Monday, March 31, 2014

Dropkick Murphys Live at The House of Blues (March 13th, 2014)

The last time I was in Boston for St. Paddy's Day, I only caught one Dropkick Murphys show in Lowell. This year I had tickets to all six shows and couldn't have been more excited; attending all the Dropkick shows in a St. Paddy's Week is something I have always wanted to do. As I excited as I was, the trip got off to a bit of a rough start due to a lovely March snowstorm. After a flight being forced to turn around, and another two cancelled, I finally arrived in Boston a day late and with only a couple hours to spare before the first show of the week. In true St. Paddy's form, my first stop was McGreevy's, not my hotel, to meet up with friends and have a quick pint. From there it was on to the Buck to check in and then a short jaunt to the House of Blues about a half an hour before showtime.

It was a great feeling to be back on Lansdowne Street, in line for another DKM show at the House of Blues. As always, when the lights dimmed and the first notes of the Foggy Dew echoed through the hall a chill ran down my spine. The Murphys opened up with "The Boys Are Back", the first track off their latest album Signed and Sealed in Blood, and from there launched into the setlist that they had been playing for the majority of the tour. There were a number of highlights and treats in the set, including the awesome tune "Never Forget" off of the album Meanest of Times. It's a great tune driven by the bagpipes that seems to be forgotten at the tail end of the album. I very much enjoyed seeing it played live along with many other songs from the same album (MOT is one of my favourites by the band and a really underrated record). It was great to hear "Famous For Nothing", "Flannigan's Ball" and "Shattered" back in the set, as I haven't seen either played live in quite some time.

They followed the one-two punch of "The Boys Are Back" and "Never Forget" with "Get Up", a classic off of Do or Die. They weren't done with the oldies either, as they added many more songs off of their debut album including "Far Away Coast", "3rd Man In", "Finnegan's Wake", "Barroom Hero", and "Road of The Righteous". It was great to hear so many songs off of my all time favourite album, and goes to show that the band has not forgotten their roots or the people that helped get them where they are now. They could easily just play all the new tunes that people want to hear, but they remember the old guard that has been there since the beginning and they make sure they get their fill of old songs too.

One of the funniest moments of the night came during the group's rendition of "Peg of My Heart" which was a little rough, as the band explained they had not played it in a while. Anyways, their was a collective eyeroll from those of us along the barricade after a bit of a stumble by the band, which bassist Ken Casey caught and was quick to call us on. His words were something to the effect of "95% of you don't know we messed up that song, but our friends and biggest fans in the front all know and are rolling their eyes at us".

The rest of the setlist was a varied and complete one, the only albums not getting any playtime being The Gang's All Here and Warrior's Code, which was a little unfortunate but it would be remedied on the following nights. Still, we got many great songs from their extensive back catalogue like "Black Velvet Band", "Good Rats", "Which Side Are You On". "Worker's Song" and "Fields of Athenry". There were also many songs off of their newer albums such as "Going Out in Style", "Rose Tattoo", and "Out Of Our Heads" as the band strives to make sure there's something for everybody at their shows.

 Even with the great selection of songs the crowd was a little sleepy throughout the night and the band seemed a little put off by it as they feed off the crowd just as much as the crowd feeds off of them (Ken would go on to remark that Friday's crowd was much better and I have to agree with him on that point). That being said it was still an enjoyable night with many high points, including Nora Parkington coming out to sing "The Dirty Glass" which was followed by an awesome medley of "Taking Care of Business' (BTO) and "We're an American Band" (Grand Funk Railroad), which I had been eagerly waiting to see live. I was skeptical when I first heard they were doing it but it really worked, as the piano fits the Murphy's sound so well and Al Barr's voice is perfect for the song.

The set ended just as every other Dropkick set does, with the customary stage invasion during "Kiss Me I'm Shitfaced" (for the girls) and "Skinhead On The MBTA" (for the guys). The rest of the encore was comprised of an AC/DC cover, "Highway To Hell" instead of the usual "TNT", as well as the band's classic anthem "Boys On The Docks".

