Dropkick Murphys formed as a Celtic punk band in 1996 in Quincy, Massachusetts. The Boston-based band, named after professional wrestler John “Dropkick” Murphy, first began playing in the basement of a friend’s barbershop. Starting as a punk rock band, the band members found that their Irish music roots influenced the way they sounded and eventually embraced and enhanced that element.
Bringing the U.S. leg of the Celtic Punk Invasion Tour to Irving Plaza, Dropkick Murphys’ approximately 90-minute set was equal parts punk and Celtic-rooted music. The band opened with 2013’s “Out Of Our Heads” and tore through four high-energy songs in less than 10 minutes, initiating waves of both beer toasting and crowd surfing in the audience. This was the start of a loud and brash 28-song 19-year retrospective, during which the energy increased in tandem with the audience’s blood alcohol level. About halfway through the set, bassist Ken Casey and vocalist Al Barr invited the audience to call out requests. In addition, a list of cover songs was projected on a screen, and fans standing in the front were invited to throw a dart to a dartboard to determine which cover song the band would perform; tonight it fell on AC/DC’s “T.N.T.” The set closed with a rowdy sing-along of “I’m Shipping Up To Boston,” and after an audience chant of “Let’s go, Murphys,” the band returned and invited audience members to climb on stage for the three encore songs, closing with a cover of Sham 69’s “If The Kids Are United.” It would be hard to believe that anyone did not have a blast with Dropkick Murphys.
Hollywood Undead/Gramercy Theatre/March 11, 2015
Rap-rockers Hollywood Undead originated in 2005 in Los Angeles, California, when Jorel “J-Dog” Decker and former member Aron “Deuce” Erlichman posted a song entitled “The Kids” on an online social network. They then gathered friends and became Hollywood Undead.
Hollywood Undead appeared onstage at the Gramercy Theatre wearing new masks, most still based on the common hockey goaltender design. Hollywood Undead launched into a new song, “Usual Suspects,” followed with the more familiar “Undead,” “Tendencies” and “Been To Hell” before removing the masks. As the band members rotated between instruments and weaved in and out of the songs as rappers, singers and screamers, there was constant movement on the stage. The supporting music behind the singers and rappers was hard and heavy, as hip-hop married alternative rock and nu metal. Midway through the set, Hollywood Undead performed a mashup that began with a brief cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Intergalatic” and included a taste of Snoop Dogg’s “Gin And Juice” mixed in with the crew’s original songs. Keeping the fans engaged and enthused by constantly whipping up the energy level in the room, Hollywood Undead entertained well using a refined formula for metal-infused hip-hop.
The Liza Colby Sound/The Bowery Electric/March 12, 2015
Liza Colby grew up in a musical family in Avon, Connecticut. Liza originally studied to become a corporate event planner, but then decided she needed to try music as well. She relocated to New York City and became the lead singer of The Liza Colby Sound in 2009.
At The Bowery Electric tonight, The Liza Colby Sound combined the soulful dynamics of Tina Turner with the rock intensity of The Who. Wearing nothing but a black leotard-style one piece, golden high heel shoes and jewelry, the very lean Colby accentuated her sex appeal, several times squatting wide-kneed to the ground while holding her microphone at her crotch. While this commanded eyeful attention, her commanding mega-watt vocals penetrated the ears and the heart. Performing a dozen original songs, Colby and her classic-rock-sounding band generated both fist pumping from the males and butt shaking from the females in the audience.
Hubby Jenkins/The Penthouse at the Standard Hotel, East Village/March 13, 2015
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Hubby Jenkins took his passion for old-time music to the streets and subways of the city as a busker. Through research into his Southern roots, he discovered and learned to play early country, blues, jazz, ragtime and African American string music on acoustic guitar, banjo and other instruments. He found compatriots in his mission to revive this music when he joined the Grammy-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops in 2011.
At the Penthouse, Hubby Jenkins shared his deep love and vast knowledge of old-time American music through performance and dialogue. In spoken word and song, he followed the thread of African American history that wove itself through music in the 1920s and 1930s. Singing with eyes closed, masterfully finger-picking an acoustic guitar or banjo, Jenkins’ passion gave flame to his authentic and soulful interpretations of traditional American music. He was joined by several musician friends, including Carolina Chocolate Drops cellist Malcolm Parson. After an hour, the audience left having heard seldom-heard roots music and having learned much about how music figured in the lives of African Americans nearly a century ago.
moe./Best Buy Theater/March 14, 2015
moe. formed in 1989 as Five Guys Named Moe, named after a Louis Jordan song, for a college Halloween party. By the following year, moe. had evolved into a popular bar band around Buffalo, New York. The band’s first album, Fatboy, in 1992 established moe. as a favorite of the 1990s jam band and improvisational rock scene. The musicians in 1994 quit their day jobs and relocated to the more fertile music scene around Albany, New York.
moe. brought its 25th anniversary to New York with one night at le Poisson Rouge and two consecutive nights at the Best Buy Theater, performing an entirely different set each night. The music ranged from easy-flowing Grateful Dead-style jams to more intricate rhythms on jazz-infused intonations and basic riffs on harder rocking interludes. Energetic drive and innovative vitality generated a synergy among the musicians that sparked 15-minute songs with fresh, airy sounds rather than hammering a groove. All five musicians had their moments in the spotlight, but the center of gravity was grounded in the technical abilities of the two guitarists. For nearly three hours, guitarists Al Schnier and Chuck Garvey consistently provided the fireworks with fluid and mesmerizing leads. Brief lyrical interjections were more like breaks in the extended guitar solos than compositional frameworks. Closing the final night, moe. was joined on stage by the Conehead Buddha horn section (Shannon Lynch on saxophone, Terry Lynch on trumpet, Shaun Bazylewicz on trombone) for three songs, “Not Coming Down,” “Threw It All Away” and “Dr. Graffenberg.” Grounded in innovative musicianship and dynamic energy, moe. demonstrated that it may be the preeminent progressive jam band on the music scene today.