|On the Road with the Dropkick Murphys|
|Written by Dan Macintosh|
|Tuesday, 09 March 2004|
After sitting through “On The Road With The Dropkick Murphys,” you may feel as drained as these Irish Boston boys most likely do after a long, hard tour. That’s because, when it’s all added up, this DVD racks up over four hours worth of footage! It’s a lot like the difference between shopping for food at your local mini-mart, and loading up your cart to overflowing at CostCo: this is a project-tailor made for those who need their Dropkick Murphys fix in bulk. So if you’re already a Dropkick Murphys fan, the Irish eyes will be smiling on you throughout this release. But if you’re not already on the group’s Celtic-centered punk rock bandwagon, well, let’s just say a little Dropkick Murphys goes a long way.
The centerpiece of this collection is a concert, shot during the St. Patrick’s Day celebration of March 15th, 16th and 17th of 2002 at the Avalon Ballroom in the group’s hometown of Boston, MA. This show’s set list runs the gamut of the group’s catalogue, from the lovers’ spat of “The Dirty Glass” to the raging “Gonna Be a Blackout Tonight.” Additionally, traditional songs like “Black Velvet Band, “Cadence to Arms,” “Finnegan’s Wake,” Amazing Grace,” “The Rocky Road To Dublin” and “The Wild Rover” are mixed in along with the group’s original material.
Hometown gigs are usually fun, since groups are usually more relaxed during these occasions in familiar surroundings. For instance, “Amazing Grace” here is dedicated to bassist Ken Casey’s grandmother at one point, because she’s in the crowd (but probably not in the mosh pit). At another point, a man purposes to his girlfriend on stage. Sorry to digress, but why do bands/artists feel the need to include such proposals in their DVDs? Do they believe we’ll think less of them if they don’t prove to us that they inspire couplings with their music? Geez, how about showing somebody handing his/her partner divorce papers for once. Now that would be unique!
But back to the concert. These Murphys are certainly not your average punkers. I mean, how many other bands bring traditional dancers on stage to perform with them, or feature bagpipes in their mixes? Very few, I imagine. Of course, the Pogues of England hit paydirt with this punk/traditional Irish musical combination long before these Murphys ever did it. The Pogues also wrote much better songs, too. But in the U.S., at least, there isn’t anybody else like The Dropkick Murphys.
There are also more than enough (perhaps too many) special features here. If you’re one of those people who recoil from Irish stereotypes – such as ones about how they drink and fight too much – you’ll likely be sorely disappointed by this inside look at the Dropkick Murphys. Many adult beverages are consumed, and many punches are thrown here, though mostly in jest. One section, titled “65 Days of Hell,” follows the group on its 2003 Warped Tour trek. The first thing that strikes you about this particular video document is just how much all these various tour stops look the same. Rock bands have a reputation of complaining about the monotony of touring, and this section of the DVD sure lends support to their whiny perspective. It’s easy to see how a rock musician can wake up in the morning in Anytown, USA and wonder where the hell he/she is. Especially after watching this. Warped is the perfect name for such a tour.
A much better extra bit, however, is the “Behind The Scenes” chapter here. That’s because it follows the group on its recent world tour. First of all, the scenery is different. Secondly, the group is caught engaging in a little regional behavior, such as putting shrimps on the barbeque and videotaping kangaroos in Australia and drinking sake in Japan. Speaking of Japan, there’s also a hilarious scene where the group gets a gang of Japanese teenagers to sing one of their songs to them – silly accents and all – and another clip where three Japanese girls attempt to do Irish line dancing. Irish dancing, at least, is one thing they’ll never be able to make in Japan.
Continuing with the bonus features, there’s a segment called “Black And Gold,” which documents the group’s love affair with the NHL’s Boston Bruins. In between clips of the group performing at the game, the band is also heard and seen describing their deep devotion to The Bruins. Ken Casey gets the most of this ESPN-ish face time, so one can only assume that he is the biggest puck fan of the bunch.
If Dropkick Murphys fans buy this DVD, they may not need their MTV hookup at all. That’s because all of the group’s videos – going back to the band’s inception -- are collected here. They include “Gonna Be a Blackout,” “Walk Away,” “Spicy McHaggis Jig” (which is about the group’s bagpipe player, by the way), “Wild Rover,” “The Gauntlet,” “10 Years Of Service” and “Barroom Hero.” When it comes to making rock videos, however, the Dropkick Murphys are not what you might call abstract conceptualists. Instead, they prefer to let the camera capture them playing live at a show, or just lip-synching their songs in a soundstage setting. Clearly, theirs is energetic music that capitalizes upon the emotional exchange that can only occur between a band and its audience. So don’t expect any of these cats to “go Hollywood” anytime soon.
One of the big problems with this DVD’s plethora of Dropkick Murphys music (at least for this reviewer) is that it all seems to sound the same after a while. Granted, punk rock is already a rather limiting genre, but the Dropkick Murphys basically only create slight variations on the fist-pumping anthem, albeit with its own Celtic flavoring. The drums pummel double-time, the guitars are speed-strummed and the vocals are sandpaper gruff. A welcome exception to this thuggish rule, however, is when the group plays an acoustic version of “Boys On the Dock” at a labor rally. It’s at least thoughtful, rather than shout-ful.
This aforementioned Dropkick Murphys unplugged spot occurs during the “Labor Day Documentary” segment of this disc. Casey’s dad was a dock worker himself, we’re told, so worker’s rights are obviously near and dear to his heart. This documentary captures the band playing live (plugged this time) at labor rallies, and features interview snippets with workers who obviously appreciate the band’s vocal support of their cause. And just as this disc’s rare acoustic music is a welcome change from the group’s otherwise rowdy rock ‘n’ roll, this documentary segment shows the group’s sincere heart for the workers. It sure beats yet another series of drunken antics on the road.
At the beginning of the St. Patrick’s Day concert footage, one hears the sound of diehard fans chanting and clapping, “Let’s Go Murphys,” loud and clear. In the same way that Dropkick Murphys seemingly worship their beloved Boston Bruins, these band fans appear to revere their heroes as they would a local sports team. With their distinct regional and ethnic ties to the Irish-American descendants of Boston, it’s nearly impossible for this group to have derived from any other place on Earth. So just like an indigenous sports franchise, the Dropkick Murphys can be likened to Boston’s hometown punk band. But conversely, if you’re not one of those people that say “caaaaah” instead of “car,” and you don’t call Boston your home, you may feel a little like an outsider at this party. Simply put, this is a four-hour church service for the Dropkick Murphys faithful, where first-time visitors may feel out of place or uncomfortable. At least, that’s how it feels to this outsider after spending four virtual hours on the road with the Dropkick Murphys.