After it was all said and done it was a good start to the weekend, barring the somewhat lukewarm audience (But we can blame that on an early weekday start with little time to drink!). The show left my heart racing and ready for more. I was all geared up for Friday's show before I had even left the building.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Review of "Til Midnight" by Chuck Ragan OUT TODAY!

Chuck Ragan is a big name around the punk rock and hardcore scene world wide.  With his hardcore punk outfit known as Hot Water Music, he has truly made a name for himself but that isn't the only defining product that has given him some serious attention.  His taking of americana and folk punk has given a fresh sound to the ears of many. He has gained critical attention with his Revival Tour (performing with acts Dave Hause of the Loved Ones, Tim Barry of Avail, Brian Fallon of Gaslight Anthem and many more) which has taken him and several artists across the globe.  My first and only  experience of seeing Chuck play was at Fenway Park with the Dropkick Murphys.  Ken and the boys had a side stage set up for some smaller acts to perform and Ragan was one of them.  Though I have missed a handful of performances in Boston since then, Chuck Ragan has struck a chord with me like no other singer song writer has.  Today, March 25th, he releases his brand new album, "Til Midnight" and is simply one of his best.

Opening with Something May Catch Fire you can tell he has very much he has expanded from the standard acoustic guitar as his musicianship and back up band has developed tremendously.  I have always enjoyed the upright bass and fiddle (Jon Gaunt and Joe Ginsberg) that Chuck has incorporated into his sound as well as a drum player.  This opening track leaves the listener wanting much more as its the perfect opener.  This falls right into Vagabond which follows the trend of his last record (Covering Ground 2011) which was the song, Nomad By Fate.  Though it may be a rather similar concept and timing track wise, the musicianship is quite different and catchy as hell.  One of the first tracks that was released by Chuck and media outlets was Non Typical which was instantly a fan favorite.  The catchy and upbeat rhythm behind the song kept the audience intrigued.

The rather stripped down track entitled Revved is descriptive lyrically as he belts out, "To the wind she stood as her hair blew back, testing the waters on a one way track…" which gives it away as a story teller type song.  I have always appreciated Ragan's abilities to tell a story about the people he has come across in his travels and in life.  Another favorite track of mine is Bedroll Lullaby which has been previously released but on this recording, it has a much more lively sound to it.  The opening line "Have you ever wondered far from home, far from what was safe and comfortable…" instantly gives the listener goose bumps as they question their ethic to go out and take a risk in world that chews you up and spits you out.  Bedroll Lullaby is simply one of my favorite tracks.

The tune Gave My Heart Out shows Ragan doing simply that.  Its again, a high energy track that gives the listener something to relate to if someone has given their all to something.  A slower and melodic track entitled Wake With You gives away that he is singing about his wife or partner which he has written about before.  It talks about the things that happens in relationships but his loyalty given to his other half all the time.  The next track, You and I Alone has a similar love song vibe as the one before but is simply more stylistic and upbeat.  It also has a poetic feel to it lyrically, as well.  Next is Whistleblowers Song which has a darker and more pessimistic feel to it.  At the same time though, it shows Chuck's instant critique of the world and human race around him.  In tradition, Chuck Ragan closes out most of his studio full lengths with a slower, and longer track.  The song For All We Care is an introspective look that makes you listen in.  I feel his goal with ending the record this way is for the listener to make their own conclusions.

Overall, "Til Midnight" by Chuck Ragan is an album worth checking out whether or not you are familiar with his previous musical work. Chuck's perspective on the world around him simply goes hand in hand with his social critique, and not to mention the people and relationships he sings so passionately about. You also cannot forget about his life experiences that turn into poetic songs that constantly win over fans and draws back listeners each release.  Whether you are a fan of punk rock, hardcore, americana and everything else in between, "Til Midnight" is worth checking out.

