Shipping up to Sacramento
Can a soccer stadium handle Dropkick Murphys’ brand of Irish party punk?
It’s entirely possible to go from selling band T-shirts behind the merch table to joining said-band onstage as a bona fide member. Just ask Tim Brennan, who made that career move 15 years ago.
In his late teens, Brennan was invited to sell merchandise for the Dropkick Murphys on the 2003 Vans Warped Tour. He packed his accordion and accompanied the Irish-American punk band for the last couple songs of each half-hour set.
“While I had a great time … at that point, I wasn’t going to leave school to sell T-shirts and play on a few songs,” he said. He returned to college until band member Ken Casey asked him to join fulltime. Since then, he’s been a vocalist and lead guitarist, and also plays accordion, tin whistle and mandolin, among other instruments. In those 15 years, he and his bandmates—Casey, Matt Kelly, Al Barr, James Lynch and Jeff DaRosa—have produced five albums and played major festivals like Warped Tour and Punk Rock Bowling in Las Vegas. Last weekend, they joined Beck, Weezer and Atmosphere at the three-day Riot Fest in Chicago.
And on September 25, the Dropkick Murphys bring their storm of banjos, accordions and fiddles to Papa Murphy’s Park. The Boston punk darlings co-headlined shows across the U.S. this summer with their West Coast counterparts, Flogging Molly. The tour seems like a no-brainer—a collision of the two biggest bands who make high-energy, Celtic-inspired party punk.
The Dropkick Murphys’ latest album, 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory, features a nostalgic song about a (mostly) innocent childhood, a rant about a guy who can’t get his shit together (“he’s wicked unemployed”) and the promise of a bar fight caused by a missing hat. The album’s gentler moments shine through in “4-15-13,” which honors the victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. They’ve maintained a recognizable sound over the years, which Brennan attributes to having a fairly consistent lineup.
“We’ve never had a complete, fresh lineup change,” Brennan said. “While we’ve matured, I think we’ve been able to keep the sound fairly consistent over the last 20-something years.”
Coming from the perspective of an early fan didn’t hurt either, he said. A hip, life-altering English teacher named Mr. Marsh was Brennan’s gateway to Irish punk.
“He knew I was into punk rock and … into Irish music, and so he introduced me to The Pogues,” Brennan said. “He taught me how to play the pin whistle, which was one of the first things I played for the Dropkicks when I joined, and he gave me Do or Die, the first Dropkick album.”
Understandably, the band loves the Boston Red Sox. In 2004, they released a version of an early 20th-century song, “Tessie,” to celebrate the Major League Baseball team. That season, the Red Sox won its first World Series in nearly 90 years.
“You could just kind of feel that there was something special going on,” Brennan said. “So to be anywhere near involved with that was pretty wild.”
The band’s also known for supporting unions, stemming from Casey’s family background in Boston’s cold storage unions. In 2015, Dropkick Murphys made headlines when it asked the anti-union Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to stop using their music for his events with a pretty direct Tweet which included: “… we literally hate you !!!”
Brennan said, personally, his writing doesn’t get too political. “Luckily, I just get to play the guitar for a living.”