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Dropkick Murphys

Starts slow, ends with a bang

By Rebecca Loh

With Oxymoron, The Ducky Boys, and Tommy & The Terrors

At the Tobin Hill Community Center

May 1 at 6:30

Last Saturday, hundreds of punks convened at the Tobin Hill Community Center to see the Dropkick Murphys play with Oxymoron, The Ducky Boys, and Tommy & The Terrors. The Murphys, Boston’s own working-class punk heroes, were back from a six-week U.S. tour promoting their new CD The Gang’s All Here.

The show had strict rules against leaving and re-entering, and, as it was an all-ages show, there was no alcohol or smoking allowed. Although it seems one’s concert experience is somehow richer if you leave with clothes drenched in sweat, ears plagued by a constant ringing, and hair reeking of cigarette smoke, I had no problem with forfeiting the latter. While some people had a problem with the rules, the overall atmosphere was not affected by them. In fact, because the show was for all ages, the atmosphere was improved, as punks, 10 year-old kids and 40 year-old mothers stood side-by-side to watch the bands. It was clear the people were more interested in having fun than in looking cool.

The show opened with a set from Tommy & The Terrors. I’d never heard this band before, but they played really well and had good songs. It was a real shame that the room was only half-full during their set, and the majority of punks were more interested in checking out the overpriced merchandise than listening to the Terrors play. The few who did decide to listen appeared to want to save their energy for later, as no one was dancing.

After Tommy & The Terrors played, The Ducky Boys came on. The Ducky Boys, also a Boston band, had been on the tour with Oxymoron and the Dropkick Murphys. They expressed delight in playing before their hometown again and then launched into a set of some of their best songs, including “We’ll Find a Way,” “I’ve Got My Friends,” and their cover of “The Wanderer.” First-time listeners of The Ducky Boys might find the scratchy, slightly nasal voices of lead singers Mark Lind and Mike Marsden to be too irritating to enjoy, but this hometown crowd (including yours truly) took pleasure in the familiar sounds of the Ducky Boys’ tunes. Although some punks danced during the set, many people were still shuffling in, and the place was too well-lit with sunlight for people to really start getting wild.

The German band Oxymoron was next to take the stage. This band is just starting to make a name for itself in the States, but their fast tunes and catchy choruses were a hit with the locals. Their lead singer, known only as ‘Sucker,’ looked like your prototypical punk, with combat boots, tight-fitting pants, a muscular build, and a bright red mohawk. Oxymoron performed very well, but I had a hard time understanding what they were saying -- not because they were speaking in German, but because they spoke with such heavy British accents.

Oxymoron’s songs are absolutely great, with choruses sure to get stuck in your head, though chances are you’d be singing the wrong words. Careful examination of the lyrics would lead one to conclude that Oxymoron has some great things to say, but the wording and the way the lead singer articulates things tends to garble up the message. For example, I thought Oxymoron was singing about some kind of “Ghetto strike” in their song “Strike” but it turns out they were just instructing people to “Get on strike.” Half the crowd at the show appeared to think the song “Mohican Tunes” was about “Making Tunes.”

Oxymoron’s songs got the group dancing, and when they finished their set, the crowd was pumped and ready for the Dropkick Murphys. After a break to set up equipment, Mark Lind from The Ducky Boys came on stage to introduce the band and make the announcement that GMM Records was recording the show to make a live CD. This announcement excited the crowd, and when the lights dimmed, the air was suffused with anticipation. The mournful wail of a bagpipe cut through the air, and the crowd soon recognized the beginning to “Cadence to Arms.” I was a disappointed to find the tune was not played live as it had been during the New Year’s show in Clinton, but was merely an old recording. This didn’t stop the crowd from cheering, however, and when the bagpipe solo ended and the guitars and drums started in, the entire room came to life with people pushing, jumping, and dancing to the beat.

As in their album Do or Die, the opening song “Cadence to Arms” was immediately followed by “Do or Die,” and everyone began singing along. The crowd never stopped singing through the whole set; kids would even jump on stage to sing a verse or two with lead singer Al Barr before stagediving back into the thick crowd. There were many times during the show when Barr would point the mic at the crowd, and the verses would be enthusiastically belted back at him.

The Dropkick Murphys played many songs from their albums Do or Die and The Gang’s All Here during their set. I was impressed by how many people could sing along with songs from the Gangs album even though it’s only been out for a little over a month. It was interesting hearing the Do or Die songs because they were recorded with Mike McColgan singing lead, and though new frontman Al Barr sang every word faithfully, his voice is quite distinct from McColgan’s.

The energy during the Murphy’s set was amazing, and made the evening worthwhile. The entire crowd was singing and dancing with such intensity that the floor soon became hot from the bodies of hundreds of dancing people bumping into each other and loud with the voices of hundreds of singing punks. When DKM played “Finnegan’s Wake,” their last song for the evening, it looked like half the crowd was on stage singing, dancing, and having a wicked good time. The evening might have started off slow, but it closed with so much energy that no one wanted it to end.