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In Music

Dropkick Murphys invade Wisconsin tonight at the Rave. (PHOTO: Illustration by Jason McDowell)

In Music

Jonathan Papelbon's fan club, aka the Dropkicks. (PHOTO: Illustration by Jason McDowell)

In Music

Founding member Ken Casey. (PHOTO: Illustration by Jason McDowell)

In Music

The band in action on stage... (PHOTO: Illustration by Jason McDowell)

In Music

... and celebrating a Red Sox pennant at Fenway. (PHOTO: Illustration by Jason McDowell)

Dropkick Murphys prepare for a hair-raising Rave-up


When the band Dropkick Murphys first formed nearly 12 years ago, bassist / co-front man Ken Casey had a simple goal in mind:

Recording a CD of high-energy, Irish-infused, Boston barroom punk? No.

Recording several CDs, with each one showing increases in musicianship, fan appreciation and critical acclaim? No.

Appearing on national TV? No.

Touring the world and playing before a legion of loyal, fist-pumping fans in Japan and several Eastern Bloc countries? No.

Meeting heroes like the Sex Pistols, Joe Strummer of the Clash and Shane MacGowan of the Pogues? Good guess, but... try again.

How about writing a theme song ("Tessie") for his beloved Red Sox and becoming the unofficial house band at Fenway Park, where he and bandmates could celebrate a pennant victory on the field with their heroes? No.

Recording an unpublished Woody Guthrie song ("Gonna Be a Blackout Tonight")? Wrong.

What about writing a song ("Shipping Up to Boston") that Martin Scorsese used prominently a movie ("The Departed") and seeing Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon appropriate it as his warmup music? Wrong.

How about having Bruce Springsteen accompany his teenage son to a show and raving about the band's performance skills in an interview with Rolling Stone? Nope.

How about test-driving (and sledge hammering the windshield of) an Infiniti G37S for a story / photo in Rolling Stone? Wrong again.

All those things have happened for the Dropkicks, who will visit The Rave tonight with the Briggs and the Tossers, but they weren't part of the original blueprint.

"I always joke with my wife my goal when we started the band, all I wanted to do was to get good enough to open for my friend's band, who I was a big fan of," Casey told OnMilwaukee.com during a phone interview last week from Edmonton, where the band was touring in support of its latest disc, "The Meanest of Times."

"I remember saying 'If we ever get to open for them, that will be it. We can retire.' That was 12 years ago. It's been a good 12 years."

As for the aforementioned cool stuff, like Springsteen, Scorsese, the Red Sox, etc., Casey -- the only original member in the current lineup - isn't taking anything for granted.

"It's nice when you get some of the extra perks," Casey said. "That's not to say that getting an opportunity to see the world and play to a core fan base is a grind, because it isn't. It's still the best job in the world. But, to get some of the extra perks and I guess what you might call some of the easy breaks isn't a bad thing, either."

One of the perks of being on tour -- which is offset by homesickness for friends, family and a "normal" life -- is time to see movies. At the time of his conversation with OnMilwaukee.com, Casey was about to head into a matinee. "I don't know what we're seeing," he said. "I wanted to see "American Gangster," but we have a day off coming up in Moose Jaw and that's the only thing playing, so we'd better save that one."

One of the band's favorite perks is the association with the Red Sox, who adopted "Tessie" (co-written by Boston Herald baseball writer Jeff Horrigan) as an anthem during the run to the 2004 championship and allowed the Dropkicks to share in the excitement of another title last month.

"We're still buzzing from the Red Sox winning," Casey said. "Even in Canada, before we play "Tessie" every night, we preface it -- a lot of punk rockers aren't into sports and we appreciate their patience for letting us do our thing and have our fun and celebrate.

"We were expecting it to be for the few lone transplanted Red Sox fans in whatever city we're in, but the crowd just goes crazy for it. I like to think of that as further proof that the Sox are America's - or at least the northern part of North America's - team. But, I think it's partly because our fan base knows that we're a happy band, the show is that much better."

Although their payroll and recent run of success put them on par with (or above) the rival Yankees, the Red Sox love the Dropkicks for their blue-collar, all for one and one for all ethic. When the team clinched the division title, Papelbon famously danced to the song. When the pennant was clinched, the Dropkicks were allowed onto the field to celebrate.

Casey describes the experience as "awesome" and "almost surreal."

"Not only does your band have to come a long way to get that kind of opportunity, but growing up with that old ownership group... The idea of the old ownership of the Red Sox asking a punk rock band to play at Fenway... hell would freeze over first.

"The coolest part of the whole thing was being on the field after Game 7 (of the ALCS). Al the players were giving us hugs. Even guys like Curt Schilling were coming up and saying 'Thanks for the good luck,' and hugging us. That made me say 'Holy crap!' I just never really thought they gave that end of things much thought. It was really cool.

"Granted, they probably would have hugged just about anybody at that point, but it was still cool."

While the Dropkick Murphys provide a unique concert experience, "cool" isn't usually a word used to describe the proceedings. More appropriate adjectives would be "hot," "sweaty," "throbbing," "interactive," and "unforgettable."

Asked to describe the band's most memorable Milwaukee show, Casey didn't hesitate... until he was halfway into the tale. We'll let him take over the narrative from here:

"The most memorable show we ever played in Milwaukee was for the wedding of our friend, Spanky, and we'll use his nickname instead of his real name to protect his identity.

"It wasn't his official wedding. It was one of those things when you want to have the other party for your friends that is rowdy. We played at that. It was for our real good friends in Milwaukee. It all started out OK. It was the closest we'd ever come to being a wedding band; so we learned a few cover songs and it was all mellow. There were a lot of older people in the room.

"By the time it ended, and I don't know why I'm telling this story... It's definitely not good for publicity reasons and you probably can't print it... but the party ended with a bunch of guys onstage with their pants down and their, uh, manhood tucked between their legs. I think they were mocking their buddy who had just gotten married, symbolizing that he was losing his manhood."

(Editor's note: In most cases, this story would qualify as a memorable show in Milwaukee. The Dropkick Murphys, though, are all about taking things to another level. We now return to Mr. Casey for the end of the story).

"So, all the guys are up on stage and they started setting their pubic hair on fire. They called it "Silence of the Lambs." I don't know what that was. I don't know if that's a Milwaukee thing, or what. We should be ashamed."

Showtime tonight is 8 p.m.

Here is a video for "I'm Shipping Up to Boston":

And a performance from the "Jimmy Kimmel Show":


Talkbacks

littletinyfish | Nov. 12, 2007 at 8:48 a.m. (report)

Shouldn't it be "hair razing?" It's interesting to see what a writer's perspective and style brings to a story. I'm sure I can think of at least three other people (not necessarily writers) who would have approached the story from three completely different areas (from the music, to the Irish culture, to the punk culture, to their involvement with sports, etc.) That diversity is kind of amazing, considering how easily they could have been pigeon-holed from the outset.

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