Dropkick Murphys’ Matt Kelly talks Buffalo-Boston bond - INTERVIEW
blog by Nick Mendola • August 26, 2013 @ 9:41am
Given Tom Brady, Milan Lucic, Bill Belichick, Ray Bourque and the laundry list of Boston villains who’ve invaded the subconscious of Buffalonians, it’s rather remarkable that a proud and vocal Beantown institution such as Dropkick Murphys brings even the biggest of Patriot and Bruin haters to the dance floor in Western New York.
“There are certain cities, Buffalo’s one of them, where people get us,” said drummer Matt Kelly, whose Celtic punk Murphys play Town Ballroom at 7 p.m. Tuesday (tickets here). “It’s a chemical reaction when we play and it’s a blast.”
Perhaps it’s because the Murphys are a fitting example of what Buffalo would love to see in a local group who finds rock and roll stardom. They loudly carry their hometown with them wherever they go.
Really, what Buffalo sports fan can’t respect a band so in touch with its beloved Red Sox that it demanded that Jonathan Papelbon stop using “Shipping Up To Boston” as his entrance music when he left Boston for Philadelphia?
“It’s an extension of the pride we have in our city and it kind of lets people know it’s okay to be proud of where they’re from, with their sports team and local culture,” said Kelly (pictured below), who’s been with the band since 1997 (They began in 1996). “That’s the connection there. It’s alright to be proud of where you’re from. That’s what I think it boils down to.”
A Dropkick Murphys live show is frenetic and communal; a Bruce Springsteen show for the punk set. It’s rather fitting given the group’s connection with “The Boss”—more on that later—but it’s more about their representation of you and your blue collar.
“We play a different set every night,” Kelly said. “We have probably 150 songs that we could play every evening, so when you’re going to play 25-27 songs… it keeps it interesting. The other part is being as lucky as we are to be doing this, you can’t get tuned out. Other people would give their right arm to do this.”
The beauty of that mentality is the large, dedicated crowds that show for a Murphys show receive the treatment of a big band who never lost the ambition of the amateur. Maybe it’s because they didn’t see it coming when they started the group.
“Going into it, it was like, ‘Let’s see where this goes,’” Kelly said. “The big plan when the band started was to kinda play a show at the Rathskeller, which is the CBGB of Boston.”
From such humble goals arose a consistent catalog of big-selling records and a fervent fan base. If being invited to play Bruins games and Fenway Park weren’t enough, their working-class feel attracted the Boss of such folks in Springsteen. He’s guested at their shows. They’ve guested at his.
“It’s ridiculous,” Kelly said. “When you say Bruce Springsteen certain things come to mind as far as what he represents, who he is and what he is. The fact is he’s not some bogus act. It’s quite an honor to work with rock and roll royalty, so-to-speak. What he does and what he represents is what we find very agreeable.”
The cherry on top of their relationship came at a bleak time for Boston. The Murphys and Springsteen re-recorded the lead single of their latest record to raise money for victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. The result is an incredible version that raised over $300,000.
“For him to reach out to us on the single, it just shows what a guy he is,” Kelly said. “He’s played with us on stage. He’s not getting anything from that. He just enjoys it.”
While the odds are greatly against rock royalty joining the Murphys on stage Tuesday in Buffalo, their reputation is enough to guarantee an “all aces” performance (regardless of which 25 songs they pull out of their catalog.
Kelly in particular has a history with Buffalo, and he’ll hope to repeat it come Tuesday.
“One particular time we played outdoors and it was just a blast,” Kelly said, whose band played Thursday at the Square in 2007 and at the Outer Harbor with Snapcase in 2012.
“I hate playing outdoors but it was a great time and a great vibe. Afterwards, one of our friends held a DJ night playing The Clash and punk and ‘Oi’ and I may have had a few drinks. I bullied a DJ with requests and that night was a stand-out night in Buffalo for us.”
Not bad for a bunch of Bruins fans.
(All photos except for Dropkick Murphys logo have come from Chuck Alaimo’s gallery of the Dropkick Murphys when they came to the Buffalo Outer Harbor last year. See that full gallery).