Sidenote: Chuck Ragan and the Camaraderie will be performing with White Buffalo and Jonny Two Bags (Swingin' Utters) on April 20th at the Paradise Rock Club.  The show is 18 and over.  More info here

Artist Info:
Chuck Ragan Facebook
Chuck Ragan Official Website

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Dot Rats Review Part II

Back again with another review and with the Dot Rats, as well!  The boy's from Dorchester are back with four more in your face songs that will soon to be played live on April 4th at Middle East (more info below).  Dot Rat's, as I mentioned in my other review, truly stick to their guns and never let up but always exceed their limits.  Their brand of Boston Hardcore or should I say, Dorchester Hardcore takes on a new path once again that defies the standards of what hardcore really is.  They are one of a kind!

The first track. Brother's Keeper is clearly about the close knit ties one form's living in the community where they are from.  The Nowhere USA and now Dot Rat's legacy often comes from loyalty and a never surrender type of attitude no matter what the odds are.  That attitude comes through on this track. The follow up, Dot Rats Theme Song is simply just that with a whole lot of balls to it.  Starting in with a heavy, drop D intro (very similar style to Madball or Agnostic Front), the band kicks in.  The song essentially tells what the Dot Rats are all about as Anthony Snowdale sings, "If you need someone to drink all your beers, no need to worry the Dot Rats are here, and if you need someone to fuck your girlfriend, you don't need to worry because the Dot Rats are here!" The song draws influences from Sick Of It All, Minor Threat, and some street punk as well.  The band really mixes up the sounds to keep the listener tuned in!

The third boot stomping anthem, Diplomacy Has Failed is a forty second round house kick to the face meant for throwing punches.  I am sure all of us have come across "that person" in life which nobody what we say, they don't back up.  This song is about that person.  The last track, O.F.D. (Originally From Dorchester) ends with a bang.  One thing though I would like to emphasize on is the guitar work by Eric because this song has simply one of the best guitar solos around.  As I stated earlier, its nice that they are not afraid to go above and beyond and they did just that with the guitar work.  O.F.D. literally ends with a bang like none other and truly defines the band's sound, message, and who they are, Dot Rats!

Dot Rats Info:
Dot Rats Official Webpage
Dot Rats Band Camp
Dot Rats Facebook
Event Invite to Dot Rat release show- April 4th!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Review of the Drunk Nuns, "A Parting Shot" (EP)

After a fun filled week, I am back to share the Drunk Nuns new EP, "A Parting Shot".  This EP is five brand new songs that are have mixed influences between Green Day, the Ramones, and many more.  It may be simple but its still catchy, fun, and easy to latch on to.  The brilliant thing about the Drunk Nuns is their simplicity and the fact they don't take themselves too seriously, either.  This disc features five songs and three of which were done in the studio and the last two were done live. The band has displayed a significant amount of improvement musically and vocally which makes them catchier than ever.

Track one "A Parting Shot" is really the catchiest track and a personal favorite.  It opens up fast and with a bang that the band doesn't waste a whole lot of time with an intro.  Joe Barron's vocals come through with the immediate line, "I would rather be alone, than hear you bitch and moan" which is a clear reminder of those we distaste.  If there is one thing I have appreciated about Joe's writing is that he takes no prisoner's and is honest about the people, places, or things he writes about.  Sometimes being honest doesn't come naturally to song writers, but Barron often puts that to the test and succeeds. The second track, "Future Is King" is by a band called The Hookerclops whom I have never heard of before.  Its a fast and simple punk rock song that clocks in around a minute and a half.  The cover is followed by a tune listed as "F-Town" (otherwise known as "Fuck Town").  If you really want to know the definition of that, I am sure Urban Dictionary is your best friend because this page isn't that kind of page!  Anyhow, the song provides a more smooth or melodic yet upbeat feel.  It's certainly a different taste from the first two tracks yet fits well.  The Drunk Nuns do a hell of a job mixing the sweet punk rock sounds up to make them an interesting band that the listener will be entertained by.

