You can count on two hands the number of bands from Boston bigger than the Dropkick Murphys -- Aerosmith, The Cars and, well, Boston, among them -- but you'd be hard-pressed to find another more synonymous with Beantown than the Murphys. Credit the 2006 Boston mob film "The Departed" (prominently featuring "I'm Shipping Up to Boston") as well as the Red Sox, who employed the band's version of "Tessie" as the unofficial anthem on the team's way to the 2004 World Series victory, the Sox's first in 86 years.
Since then the Murphys have been regulars at Fenway Park, and the band is only too happy to capitalize on their Sox affiliation by selling baseball-themed memorabilia at their shows. Prior to the Murphys' May 8 show at Music Farm in Charleston, Lowcountry Current talked to the American Celtic punk band's drummer Matt Kelly about his career highlights, the best (and worst) music artist he's seen play live, and whether the Murphys could make a living playing exclusively in Boston.
Question. What's your career highlight?
Kelly. When I was 4 years old I wanted to have tattoos and be in a band, and I got that. I know we're playing with Iron Maiden coming up in Sweden (in June at the Bravalla Festival). I'm not a metal guy, but they're probably among my top bands ever, so that'll be one of my career highlights. But I think maybe singing the national anthem before the Red Sox won the World Series in how many years. That was ridiculous. That was quite a career highlight. Also singing on opening day (last month). That was a career highlight you would have never even (thought of) ... "when I get older I want to be in a band and I want to be able to sing the national anthem at Fenway Park." Other than that, just being able to do what you love for a living is a blessing.
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Q. Where does playing with Bruce Springsteen rank?
Kelly. Oh God. Our band contains some of the biggest Bruce Springsteen fans in the world so, especially, for those (guys). (Bruce) is world class. I can't stress enough how much of a class act that guy is and a gentleman. And he's not all talk. He walks the walk. Playing on stage with him was just ridiculous. We did "Badlands" with him, and it was a pretty surreal moment. What's cool is I got to introduce my uncle to him. He's been seeing him play since the mid-'70s. He saw him in like a 200-seater arena in Haymarket Square. My uncle had tears in his eyes. It was pretty touching.
Q. What's the best band you ever saw play live?
Kelly. Rose Tattoo. We played with them in Australia in 2001 or 2002. We played with them in, I think, The Metro in Sydney. They were a huge band back in Australia in the early '80s, but then they kind of fell into obscurity. They just blew the roof off the place. There were kids there, and they didn't really know the band but by the second or third song in, they had the whole crowd. It was absolutely amazing.
Q. And the most disappointing?
Kelly. Hmmm, that happens a lot. Let's see. There was a time I saw Aretha Franklin. She was just like really, really ... you could tell she didn't want to be there. She had none of the pizzazz that she would normally have.
Q. Do you think you could make a living playing Boston and nowhere else?
Kelly. I think people would get sick of us pretty quick. I think that novelty would wear off rather quickly. It's only been in the last decade or so that we've been at all very popular in Boston. We were much better off playing other places than Boston. (Playing) Boston was great because it's home. If we played just Boston, I think that would last maybe two weeks and they'd be like, "Next!"