If anyone in the Cleveland area was suffering from the Irish flu Monday morning, chances are it was because they were one of the many who the filled up the House Of Blues Sunday night to see the Dropkick Murphys (DKM) with special guests Against Me! and Off With Their Heads. The Irish punk rockers just kicked off their St. Patrick’s Day tour in support of their new album Going Out In Style that was just released last week. Having been sold out for months now, all who filled that venue last night were well aware that they would be treated to a top-notch performance by two of the most talented punk rock acts out there.
Fans of all ages waited anxiously outside the House Of Blues along Euclid Ave. prior to the doors opening. The weather was relentless to all who showed up early with frigid winds hammering down upon everyone, especially to those who few decked out in kilts. Everyone obviously was from Northeastern Ohio though as the cold did not ruin anyone’s spirits. The doors to the venue soon opened and everyone made their way inside.
Opening act Off With Their Heads took the stage around eight o’clock and played through a straight up punk rock set. The Minneapolis, MN band had no problem introducing their style to the packed house and by the third song of their set the crowd was getting into them. Not worrying about initial crowd reaction, the band seemed more focused in on rocking out as they tore through their set with songs including “Fuck This, I’m Out” and “Terrorist Attack”.
Gainesville, Florida’s Against Me! followed soon after delivering one of their best live sets I have seen to date. These boys have come a long way in their career and really are not that punk rock band they used to be. They have turned into rockstars, there is no doubt about that, and fully embrace their change in style to the fullest.
The fans went crazy as the band played quite a few selections off their newest release White Crosses as well as older material like “Pints Of Guinness Make You Strong”, “T.S.R.” and one of my favorites, “Turn Those Clapping Hands Into Angry Balled Fists.” Tom Gabel, James Bowman and Andrew Seward were beyond energetic and encouraged crowd participation throughout the set.
I was sad to see that Warren Oakes was not behind the drums anymore as he departed from the band back in 2009 in favor of becoming a restauranteur, but their current drummer for 2011, Jay Weinberg, was absolutely amazing. Many of you may know his father – Max Weinberg, you know, the that guy who played drums for Conan O’Brien as well as some guy named Bruce Springsteen. Like father, like son, young Weinberg was a treat to watch live with the rest of the band.
Ending their set with “Sink Florida, Sink”, all the Against Me! fans in the crowd sung with the band as loud as they could proving that rockstars or not, there were plenty of true fans gathered to see them play that night.
Gabel with his very similar James “Buffalo Bill” Gumb looking hairdo and crew were all smiles throughout their shorter-than-I-preferred-set. I may be biased sounding here, but I am used to seeing this band headline shows so to see them fill in a middle slot with no encore was kind of a bummer. I was not the only one who felt this way either as other Against Me! fans begged for just a couple more songs, but the band needed to make way for the headliners. Headlining or not, this band gave it their all from the moment they took that stage until the last note was played.
Taking the stage in style, DKM emerged to the crowd in the dark while Thin Lizzy’s “Boys Are Back In Town” blasted over the PA. The Irish punk rock heroes of the working class took their place on stage and immediately tore into “Hang Em High” with Jeff DaRosa starting things off on banjo as well as Scruffy Wallace doing his thing on the bagpipes.
To say that the crowd went wild would be an understatement. They went insane and pretty much stayed that way for the band’s entire set. It probably helped that lead singer Al Barr kept jumping down off the stage and into the crowd throughout the night to get some help from the fans as well as the rest of the band sounding amazing as ever. Sadly James Lynch was not able to make the Cleveland show, but their guitar tech saved the night and filled in.
Focusing on newer material throughout the set, the band cranked through “Captain Kelly’s Kitchen” as well as “Deeds Not Words” but also played a few gems like “The Gang’s All Here” and even “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya”. “Barroom Hero” with Ken Casey taking the lead was without a doubt my favorite song played. Casey also was the one in the band who spoke up about the union issues going on currently and dedicated “Worker’s Song” to all who are dealing it.
The female that joined DKM, whose name I did not catch, not only played fiddle throughout the night, but also did a hell of a job singing with Casey and Barr on “The Dirty Glass”. In fact, for a quick moment I thought Stephanie Dougherty snuck up on stage.
“I’m Shipping Up To Boston” was without a doubt the crowd’s favorite song of the night. The moment the first notes of that song started everyone knew exactly what was about to happen. Barr screamed at the crowd with mic in hand atop a wooden box for a moment and soon thereafter jumped towards the crowd again for some more help.
The encore was more like an all out party. Hordes of female fans were invited onto stage as DKM played the crowd ‘s anthem of the night “Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced”. Tons of girls all took advantage of the invite and continued to jump on stage until there was no more room left.
Of course the band had to invite all the boys to the stage soon after to help sing the final song of the night, “Boys On The Docks”. I was seriously tempted to push my way up front and try my luck at jumping up there, but clearly there was not enough room for the what looked like 100 fans that were already up there. Honestly I am not quite sure how the band was even able to play, but they did, and it was awesome to watch.
People off all ages (and I mean all ages – there was a seven-year-old front stage and center) were Irish for a night. It was really cool to see all the different types of people who came out that night and enjoy themselves. Some folk were holding up union shirts as a symbol of thanks to the DKM for their stand with all that is going on with the workers labor issues while others held up their pints high. Everyone was signing loud and proud throughout the night all thanks to DKM and their 15-year career.
Off With Their Heads setlist:
Their Own Medicine
Trying To Breathe
I Am You
The Eyes Of Death
Fuck This I’m Out
Cover Song (Fake Boys)
Keep Falling Down (I think…)
Clear The Air
Against Me! Setlist (from what I gathered):
High Pressure Low
Pints Of Guinness Make You Strong
From Her Lips To God’s Ears
Don’t Lose Touch
Rice and Bread
I Was A Teenage Anarchist
You Look Like I Need A Drink
Turn Those Clapping Hands Into Angry Balled Fists
White People For Peace
Walking Is Still Honest
Sink Florida, Sink
Hang ‘Em High
Captain Kelly’s Kitchen
The Gang’s All Here
Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya
Deeds Not Words
The State Of Massachusetts
Road Of The Righteous
Curse Of A Fallen Soul
Going Out In Style
Take ‘Em Down
The Dirty Glass
The Auld Triangle
The Irish Rover
I’m Shipping Up To Boston
Kiss Me I’m Shitfaced
Skinhead On The Mbta
Boys On The Docks