The first time that Matt Kelly heard punk rock he was in middle school. A friend's older sister brought over a mix tape and it only took a few bars of "Where Eagles Dare" by the Misfits to send Kelly running home to destroy his collection of heavy metal records (save, of course, he said in an email interview with the Source, Iron Maiden). That was the first step in a journey that has lasted nearly two decades as the drummer for hard-rocking Irish punk collective Dropkick Murphys.
"I was always interested in [punk] in the '80s when I'd see skaters, punks, and skinhead kids wearing Black Flag shirts, and sensationalistic stuff on the news," said Kelly. "I figured, 'yeah, that's for me.'"
Kelly joined the band in April of 1997 when it was only four members and a merch guy touring the states in the van. Since then, the band has added and lost members, landing on a round seven-piece crew that covers bass, drums, bagpipes, tin whistle, mandolin, accordion, keyboard, bouzouki, harmonica and vocals. The band has been grinding out records (eight to be exact) and relentlessly touring the world for 18 years.
The rest of the Boston band has similar stories to Kelly, growing up listening to a mixture of Irish traditional and bands like the Pouges and Stiff Little Fingers, all of which have come to bear major influence on the group's signature cross-genre style.
"The first song the band wrote, 'Barroom Hero,' combined both styles [punk and Irish traditional], so you could say that it was an aspect of our sound from the beginning," said Kelly. "It was in the delivery of the singing, the lyrical content, and the 'ahead of the beat' style, skipping forward instead of laying on the backbeat, that gives our sound that style."
Between shouty-guttural vocals, and touches of bagpipe, and breakneck drum beats, and tinny mandolin, and whistling, and songs structured with lofty scream-along phrases, the band has established itself as one of the pioneers of punk-fusion. This year's annual St. Patrick's Tour spanned 23 shows, including 5 gigs in its hometown, and has solidified the band's reputation for thrashing punk performances.
"There will never be too many St. Paddy's tours— if people come, we'll play," said Kelly. "I think that, yeah, the idea is to just do it until people want to kill us!"
Even amongst jaded media buzz that "Punk is dead" and fading interest from passive millennials in honest, sweaty, hard-working, brutal punk rock, Dropkick Murphys have never strayed from making the music they love and performing it every night with the force of a thousand Guinness-soaked hurricanes.
"The media declared that punk was dead when they got bored with it. It never died, it just slithered out of the spotlight and had a great time for a long time, and still thrives across the globe," said Kelly. "I'm sure our crowd/audience doesn't fall into the category of those so-called 'millennials,' even if they by default, due to their age, do. We have twenty-something parents bringing their little children who sing along to every word, and those parents bring their parents sometimes, who connect with part of our sound. Then there are the young teen kids who come to see us. I sure hope we don't fall prey to the whims of instantly-jaded millennial hipsters. They can listen to Skrillex or something."
8 pm. Sun., Oct. 5
Midtown Ballroom, 51 NW Greenwood Ave.