'Dropkick Murphys' return with a full Irish punk festival


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Back in the day, the Dropkick Murphys used to hold down a late-afternoon slot on the Warped Tour, somewhere around the Pennywise or Rancid set.

Having built a fanatic following of plaid-wearing punks and topping that off with the rage of Boston sports, the band graduated up, and this summer is out launching its own Shamrock-N-Roll Festival.

Arriving Monday, the day after the Pittsburgh Irish Festival, it features the punk band joined by Stiff Little Fingers, Street Dogs, Chuck Ragan, The Mahones, The Parkington Sisters and more on two alternating stages at the Trib Amiphitheatre. There also will be a boxing demonstration and autograph signing with "Irish" Micky Ward, portrayed by Mark Wahlberg in the movie "The Fighter."

Dropkick Murphys

With: Stiff Little Fingers, Street Dogs, Chuck Ragan, The Mahones, The Parkington Sisters.

Where: Trib Amphitheatre, Station Square.

When: 5:30 p.m. Monday.

Tickets: $32.50-$38; 1-800-745-3000.

The Murphys, who formed in 1996, are touring in support of their seventh album, "Going Out in Style," which debuted at No. 6, making it their highest chart debut. It's a concept album, based on their own experiences, focused on a character named Cornelius Larkin's journey as an Irish immigrant. Lending a hand are Fat Mike from NOFX, Chris Cheney (The Living End), actor-comedian Lenny Clarke and this guy Bruce Springsteen, whom the Murphys befriended in 2009.

Last week, founding member, singer and bassist Ken Casey filled us in on the details.

What made you guys put this festival together and what was your design?

After being a band for a while, you start to want to do something different for the fans, you wanna do something different for yourself. In this day and age, when things are tough, you just wanna give people more for their buck, you know. We have seven, eight bands on the bill, and it's a bigger operation, but there's ways to get around that. A lot of the bands are friends, it's a win-win. The audience gets a special day with the bands and we get to hang out. Should be a good time.

It's like your own little Warped Tour, without having to deal with all that.

Exactly. You hit it on the head.

You have Stiff Little Fingers, who were an influence on you guys.

A huge influence. I have their name tattooed on my arm, and I don't have any other band tattooed on me, so ... there wouldn't be a Dropkick Murphys without Stiff Little Fingers existing. We've had them on the road before and it's cool to play with a band that had such on influence on our music.

What is your connection with Mickey Ward?

Mickey is just a personal friend, and we thought it would be cool to bring him along just to entertain people between the bands. Our little traveling sideshow.

Can you talk about your approach on this new concept album?

It was just something to help us focus our thinking and our effort. It wasn't really like we said, "Hey, let's do a concept record." Seemed like the right thing to do, the right time. It was nothing planned.

You have Springsteen on the album. What's it been like to know him?

I forget exactly when, but one year someone said, "Hey, Springsteen's gonna come see you on St. Patrick's Day." I said, "Aww, no way" and then come that time there was a snowstorm and he didn't make it. The next time, he came to New York to see us with his son and we just kind of hit it off, good guy, and he invited us to his shows in Boston and asked us to come up and sing a song with him. I got to do that a couple times and one night, he said, "Hey, when you gonna return the favor? I'll do something with you." We said, "Heck, maybe this is a good time to ask him." He said "yes" and what I thought was the coolest is he said yes before he even heard the song. He had a little bit of trust in us anyway.

You guys have become so associated with Boston sports. Has that elevated the band to a different level?

It's definitely helped. I don't know if it's as massive as people think. I think it might be a lot more casual fans that like one song or two but don't really buy the albums. But that's all right too. It's kind of helped make us more of a household name -- in Boston. My grandma used to always say, "When you gonna go back to school?" I'd say, "I don't know, I'm doin' pretty good with the band." When we got involved with the Red Sox, she never asked me those questions again.

We have Wiz Khalifa, who did that song "Black and Yellow," but Steelers fans were kind of mixed on accepting it.

Yeah, we're a bit of a different animal. We never really had any negative feedback in either direction, so it's been a good way to market ourselves, but more than anything we're just big fans of Boston sports, so it's kind of just cool in that sense.

What happens when you play rival cities, like New York?

We played Vancouver two weeks after the Bruins won the cup and the quote from the promoter was, "I can't believe people paid to come to be abused by you for two nights." I wear a Bruins shirt, I wear a Red Sox shirt. I love going into those cities. It makes it that much more fun, to talk trash. In most instances, everyone knows it's a tongue-in-cheek thing. It kind of makes the show more entertaining, but, I know the first time we played New York after the Red Sox won in '04, we dropped a video screen and started showing highlights. Literally, people walked out of the show. People can only take so much.

Scott Mervis: smervis@post-gazette.com ; 412-263-2576; Twitter: @scottmervis_pg; blog: www.post-gazette.com/popnoise .


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