The last two tracks are live tracks.  An upbeat jingle, "Let It Go" made the cut where at the beginning Joe dedicated it to "Anybody who is going to party their ass off tonight and tomorrow!".  It was followed by a prolonged intro and a fast bass line where the song kicks in.  "Let It Go" is simply a three minute jam that got the crowd fired up.  The last track, "POF" (Plenty Of Fish") is about a girl Andrew (guitarist) met online and the story is left up to the listener to figure out!  Easily one of the other catchier tracks on the EP as well.  Overall, I really enjoy the music that Drunk Nuns have been pumping out left and right.  The band takes the music scene by the balls and makes it work for them.  They aren't just another cookie cutter punk rock band because they simply do what works for them.  Keep an eye on the Drunk Nuns to see where they will be playing next in a basement/bar/hall/etc. near you!

The Drunk Nuns Info:
Drunk Nuns Bandcamp
Drunk Nuns Facebook
Drunk Nuns Website
Drunk Nuns Youtube

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A review of "A Great Night on the Lash: Live in Italy" by the Mahones

Hello readers,

Sorry it has been a while since I have posted yet I am back with some great reviews to share with you all.  As we all know, its March and St. Patrick's Day is right around the corner and I am sure many of you are creating your Irish themed playlists to play in the next week at loud levels.  Well one band that is certainly worth adding to that playlist is the Mahones.  They have been playing their brand of Irish punk rock since 1990 and have been taking no prisoners ever since.  Recently, they have released their brand new album called "A Great Night on the Lash: Live In Italy" which is worth taking a listen to.  The record is nineteen songs that you can party to, drink to, and fight to plus everything else in between.

The opener of the album entitled "Great Night on the Lash" is a perfect way to kick off the show which is a high fast and upbeat song.  It goes directly into "Paint The Town Red",  as well as one of my personal favorites, "Shakespeare Road".  One thing that really impresses me about this band is their incredible energy, and feeling they have on stage.  They are clearly passionate it in what they do as a live band and it shines through the album.  The songs on this live gem are a great mix of old and new and its great to see a band use their catalogue of music to diversify the set lists.  Songs such as "The Pain From Yesterday", "Angels and Devils" and the traditional "Wild Rover" would certainly spark the interest of anybody who is a fan of the Pogues, Dropkick Murphys and bands of that sort as they clearly pay homage to all of those who have influenced their sound one way or another.

One of my favorite tracks is "Give It All You Got" which was dedicated to Joe Strummer on this disc.  The message is in the title and its loud and clear.  The Mahones threw some great songs in the set that I wasn't all familiar with but I still really enjoyed and there are plenty of songs for the drinker inside!  Songs such as "The Ghost of A Whiskey Devil", "Past the Pint of No Return", "Whiskey Under the Bridge" and many more show their enthusiasm for drinking which seemingly excites the crowd as well.   One song I haven't heard from the Mahones before was "Queen & Tequila" which is a fun filled song with tons of momentum.  One of my personal favorites "Blood Is On Your Hands" which packs an excellent punk rock punch and Finny exclaims on stage, "This ones for the soldiers!  Bring em home!"
The last four songs included a medley of "Celtic Pride/Teenage Kicks" and then they go into the Oi! classic, "Going Down To The Bar" by the New Jersey Oi! legends, the Wretched Ones.  The band also covered the classic, "I Wanna Be Sedated" by the Ramones which roused the crowed up very well!  At the very end, the band finished out with the rest of "Teenage Kicks" by the Undertones!

Overall, "A Great Night on the Lash: Live In Italy" shows the energy that the Mahones are well known for.  It gives a glimpse of how they communicate with the crowd and how they strive to put on one hell of a performance.  When you are sitting on iTunes this coming weekend and you are fretting on which bands to create a playlist of, do yourself a favor and check the Mahones out.  This is a great album for anybody familiar with their style of music, and is an excellent addition to the collection as well.  Keep an eye out for when they are coming to a town near you!

Artist Info:
The Mahones Facebook