Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Wreck The Halls 2013 with the Street Dogs, the Unseen, Stars & Stripes and Fenian Sons

Closing each year would never be as entertaining, joyous, full of laughter, camaraderie and brotherhood if it were not for the annual Wreck The Halls shows with the Street Dogs.  Last year, as the band announced a hiatus, much anxiety filled up not only me yet many other fans and friends of the band.  That anxiety or doubt better put left very shortly as Lenny Lashley (Darkbuster/Lenny & The Piss Poor Boys) was recruited as rhythm  guitar player and another addition over the summer, the recruitment of Matt Pruitt (Have Nots) on lead guitar was installed. It made for the perfect lateral transfer as Mike McColgan once put it for me! This was also the beginning of a new era with the Street Dogs which surfaced around two EP releases on Pirates Press Records and the "Breaking The Break" tour in Europe.  My excitement built up even more when Street Dogs announced the ninth annual Wreck The Halls show at the House Of Blues with the Fenian Sons, the Unseen and Stars & Stripes. 

The night started off with an Irish twist with the Boston Irish Folk group, the Fenian Sons.  I have seen these guys play three years ago at T.T. The Bears in Cambridge with the Street Dogs and they have certainly tightened up since then. Their blend of Irish Folk music with an energetic take on it was the perfect way to start the night.  With many influences stemming from the Pogues, the Dubliners, and more, these Boston hooligans very much created their own blend without going too far astray with their sound.  The band is just a group of guys who clearly enjoy playing their brand of Irish music with no frills, or egos.  After having the opportunity to talk with them after the show, and introducing myself, these are the type of guys you would want to sit at a bar with and have a pint of Guinness and talk shop with.  Keep an eye out for their future endeavors, shows and potential releases around Boston. 

The opener I looked forward to seeing the most on Saturday night was Stars & Stripes.  This band consists of all the members of Slapshot but play straight up American Oi! instead of American hardcore yet usually with the occasional Slapshot cover thrown in (I will get to that later).  These Boston music veteran's kicked into the standard opener, "Shaved For Battle".  The sing along chorus had the pit  going as the crowd chanted along to, "Our heads are shaved for battle, and that's what we're gonna do. Our docs are made for kicking, and we'll kick the shit out of you!" which incited fists in the air of many of the skinheads moving on the floor.  Other songs that made it into the set were "American Oi!", "Doc Marten Army", "The Power & The Glory", and Slapshot's legendary, "Back On The Map".  Seeing these guys perform again was a blast as I have not seen them since the Bruisers reunion in August 2012.  Not much has changed in the line up except with Ryan Packer (formally Jason Bennett & the Resistance/Street Dogs) on bass which has proved to be an excellent addition.  Overall, Stars & Stripes played a solid set full of energy, angst and giving the crowd just what they asked for, some good old American Oi! with a doc marten boot to the face!

As the night crept on the lights dimmed on the foggy stage and Boston's very own street punk giants, the Unseen walked out.  Kicking off their set with "Live In Fear", the band displayed sheer intensity and energy throughout their set.  The band did a very good job varying their set list from old and new to keep the veteran fans and younger fans hungry for more.  Highlights included "Social Damage", "Tale Of Mass Deception", "Explode", and "So Sick Of You".  With the handful of times I have seen the Unseen play, this was probably the longest set I have seen them play.  Mark Unseen dedicated an old gem, "Police Brutality" to anybody who attended the now defunct Rat in Kenmore Square "back in the day" and certainly threw in some older tracks to keep the old guard happy.  The energetic front man kept the crowd on their toes by participating in some barricade action and moving from side to side.  Without a doubt, the Unseen brought a sheer amount of energy to the show which helped amp the crowd up for Street Dogs.

Just after 8PM, the house lights dimmed and "Fall Back Down" by Rancid came on over the P.A. as their intro and crowd warmer.  Soon after, the room went dark and the crowd could hear the sound of bag pipes coming from the rear.  The Bunker Hill Pipe Band walked on to stage left as the intro for Street Dogs which was lead by House of Blues worker and good friend, Neil McGarry .  As goose bumps and the blood pressure started to raise, the bag pipes started to fade and after a brief pause, Mike McColgan, Johnny Rioux, Matt Pruitt, Lenny Lashley and Pete Sosa stormed onto the stage and kicked right into "Savin Hill".  Though the venue's capacity is over two thousand (and did not reach that), the Street Dogs made it feel like it was the Paradise or Brighton Music Hall with the amount of crowd participation front man, Mike McColgan worked in throughout the night. Crowd pleasers such as "Punk Rock & Roll", "Rustbelt Nation" and "Yesterday" followed in form.  The twenty seven song set consisted of "Not Without A Purpose, Not Without A Fight", "Common People" and fist raiser, "Up The Union".  Highlights included "Generals Boombox" with their edition of Joe Strummer's "Coma Girl" in the mix.  During mid set, Tobe Bean joined the family on stage for the  duration of the night including, "Tobes Got A Drinking Problem", "Katie Bar The Door" and many more.  The Street Dogs pulled off the three guitar Bad Religion type trio quite well. 
Set list for the Wreck The Halls 2013 tour. Photo Taken by Toni Wakester

Another pleasant surprise during the set included a friend of many, Kelley Costello and her collaboration on "Elizabeth", Lenny Lashley pulling out three Darkbuster tunes, "Try To Make It Right", "Stand & Deliver" and "Skinhead" which was roused the crowd right up.  As always, Mike McColgan respectfully dedicated "Final Transmission" to those who serve our country which puts much in perspective for all of us particularly during the holidays and this time of year.  I also thoroughly enjoyed hearing one of my personal favorites, "You Alone" which certainly unites the crowd.  The encore consisted of Lenny and the Gang Of Ones personal "Anti X-mas Song" and then the inclusion of Rick Barton during "Get Up", and "Never Alone" from the 1997 Dropkick Murphys era.  Scruffy from the Dropkick Murphys joined the band on tin whistle during "Far Away Coast", as well. The last two closers of the night consisted of "Fighter" with the Clash's "Guns of Brixton" in the middle and lastly, the stage invasion inciting, "Boston Breakout".  By that time, the stage quickly filled up with Street Dogs most dedicated friends, family, and fans and those who just wanted to climb up for the experience.  The stage invasion easily proves the band's dedication to their loyal followers and reinforces the idea of "our stage is your stage" so the crowd is on an even level with the band!  All in all, the Street Dogs performed an amazing set full of surprises, unification of their city and followers, and the perfect way to ring in the holidays!  Needless to say, I cannot wait til next year! 

Stage Invasion! (Photo by Jason Stone at DyingScene.Com) 

Street Dogs Offical Website
Street Dogs Facebook
Slapshot/Stars & Stripes Facebook
Fenian Sons Facebook


The Street Dogs have a side project called FM359 who are having a album release listening party on Wednesday, January 15th at McGreevys (911 Boylston St. Boston MA.) at 7PM.  It is 21 and Over only and admission is FREE.  Get there early and show some support. 


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