Sunday night the Celtic punk/rock band, Dropkick Murphys , came into town to play at Headliners Music Hall . It was a nice last minute surprise for fans as the band was originally scheduled to play at X-Fest in Dayton, Ohio. The festival was canceled, so the Headliners show replaced it. In our interview  with Dropkick Murphys drummer, Matt Kelly, I was told that they had a very energetic crowd, but I didn’t realize just how enthusiastic they really were. The fans were a very diverse mix of people from punked out mohawks to kilts to gothic steampunks to your average joe. Fans were chanting “Let’s go Murphys” before the show had even started. Headliners was definitely packed full.
The show opened with Louisville alternative country band, Quiet Hollers . I was delightfully surprised at such a great opening act. I didn’t realize there was going to be an opening act, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. They were a very unique group. The lead singer/guitarist, Shadwick Wilde, plays a left handed guitar. The bass player, Ryan Scott, played a sick looking six string bass guitar. Then most importantly (slightly biased here) they have a very talented violinist, Aaron West. The other two members include Adam Buntain on guitar and Nick Goldring on drums.
Quiet Hollers aren’t as loud and rowdy as the Dropkick Murphys, but they definitely had a few moments where the Murphys’ influence shined through in “Motorcycle Song” and “Destitution Road.” I personally loved the little violin lick in “Destitution Road.” Wilde’s vocals are versatile and easily transition from being heavy and raspy like in “Destitution Road” to smoother and mellow such as the vocals in “Girls Like You.”
At first glance you would never know West is a classically trained violinist. He’s a burly-looking guy with a big beard and typically someone you would envision as a country fiddler, but after he starts playing it becomes obvious he is classically trained. His playing was smooth and sweet sounding with his finessed vibrato, but at the same time successfully bridging the gap into fiddling by not playing overly virtuosically. West successfully utilized his classical training, but retained that country fiddle feel. I wished the sound mix had a little more violin present. I could usually hear the violin clearly when West was play on the A and E strings, but sometimes when he played in the lower register he would get drowned out by the rest of the band. This is a typical sound mixing problem many violinists face.
A select few in the audience were growing impatient and bordering on rude waiting for the Dropkick Murphys to come on stage. One particular individual kept yelling for Quiet Hollers to hurry up. It was a Sunday night, so I guess people weren’t as eager to stay out all night. For the most part I believe the audience really loved Quiet Hollers.
The fans were definitely revved up for the Dropkick Murphys after Quiet Hollers finished playing. The Dropkick Murphys’ portion of the show started with the lights down with some traditional Celtic singing playing through the sound system. When the Dropkick Murphys came on stage the fans went wild. There was a pretty nice sized mosh pit on the first floor that formed once the Murphys started playing. I was pretty blown away by the audacity of some of the fans. It happened to me twice where some fans just shoved their way in front of me to get to the front of the stage. No excuse me; no sorry for elbowing you in the side, nothing mattered except for them getting to the front row. Security was definitely at full force, but also relaxed enough to let fans enjoy themselves. The only exception was when some fans tried to crowd surf onto the stage. Security quickly put an end to that.
The Dropkick Murphys put on a highly energized and exciting show. I loved how Jeff DaRosa and Tim Brennan traded off instruments throughout the show. Who would have known the best looking guys in the band would be the accordion and banjo players, at least in my opinion. Scruffy Wallace on bagpipes and tin whistle was icing on the cake. Wallace even wore a kilt and made it look good. Their punk rock energy and Irish flair was enthralling to watch. The music is completely uninhibited and calls for romping and frolicking around a mosh pit. I value my teeth and limbs too much, so I retreated towards the front of the stage to enjoy the music. Fans even got a sneak peak of their upcoming album “Signed and Sealed In Blood.” The couple of new songs they played were definitely in line with their staple sound, but more polished. If the whole album is like the few songs they played at the show, fans should not be disappointed.
Like Kelly predicted in our interview, the fan experience was unmatched by any other concert I have been to. The music was great and the energy was overwhelming. All I need to remember for next time are shin guards, shoulder pads, and ear plugs. Then maybe I will join in the moshing.
Photos: courtesy of Charlie Blanton