As surely as early March heralds the coming of green beer, shamrock livery and parades, so too does it inevitably call for Dropkick Murphys to tear across the US. For the 20th year running, DKM’s St Paddy’s Day tour descended on the US to bring its annual dose of bagpipes and banjo-driven punk to the US. Along with veteran support Bim Skala Bim and Agnostic Front, DKM brought a sellout crowd to the Fillmore in Charlotte, NC for a taste of Boston and celtic tradition in one.
First up was ska-punk band Bim Skala bim. With the classic Bostonian swagger reminiscent of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, their set was a perfect introduction to the night. Where they lacked the aggression packed in the rest of the bill, the noticeably lighter atmosphere got the crowd moving and dancing early. The different character of the crowd was refreshing- seeing a 2000-cap venue get moving that early in the night was a great omen for the sets to come. The energy was purely infectious, and continued into the lull between Bim Skala Bim and Agnostic Front.
The buzz was continuous, but as Agnostic Front took the stage, a noticeable change came over the crowd. From the first note, the imposing presence of guitarist Vinnie Stigma (brandishing his signature STIGMA on the back of his guitar) captivated the crowd and immediately incited the mosh that would overtake the room for the next forty-odd minutes. Aggression, raw and unadulterated, simply emanated from the stage- vocalist Roger Miret delivered line after line while never losing connection with the audience. As with the previous act, Agnostic Front’s decades of touring experience were evident in the genuine energy maintained throughout the entire performance. At one point, Miret even got down into the circle pits with the audience, moshing with concertgoers in a way reminiscent to bar shows thirty-odd years prior. There couldn’t have been a more fitting final set before Dropkick Murphys, but the excitement was only beginning.
DKM opened their set with an Irish lament," The Foggy Dew." The ballad was a calm respite before the inevitable storm, building the tension that was finally broken with the banjo opening of "The State of Massachusetts." Vocalist Al Barr wasted no time getting into it with the crowd, belting most of the song from the barricade steps and fist-bumping everyone in arm’s reach. DKM’s Irish roots were immediately on full display, bagpipes and mandolin driving the opening track home.
The seven-piece played material spanning their entire discography, going all the way back to 1998 with “Caught in a Jar” from their first full record Do or Die. Bassist and vocalist Ken Casey (who signed one of my Chuck Taylors last time I saw DKM) provided brilliant contrast to the rasp of Barr’s punk delivery on “Famous for Nothing,” as well as soulful leads on ballads such as “Rose Tattoo”. The moshing eventually progressed to inevitable crowdsurfing, people spilling over the barricades as the pace quickened and intensity found yet another gear.
From classics to a healthy dose of new material, the 26-song set couldn’t possibly leave a Dropkicks fan wanting more…yet they still found a way to deliver. The final tracks of the night, “Shipping Up to Boston” and “Until the Next Time” saw a deluge of crowdsurfers be invited onstage. For this send-off, the crowd and band were one- a fitting, unique union between the two halves of the show. Overall, if DKM know how to do anything, it’s deliver an unforgettable performance night in and night out. Do yourself a favour- don’t miss their summer coheadlining trek across America with Flogging Molly this summer.
Set List: The State of Massachusetts | The Boys Are Back | I Had a Hat (Traditional cover) | Rebels with a Cause | Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya | Blood | Famous for Nothing | First Class Loser | The Gauntlet | Paying My Way | Citizen C.I.A. | The Warrior’s Code | Barroom Hero | Boys on the Docks | Caught in a Jar | Folsom Prison Blues (Johnny Cash cover) | Sunday Hardcore Matinee | Rose Tattoo | Captain Kelly’s Kitchen | Encore: I’m Shipping Up To Boston | Until The Next Time
Bim Skala Bim