- - Thursday, March 9, 2017

Ready for ShamrockFest, the daylong Irish culture and music festival taking over RFK Stadium Saturday? Well strap on your green and bring your desire to overdrink while you rock out to a slew off the greatest traditional and nontraditional Irish folk, punk and rock bands.

But pace yourself or else you’ll pass out in a port-a-john and miss the festival’s headliners, Dropkick Murphys. The Boston-area Celtic punk band has been
throwing down for close to two decades, graduating from club act to festival headliner, thanks in part to Martin Scorsese hand-selecting their song “I’m Shipping up to Boston” for his Academy Award-winning film “The Departed.”

In advance of the ultimate pre-Saint Paddy’s Day party, lead singer Al Barr chatted about surviving the fest and the not-so-sweet smell of success.

Question: What advice do you give to folks about surviving ShamrockFest?

Answer: ShamrockFest is like a drinking orgy. People just start drinking at 9 in the morning, then we go on at 9 at night. You can smell the vomit coming off the crowd.

As a father of three, I worry about the people there. I wonder, “How are all you people gonna get home?” But the crowds are great, and we always have a good time playing it.

Q: Do you have to wear green to get in?

A: I don’t know if that’s the rule. You do see a sea of green along with the sea of booze.

Q: If I wear a “Kiss Me I’m Irish” T-shirt, will I get any action or be punched in the face?

A: I think you could get punched in the face and get some action. That could be a good thing either way if it goes in that order — a punch in the face, then some action. (Laughs.)

Q: Was Celtic music part of your childhood?

A: There was always bluegrass and American folk music playing in the house when I grew up. Folk music was something I always heard. I’m the “Scottish Kraut” in the band.

If you know your history, you know the Scots point to Ireland. People get too wrapped up in labeling. We’re an American punk band that uses the Celtic music as an influence outside of rock ‘n’ roll.

Q: Who was the first punk record you ever heard?

A: My first punk record was either “Inflammable Material” by Stiff Little Fingers or the first Clash album [“The Clash”]. Then probably Sex Pistols and the first Ramones album [“Ramones”].

Back then I would trade cassettes through the mail to get my punk rock.

Q: How did “I’m Shipping up to Boston” end up in the “The Departed?”

A: We found out it was actually Robbie Robertson from The Band. He’s very good friends with Martin Scorsese [and] Robbie is a fan of ours, apparently.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Mr. Scorsese directed the 1978 documentary “The Last Waltz” about The Band’s “final” concert, which Mr. Robertson appeared.]

He brought the record to Martin and said, “There is a song that would be perfect for your movie.”

It’s amazing to think you are on the minds and lips of these famous people. For a bunch of guys from a street punk band, it’s pretty humbling. Now it’s been in commercials and “The Simpsons.”

That song is gonna outlive us all.

Q: I heard that song almost didn’t get recorded.

A: The song wasn’t supposed to be on the record. There was something we
felt was missing from the original version of the song. When we were finishing up the record, we needed one more song. We said, “All right, let’s just put ‘Shipping’ on there.” Thank god we did.

Q: Did that change anything for the band after that?

A: Before the film our biggest download song had sold around 9,000 downloads. The first week we broke 3,000 downloads on “Shipping.” The following week: 7,000. Then 17,000.

It just kept going. Within six months we had our first gold single. It was incredible. A band like us isn’t supposed to have anything. Maybe a gold tooth. (Laughs.)

For us to have the thing go past gold and become platinum? Incredible.

Q: The new CD is called “11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory.” Is there ever any glory without pain?

A: I think one appreciates the glory a lot more when they had to pay their dues. I
always used to say, “You can write about s***, talk about s***, but unless you’ve smelled s***, had it thrown at you, then you don’t know s*** about
s***.”

You’ve got to go through hard times to appreciate great times.

Q: How does the band balance political messages with creating a party?

A: People that understand what we are about know we wanna have a good time at our shows. And we want people to have a good time. But we are also talking about heavy stuff. Especially with this new record. We are talking about the opioid crisis going on nationwide.

Q: Is the opioid epidemic why you covered “You’ll Never Walk Alone”?

A: That’s exactly why we covered that. We have been to far too many funerals and wakes. I lost my brother-in-law to this epidemic.

Fifty-three thousand Americans died last year from opioid overdoses. Why isn’t that front-page news? How many people died from Ebola? Why was that front-page news? Because big pharma has a strangle hold on the politicians. They’re stepping over the corpses of the children of America to cash their checks.

It’s time for Americans to stop worrying about Kim Kardashian and figure out how we’re gonna save our kids.

Q: Is there any sense of competition between bands playing a festival?

A: People are always trying to create competition between us and other bands like Flogging Molly. This isn’t a sporting event or who has the most Matchbox cars. This is music. We try to do the best we can. We never mail it in. That’s always been our creed.

Dropkick Murphys headline ShamrockFest Saturday at RFK Stadium. Tickets can be purchased at ShamrockFest.com.


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