MONTCLAIR, NJ—Irish pride was as pungent as the smell of beer when The Turbo A.C.’s, The Tossers and Dropkick Murphys unleashed their rebellious fury on the people inside the Wellmont Theatre on July 28. The venue was packed with an all-ages audience that traveled from around the Tri-State area—even Massachusetts, the hometown of Dropkick Murphys. Despite the age-diverse crowd, they all were equally adorned in their Celtic-punk best, from band memorabilia, to fishnets and ripped denim vests, to vibrant green, Irish pride t-shirts. However, the eager crowd wasn’t in attendance from the get-go. They were there to see Dropkick Murphys most of all, and they let the openers know it with pride.
Of the three-act roster, Turbo A.C.’s was the band that was most unlike the others. The four-piece carries the old school, gritty, New York City punk sound reminiscent of The Ramones meshed with anarchist anger and raging, hardcore-infused instrumentals. At the precise 8 p.m. start time, the crowd was dawdling in—most of them either pre-gaming at the number of bars and restaurants in town or stocking up on over-priced beer to get a good buzz for the headliner. However, that did not deter The Turbo A.C.’s, who put every ounce of vigor they could muster into their performance. Lead singer and guitarist Kevin Cole eagerly bounced and jumped about the stage, urging the audience to sing along to their rebellious tracks to no avail, instead they received meek applause and unenthusiastic hoots at random. But the band did not lose their gusto. Cole, bassist Tim Lozada, guitarist Jer VonDuck and drummer Kevin Prunty consistently performed their best, eagerly trying to win over the crowd. By set’s end, the band proved their determination, yet didn’t succeed in winning the audience’s attention.
During the set break, show-goers casually strolled into the theater to watch “that other band before Dropkick Murphys.” But The Tossers proved to be so much more than that. The Chicago-natives had a solid fan base in the crowd that eagerly cheered them along, but it was the Celtic-punk group’s incredibly earnest and instrumentally spot-on performance that won the crowd over. Formed in 1993, the powerhouse six-piece has performed for punk and ska greatness including Catch 22, Streetlight Manifesto and Flogging Molly. Although they share an equal love of drinking, fighting and telling tales of the middle class as Dropkick Murphys, The Tossers have a more traditional pub/folk sound, featuring accordion, mandolin and tin whistle in their tracks. But that’s not to say Tony Duggins (vocals/mandolin), Dan Shaw (bass/accordion), Aaron Duggins (tin whistle), Mike Pawula (guitar), Rebecca Manthe (violin) and Bones (drums) don’t love to party hard. With a set featuring Tony’s impressive a cappella version of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me To The Moon,” classics like “Dirty Old Town” by The Pogues, “No Loot, No Booze, No Fun,” “Altercations,” “Whiskey Makes Me Crazy” and new track “The Emerald City,” the band continued to drink and egg on the audience until they showed some enthusiasm.
Some audience members attempted to steal the band’s thunder by starting a chant for Dropkick Murphys, but Tony Duggins, like a true Irish gent, merely joined them and showed his gratitude for being involved in the tour. If that doesn’t deserve credit, the fact that The Tossers sparked the first crowd surf of the night does. Overall, the band played an impressive, tight set, while still showing their party-going attitude and fun-loving camaraderie.
Although the security team looked bored for the first half of the show, standing lackadaisically against the stage, they quickly perked up at the start of Dropkick Murphys’ set. Starting out with a pitch-black room, the stage erupted in a burst of green light and a backdrop featuring the album art for the band’s latest album, Going Out In Style. Once the band busted out with “Hang Em High,” the crowd erupted into mosh pit madness. During their hour-long set, the Quincy, Massachusetts, troupe played some of the most-loved tracks from their 15-year career, including “Barroom Hero,” which was featured in the Oscar-nominated documentary Restrepo, and “I’m Shipping Up To Boston,” which was included in the soundtrack for The Departed. Al Barr (vocals), Ken Casey (bass/vocals), James Lynch (guitar/vocals), Josh “Scruffy” Wallace (bagpipes/tin whistle), Tim Brennan (guitar/mandolin/accordion), Jeff DaRosa (acoustic guitar/banjo/keyboard) and Matt Kelly (drums), played a variety of tracks from their discography including “The Fighting 69th,” “Going Out In Style,” “Peg O’ My Heart,” and “Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced.” At the end of their encore, the band performed a brutal version of “TNT” by AC/DC, one of their noted musical influences, with a hint of that Dropkick Murphys flair.
Throughout the night, Barr took charge of the stage, standing firm with incredible authority and held the audience in the palm of his hand. He sporadically jumped down into the security area to interact with fans and get them to sing along, which probably created most of the night’s madness. Casey also did a fabulous job of initiating banter, especially when he bragged about his attire—a hockey jersey of the Boston Bruins, the winners of the 2011 Stanley Cup. When he boasted to a booing audience, a concertgoer threw a shirt at him. His response? “This is a [New Jersey] Devil’s shirt, ya bastard!” Lesson learned: Don’t mess with Dropkick Murphys and their Boston pride. The seven-piece’s dedicated fans were in all their glory—moshing, dancing, raising their beers to the stage and singing along with their arms around their friends. Needless to say, Dropkick Murphys delivered the performance the crowd was hungry for.