Home Editorials The Gang's All Here: Dropkick Murphys Do Everything Right in Anchorage Performance

The Gang's All Here: Dropkick Murphys Do Everything Right in Anchorage Performance


Alaska doesn’t see many national acts. When we do pull the unexpected headliner, they’re usually buried in warehouse-like venues structurally opposed to acoustics. The infrequency of Outside music turns out impenetrable crowds that take the intimacy that is so crucial to a good concert off the table entirely.
Flogging Molly is the most recent example. The University of Alaska brought them up to play the Egan back in September. The elaborate web of instruments utilized by band – an orchestra of accordions, banjos and fiddles lightly treading underneath gritty punk-rock guitars and fast-paced drums, gently brought to life by insightful lyrics – were lost entirely to the walls of the Egan Center, which turned each intricate sound into an ugly, muddled game of musical racquetball. (And no beer in the concert hall. At a Flogging Molly concert.)
Sometimes, concerts are better on DVD. That is tragic.
Two types of national acts generally come to Alaska: those who are just emerging on the radar, scratching for any exposure they can get, and those clinging to the last vestiges of musical legitimacy, whose booking agents are scratching together nostalgia tours. The former you’ll see spread throughout various clubs, bars, and backyards. The latter – well, google “Concert + Alaska State Fair.”
It’s not because big bands hate us, it’s because it’s really hard to make a trip to Alaska economically viable. If you fly here, you either have to ship all your gear up or suffer the exorbitant rental fees that await you. Alternatively, you could drive through Canada. But, if you dislike sky-high fuel prices and taxation on merchandise (the way bands make money), you really will dislike that option. Once you’re here, you only have two markets capable of generating the ticket sales revenue to pay the five-figure guarantees most bands require.
But every once in a while, we get downright spoiled.
Last weekend was one of those cases. On a perfect Alaska summer night, Dropkick Murphys walked onstage in Spenard to an ovation that was likely heard for miles.
Dropkick formed nearly two decades ago, in 1996, though only bassist Ken Casey remains of the original lineup (original singer Mike McColgan and drummer Jeff Erna now play in another fantastic band, Street Dogs). However, the cast has mostly stayed constant over the past decade, while they’ve become arguably the most prolific punk band on the scene – and certainly the most profitable.
With a catalog of music spanning the fifteen years and eight full length albums since their 1998 Hellcat Records debut, Do or Die, the band had little trouble filling out a diverse set list, lasting well into the sunlit night. Newer songs included 2005’s “Your Spirit’s Alive” and “The Warrior’s Code,” alongside their latest single, “Rose Tattoo,” and a finale of 2011’s title track “Going Out in Style,” in which much of the crowd joined the band onstage – a feature of every Murphys concert.
“Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya” – a modern cover of the iconic 1867 British anti-war song also commanded a sea of fists in the air. Old crowd favorites included songs such as “Barroom Hero,” “Caught in a Jar,” the Dominic Behan cover “The Auld Triangle,” and their unique (if not trademark) spin on the 1949 sing-a-long, “Skinhead on the MBTA.” The song originally was “Johnny on the MTA” (Metropolitan Transit Authority), written by Jacqueline Steiner and Bess Lomax Hawkes as a mayoral campaign song for Boston’s labor organizer and Progressive Party candidate Walter O’Brien.
The open-air acoustics were phenomenal. The warm July night carried the crisp grunge guitar sounds of James Lynch and Tim Brennan across the Koots parking lot, without drowning out Al Barr’s gritty vocals. One could even decipher the Boston accent in Casey’s back-ups – though that would be one of the more difficult sounds to lose in the mix.
Attendees flooded to the front at the first pluck of Brennan’s hollow-bodied Gibson, but embraced the positive atmosphere the band projected and mostly operated with punk etiquette, ensuring that anyone who was knocked down in the pit was immediately returned to their proper, upright position.
The only oddity was between songs. Usually known for their casual banter sprinkled throughout their sets, the band largely stuck to the music, leaving their well known progressive political bent to their lyrical presence (unfortunately omitting their phenomenal cover of Florence Reese’s iconic “Which Side Are You On”). Perhaps our state’s reputation inclined them to tone it down.
They also seemed a bit annoyed, rightfully, at the over-sized gathering inside the monstrous mosquito tent otherwise known as the beer garden throughout the show.
Then again, their actions spoke louder than the absence of their words. Some of the proceeds from the concert went to the International Brotherhood of Firefighters, Local 1264.
For that, and for stopping by to give Anchorage a night of brilliant music, we thank them.
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  1. This has been a pretty good summer for that. Primus was fantastic too, I thought. Who organizes these things and are they getting better?