Pop Break Live: Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, Jake Burns of Stiff Little Fingers at The Stone Pony Summer Stage in Asbury Park, New Jersey.
Words & Photos by Patrick Gilrane
In a tour 20 years in the making, The Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly brought their rowdy brand of Celtic rock/punk to the legendary Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ. Known for their spirited shows, both bands could be considered the top of the food chain in their respective genres. Also, on tonight’s ticket Irish punk legend Jake Burns of Stiff Little fingers.
Asbury Park, NJ on a Sunday night in the summer is usually full of people enjoying the boardwalk, food and drink, but tonight something is different. Taking a walk on the boardwalk the usual crowds of beach goers and sun worshipers have been replaced by kilts, mohawks and combat boots.
After my walk and some much-needed refreshments, I made my way to tonight’s venue where there was already a queue of several hundred punkers looking to gain a good spot on the barrier. Making my way through the crowd I looked up and saw a welcoming sight, something that has the ability to make the Irish emotional, the flag of the Republic of Ireland, flying proudly over the stage at the Stone Pony. A good sign indeed, telling me I was with friends.
While the Murphys and Flogging Molly hail from the same genre of music I’m not so sure that stylistically they can be called the same. Flogging Molly being a bit Trad-centric with an added punk / rock essence, and The Murphys being more punk / rock-centric with added trad elements. Both clearly taking different paths to the same place.
The Dropkick Murphys
The Dropkick Murphys hail from the fine City of Boston Massachusetts and have been together since 1996. The Murphys are a working class blue-collar band who never forgot their roots. Named after an alcohol detox facility (Dr. John “Dropkick Murphy”) the bands early days go back to Quincy where they practiced in a barbershop basement. The Murphys fully embrace Boston as their home, and are rabid supporters of local sports teams, and are usually the first in line doing work for local charity’s in need via their organization “The Claddagh Fund.”
The Dropkick Murphys line-up for this show was Ken Casey on vocals, Kevin Rheault filling in for Ken Casey on bass, Al Barr on lead vocals, Tim Brennan on guitar and vocals, James Lynch on guitar and vocals, Matt Kelly on drums and Jeff DaRosa on bango, mando, guitar and vocals. The Murphys are a Born & Bred Recording artist who latest album 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory dropped this past January.
A summer breeze was blowing and the sun was shining as the haunting sounds of Sinéad O’Connor and the Chieftains “The Foggy Dew” shook the Stone Pony, the Murphys storming the stage to “Captain Kelly’s Kitchen”, Al Barr and Ken Casey immediately getting up close and personal with their frantic fans on the barricade. Front man Al Barr’s distinct vocals inducing a roar from the crowd screaming, How you doing Asbury Park it’s good to be back, giving the crowd a second to catch their breath prior to launching into a scorching rendition of “The Boys Are Back”, the crowd to surging forward.
Murphys songs tell a story of blue collar Union working class struggles during difficult times, about the importance of family, and about addiction and recovery. Over the years the Murphys have evolved as artist but have retained their core values writing music with a purpose.
The Murphys had full command of the crowd tonight, Tim Brennan and James Lynch shredding it on the guitar, Jeff DaRosa punctuating via the banjo. The band maintained a raucous pace early on playing “Citizen CIA,” Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya” and “Rocky Road to Dublin”, but managed to work in a few mellower songs as well including “Rose Tattoo” and “Paying My Way”. The band dug deep into its vast discography playing a mixture of songs from all eras, the involved crowd showing their support, forming a big circle pit, crowd surfing and singing along to every song. The Murphys played a total of sixteen songs and would join Flogging Molly back onstage for an encore lasting five songs.
Captain Kelly’s Kitchen
The Boys Are Back
Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya
Rocky Road to Dublin (cover)
Caught in a Jar
Out of Our Heads
Rebels With a Cause
Paying My Way
The State of Massachusetts
Going Out in Style
The Body of an American (The Pogues cover with members of Flogging Molly)
I’m Shipping Up to Boston
Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced
Skinhead on the MBTA
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (AC/DC cover)
Flogging Molly was originally formed in Los Angeles California in 1997 by Dubli,n Ireland native Dave King. The band has been a driving force in the Celtic rock scene for over twenty years and is a Vanguard Records recording artist currently touring in support of their latest album Life is Good which dropped 2017. Flogging Molly band members include Dave King on guitar and vocals, Bridget Regan on whistle, violin and vocals, Dennis Casey on guitar and vocals, Nathan Maxwell on bass and vocals, Bob Schmidt on banjo, mandolin and vocals, Matt Hensley on accordion, and Mike Alonso on drums.
Walking up to the stage I couldn’t help but notice that empty Guinness cans were everywhere, clearly the crowd was feeling the Irish spirit. Flogging Molly took the stage to “Paddy’s Lament” turning the venue into a mass of bodies moving in every direction. The set continued with “The Hand of John L Sullivan,” Drunken Lullabies,” The Likes of You Again,” and “Swagger” back to back setting a delirious pace for the night prompting wild flying beer and nonstop mosh pit action.
The stage setup included a new LED screen in the rear of the stage, but besides that, their performance wasn’t extravagant, but didn’t need to be. The atmosphere at times like a shit kicking drinking party with six thousand dysfunctional family members, Dave Kings constant banter welcoming as to almost say, you’re with family.
One of the best moments of the evening came when King spied a balcony full of people watching the show from a restaurant across the street, saying to the crowd (joking) “Would ya look at those fucking bastards over there.” It took little encouragement from King for the entire crowd (all six thousand) to turn and give them the finger, loudly chanting “asshole, asshole.”
Flogging Molly continued their set as only they do, perfectly meshing the traditional Irish instrumentation and techniques of Bridget Regan, with the punk power chords and base lines of Nathen Maxwell and Dennis Casey, backed by the drum beats of Mike Alonso. Flogging Molly played a total of 16 songs for the electrified crowd at the Stone Pony and would be reunited with the Murphys for the encore of five songs.
(No More) Paddy’s Lament
The Hand of John L. Sullivan
The Likes of You Again
The Days We’ve Yet to Meet
Requiem for a Dying Song
The Spoken Wheel
Black Friday Rule
Devil’s Dance Floor
Crushed (Hostile Nations) / We Will Rock You
If I Ever Leave This World Alive
What’s Left of the Flag
The Seven Deadly Sins
Jake Burns of Stiff Little finger got things started tonight at the Pony. A true pioneer of the Northern Ireland punk scene, Burns talked with the crowd about “The Troubles” giving insight to the bands ideology and played a number of SLF songs unplugged style for the crowd. I’ve seen Burns a few times and love his stories about the old times in the North. People like Jake Burns have for the better part witnessed history, how cool would it be to spend some time with him talking about the turbulent time that motivated and inspired SLF music. Maybe one day.
As I packed up my gear and left the Stone Pony I was rather sad that it was over, but happy to have been there. Music and emotions go hand in hand, I’ve listened to the Murphys and Flogging Molly long enough that I recall memories of my life through their song, the true gift of music . I’d like to thank the fine people of Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys for the incredible music and the memories, as well as the staff at the Stone Pony, you guys are the best in the business.