), Casey nonetheless identifies as a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat with a deeply blue-collar ethos. “If we have been promoting tickets for $200 or rolling up in Porsches, that may be one factor,” he says. “But if somebody claims they’re so working-class they wouldn’t take cash they’ve earned, they’re filled with shit. I grew up with no cash -- and in the event you actually grew up with no cash? You need some fucking cash.” And in fact, Dropkick Murphys might be making much more. The band solely sells merchandise made within the United States and donates all cash that it collects at meet-and-greets to the members’ Claddagh Fund, which helps youngsters, veterans and substance-abuse restoration.
“The Dropkicks are the Boston that I knew: blue collar, hardcore, proudly Democratic, proudly pro-union and dealing class,” says Lehane, who mined an analogous demographic for his novels like Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone. “My father was an Irish immigrant and a lunch pail-carrying blue-collar employee, and I keep in mind him saying no Republican ever gave a shit concerning the working man. The Dropkicks additionally embody that concept.” (In 2015, when union-busting Wisconsin governor Scott Walker used “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” at an look, the band tweeted: “Please cease utilizing our music in any manner... We actually hate you!!!”)
The band’s YouTube channel isn’t even monetized. “Can’t have your cake and eat it too,” causes Casey. “‘Look at these fucking assholes, making me wait 10 seconds for a video concerning the working class.’”
DUH-NUNT!...DUH-NUNT! Neeeeeer. It’s Saturday night time at TD Garden, the place Casey’s fight-promotion firm, Murphys Boxing, has co-assembled what The Boston Globe calls “probably the most formidable boxing card in Boston in a technology.”
Over 9 hours and 11 bouts, 4 of Casey’s boxers combat, together with heavyweight Niall “Boom Boom” Kennedy, a full-time cop in Gorey, Ireland, and Mark “The Bazooka” DeLuca, a former Marine machine-gunner from Whitman, Mass., who emerges to “I’m Shipping Up to Boston.” It’s the primary of 4 instances that Dropkick Murphys anthems play tonight.
Close to 7,000 boxing followers -- together with Sugar Ray Leonard, ringside, and Micky Ward, the topic of 2010 biopic The Fighter and, in fact, a buddy of Casey’s -- pay attention as Irish tenor Ronan Tynan sings Ireland’s nationwide anthem. Around 10:30 p.m., a commotion erupts as a safety element hustles a bearded man to ringside seats. Then, a scream: “Conor McGregor!” Soon, Casey seems, wearing a slick jacket and grey Vans, to greet his movie star visitor.
Yesterday, it regarded like a long-shot that “The Notorious” would present. But after 23 years and one damaged curse, his presence looks like simply the most recent manifestation of that ol’ Dropkicks luck. Leaving the Garden that night time, I move the statue of famed Bruin Bobby Orr that guards the sector. Earlier, I’d raised the chance that sometime Casey might properly get his personal Boston monument. His response was what any Dropkicks fan would count on. “I don’t need a statue,” he scoffed, laughing. “The issues my buddies would do to it will be so impolite.”
This article initially appeared within the Nov. 10 situation of Billboard.