For those of us with British or Irish ancestry, the need for Americans to define themselves in terms of their (distant) relations is something of an oddity. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in Boston, Massachusetts, where an entire Irish/American subculture is celebrated. In a case of life imitating art, this identity is becoming more pronounced with each Hollywood film that deals with it. Enter the Dropkick Murphys. Describing themselves as a ‘Celtic punk’ band, they were lucky enough to get a single in the hit film The Departed − a song that catapulted them into the mainstream.
Although the band owes most of its success to that song (‘I’m shipping up to Boston’), they have in fact been playing their particular style of punk rock for a lot longer. Formed in 1996 in East Milton, Massachusetts, the original line-up began rehearsing in the basement of a local barber’s shop. They soon attracted the attention of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and supported them on their 1997 ‘Let’s Face it Tour’, significantly increasing their exposure and fan base.
Their first release, Do or Die, was met with only limited success and did not enjoy strong radio support, despite an improved line-up that saw The Bruisers singer Al Barr join the band. In 1999, they released their follow-up album, The Gang’s All Here. The record contained elements of more traditional hardcore and featured their first real experimentation with an Irish sound that would come to define them.
Another series of line-up changes occurred in the years 2000 and 2001, leading to a more interesting sound with the addition of a piper, bagpipe and mandolin player. The 2001 album Sing Loud, Sing Proud was featured on local radio and enabled them to play larger venues, leading to a series of interesting collaborations with artists such as Shane MacGowan of the Pogues and Cock Sparrer’s Colin McFaull.
By 2004, the band began gaining momentum and through their close association with sporting organisations such as the Boston Red Sox, they saw their songs played at large sporting games around the US.
Their fifth studio album, The Warrior’s Code, was released in 2005, featuring ‘I’m coming up to Boston’, which was originally written for an earlier album. Coming at the right time and place, the song caught the attention of the producers of The Departed and the rest is history.
Since then the band have moved from strength to strength, and their performance on St Patrick’s Day each year is now legendary. They have played with a host of well-known artists, including Bruce Springstein, and have featured in more films, including the 2010 film The Fighter and the Academy Award-nominated documentary Restrepo in 2011.
Unlike many bands considered one-hit wonders, Dropkick Murphys have not dwelt upon it or sought to recreate the magic. They have moved forward and their sound is continually changing and adapting. This year sees the release of their new album, Signed and Sealed in Blood, and they are currently touring select European cities in support of it. Vega will be the perfect venue for this band. Expect an energetic performance of hyped-up Celtic punk that could only come from America.
Store Vega, Enghavevej 40, Cph V; Mon 20.00; 305kr, 3325 7011; www.billetlugen.dk