October 23, 2001

Irish punks avoid disappointing

I think I saw the good and the bad meet last Friday night. They shook hands and decided to hold a punk concert.

Where it seemed to me a constant clash of things should have taken place, somehow a general fusion of two worlds occurred. Imagine this: barebacked muscular skinheads in their aggressive display of moshing sing “Amazing Grace" together, accompanied by bagpipe. Right next to them: police. Not on duty, but there for the ride, jumping around with as much force as anyone else.

Just where else would this happen besides a Dropkick Murphys concert?

Surprisingly decent opening acts started the evening off well. Tiger Army, a trio from northern California, managed to get over their need to continuously scream into the mike and play nothing but power chords and eventually turned out a nice set. Their strength undoubtedly came through Geoff Kresge, with his mini mohawk as he attacked his upright, which he managed to pull dexterously around stage much as if it had been the average guitar.

Sick of it All, a more widely-known group from New York City, appeared second and delivered an energetic performance of angry punk that stirred up the audience. While they seemed to be full of rage, Sick of it All also demonstrated a true concern for maintaining an auspicious atmosphere for the all-ages show. Frontman Lou Koller encouraged those in the mosh pit to “take care of each other." Of course, this was followed not long after by a message in a somewhat different tone, directed to all the younger fans and first-time punk show attendees, to explain what he felt punk rock is all about: “Disco sucks. F*** everything!" (His word choice, not mine.) Sick of it All just avoided going over the top with their anger and handed over a very excited crowd into the hands of The Emerald Society of the Chicago PD.

For those unfamiliar with the Dropkick Murphys, band members hail from Boston and hold an Irish heritage of which they are extremely proud. An ensemble of bagpipes and drums is not an infrequent way to start of a show, nor an unwelcome one. The crowd cheered on the Emerald Society as a fan stood center stage and waved an American flag.

The flag was undoubtedly not the only show of patriotism throughout the night. After all, this was the Sing Loud Sing Proud American Pride tour, with part of the proceeds going to the New York Fire Department in their work to recover from the September 11 tragedy. In fact, when asked what he would like most to say to their fans in light of recent events, vocalist Al Barr's comment was “We need to stand together as Americans." This was followed quickly by “And we have the best fans in the world."

It was those fans that created some of the greatest contrasts Friday night. It is these fans the media often represents as the delinquents of our society. They are shown to be the freaks, the outcasts, because of their hair, clothes, and choice of music. Yet it was these fans that in a moment of unity sang together “God Bless America." These fans that did protect one another when things in the mosh pit went haywire. For instance:

Through some occurrence or another, a section of the railing surrounding the pit broke, leaving a jagged pole pointing upwards amongst an unaware crowd that throbbed around it. A group of about four guys linked together to hold off the pulse of people, preventing anyone from being injured. They stayed like this for most of the concert. Others nearby also worked to calm things down and prevent those less attentive from barging through.

Yes, it was these fans that danced a jig arm-in-arm and indeed did “sing it loud, sing it proud." And with good reason: the Dropkick Murphys rocked. With an energy that seemed ceaseless and strong encouragement from audience involvement, they utilized the close, personal space of the sold-out Vic to its fullest. Delivering lyrics both fun and intelligent in a hard-played punk infused with Irish influences, the Murphys proved themselves worthy of the steady attention they have received over the past few years. They did nothing to disappoint the sold-out crowd, other than perhaps not returning for an encore despite the repetitive chants requesting one.

In fact, avoiding disappointment seemed to be the theme of the evening. Speaking with fans lingering after the show, Al Barr spoke briefly about the future of the band, which includes a possible trip to Japan after the current tour. He declined to make further comments however, saying, “We have to get going… the cops have invited us to go out drinking, and we can't let them down."